Cumberland Times-News

January 30, 2012

Bill would ban wastewater created by hydraulic fracturing process

Legislation applies to fluids from other states

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

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CUMBERLAND — A Montgomery County delegate has introduced a bill that would ban the treatment of wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing. House Bill 296, sponsored by Delegate Shane Robinson, only bans importing wastewater for treatment or storage from other states. 
The bill does not address fracking water that could be created in Maryland, although there is currently no hydraulic fracturing taking place in the Free State. In order to get the natural gas trapped in Marcellus shale to the surface, chemicals, water and sand are pumped underground to break apart rock formations and free the gas. The process is called hydraulic fracturing.
“A person may not ship or transport into the state, or store, treat discharge or dispose of in the state, flow back or other wastewater resulting from hydraulic fracturing activities occurring in another state,” the bill reads, in part.
“The Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Prohibition Act is a great first step toward protecting Maryland residents from the dangers of fracking,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It is almost impossible to know what chemicals are being used in the fracking process, and if these chemicals have been treated properly before being discharged into watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay,” Hauter said. Food & Water Watch is a public-interest organization that remains independent of corporate and government influence, according to its website. “Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced,” the website states.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin has called for the industry to disclose the recipe for fracking fluids.
The best way to prevent pollution from the fluids is to require recycling of fracking fluids. Recycling would minimize the risk to clean water, Cardin said.
“My primary concern is the safety of Maryland’s citizens,” said Robinson. “Maryland treatment plants lack the capability to safely treat this toxic wastewater, so there is no good reason why it should be transported through our state, endangering our people as a result.”
“Every day, we hear new and alarming stories about just how dangerous fracking has become. Maryland citizens should not take that risk,” said Hauter. “The state should call for a ban on fracking altogether.”
A panel appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley is examining the issue of drilling for natural gas in Marcellus shale in Maryland. The shale only exists in Garrett and Allegany counties. 
Garrett and Allegany County commissioners have asked O’Malley to speed up the process for gas development. All six commissioners in the counties signed a letter to the governor last month.
The natural gas deposits trapped in Marcellus shale “uniquely position the two counties and the state, to provide a substantial and viable energy source” to meet the nation’s needs, commissioners said.
The letter urges O’Malley “to encourage the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Advisory Commission to expedite their review ... and direct the Maryland Department of the Environment to authorize the process of allowing for the safe extraction of natural gas.”
Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel are on the record in support of natural gas development via hydraulic fracking.
Further recommendations by the advisory commission on best practices for natural gas exploration and production are to be delivered by Aug. 1, 2012, and a final report including environmental impacts of drilling is to be issued by Aug. 1, 2014.
Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.