Cumberland Times-News

November 30, 2013

Gas reserves overestimated

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— Thank you for your lengthy treatment last weekend of recent events in Cumberland dealing with fracking (“Rally rejects fracking, gas export terminal,” “Natural gas remains good energy option, state’s petroleum group leader says,” Nov. 24 Times-News, Page 1).

It is important, however, to note that Drew Cobbs and the American Petroleum Institute continue to use out-dated estimates of the total gas reserve in Maryland, thus over-estimating the industry’s potential economic impact.

Not only did CitizenShale point this out in a report to the Maryland legislature two years ago (http://citizenshale

.org/2012/03/rebuttal-to-recent-industry-claims-by-sage-policy-institute/), and not only did a well-respected economist say the same thing last year ( — click for pdf), but, most importantly, the official economic analysis for the Governor’s Commission also adopts the reserve estimate based on federal geologists’ research — the same one used by CitizenShale.

It’s obvious why Mr. Cobbs would continue using the inflated numbers. But even though the Times-News reporter showed no awareness, readers would do well to see the exaggerations for what they are.

Additionally, there’s a pattern here among industry groups nationwide:

Finally, in your article, Mr. Cobbs is reported to have said that all fracking pollution incidents were surface spills, and that studies have not found water contamination from fracking — untrue.

Literally scores of suits related to water contamination have been settled nationally (though an exact number is nearly impossible to document since there is no centralized reporting requirement).

To cite prominent examples: Pennsylvania regulators, in a press release dated May 17, 2011, announced a $900,000 fine against Chesapeake Energy for “improper well casing and cementing” that “contaminated 16 families’ drinking water supplies” in Bradford County, Pa.

The case ended with Chesapeake paying $1.6 million to the family of Jared McMicken and two other families forced to abandon their homes. “With what they went through,” said their attorney, “you couldn’t pay them enough. But this is enough to get them out and into new homes.” (

The McMickens, noted other reports, joined the “growing ranks of fracking refugees.” (http://protectingourwaters.

Three years into this debate in our state, Mr. Cobbs persists in overestimating the gas reserve, jobs, and potential benefits while disregarding the impacts on American citizens. This is the industry he insists will be good for western Maryland?

(I am the citizens representative on the Governor’s Commission, though my comments do not represent the commission’s position.)

Paul Roberts