FRIENDSVILLE — Friendsville town leaders on Tuesday approved a ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas within its borders.

The 5-1 vote by the Town Council is aimed at protecting the Youghiogheny River, the source of drinking water for the town of about 500, said Jess Whittemore, a council member.

“Most of the town’s drinking water comes from outside our jurisdiction," Whittemore said. "With this vote we are doing all we can to protect our citizens and our resources."

Friendsville would be the second county municipality to enact such a ban. Mountain Lake Park officials outlawed the process in 2011.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to break up shale rocks to release natural gas inside. 

Maryland has a moratorium on fracking in place until next year. State regulators are in the process of refining rules so the technique can be used by companies as early as October 2017.

Marcellus shale formations throughout the eastern United States harbor large natural gas reserves. Shale is a sedimentary rock formation that extends underground through about 95,000 square miles in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland. 

In Maryland, the shale formations are found only in Allegany and Garrett counties, with the bulk of the formations in Garrett County.

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