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January 17, 2013

Md.’s budget includes shale study funds

$1M to be used for drilling research

CUMBERLAND — Gov. Martin O’Malley’s fiscal 2014 proposed budget includes $1 million in funding for Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction studies. Lack of funding for the studies has slowed the work of the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.

Some members of the commission have said they want the industry to fund studies and are seeking extensive studies before any drilling occurs. Others, such as Sen. George Edwards, have maintained extensive scientific evidence is already available gathered from states where drilling has occurred.

The funding would be used for stream sampling, economic analysis and a review of the potential impacts of gas extraction on public health, said Delegate Wendell Beitzel.

Beitzel is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which is the first committee in the General Assembly to study and approve the governor’s budget, Beitzel said.

Marcellus Shale formations throughout the eastern U.S. harbor large untapped natural gas resources.

In order to get the gas trapped in the 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.

The lack of studies of hydraulic fracturing — also known as “fracking” — is one of the issues those supporting a legislative moratorium on drilling have raised as a reason to halt permitting of drilling in Maryland.

A state moratorium bill, to be introduced by Delegate Heather Mizeur in the House of Delegates and others in the Senate, would prevent fracking from occurring in Maryland until the state completes the series of 14 studies laid out in O’Malley’s executive order on gas drilling, which also established the advisory commission.

O’Malley’s timetable calls for a final advisory commission report due in 2014; until then, no permits will be issued for drilling Marcellus Shale in the state.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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