Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

September 5, 2013

Should forced pooling be allowed in Maryland?

Dear Leader,

On June 9, 2013, representatives from Maryland’s Department of Environment and Department of Natural Resources gave a presentation at Garrett College of their agencies’ Draft Report for Best Management Practices (BMPs) for regulating industrial shale gas development, including hydraulic fracturing, in our state.

Section VIII, (C) of the BMP report consists of a description and discussion of Forced Pooling, a controversial legal provision that would force landowners who have not leased their mineral rights to allow gas companies to drill and fracture horizontal wells beneath their land to complete a drilling unit and obtain the shale gas.

At this meeting, and at a similar meeting in Baltimore on July 16, the agencies stated that, in regard to forced pooling, “Maryland is not considering it at this time.”

However, the same agency representatives gave a presentation at an August Workshop on Governance of Risks of Unconventional Shale Gas Development to the National Research Council, which included a Powerpoint slide raising this question in regard to Maryland’s proposed use of Comprehensive Gas Development Plans: “Will efficiencies be reduced unless Maryland adopts forced pooling?”

The language of the Draft BMP report implies that once the terms of Governor O’Malley’s executive order are met, forced pooling could receive additional consideration by the state.

Clearly, western Maryland landowners should not take for granted protections from the state should they refuse to participate in industrial shale gas development or choose not to lease their mineral rights.

A state study group in North Carolina recommended last week that the state legislature enact forced pooling in their next legislative session. (Please read full story here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/08/28/3145187/officials-ok-rule-to-force-fracking.html)

It is instructive to examine the extensive public comments on this story to understand the depth of conviction people hold about the state giving away access to their privately-held land and the resources beneath it.

Given the potential for local input in future legislative or administrative decisions regarding the use of forced pooling in Maryland — and the need for citizens to understand where our leaders stand on this important policy concept — CitizenShale respectfully asks you to articulate your position on whether forced pooling should be allowed in Maryland.

This letter will be distributed to local media, and later in September CitizenShale will compile all responses on a forced pooling page at http://citizenshale.org.

Eric Robison

Oakland

President, CitizenShale

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