Maryland Left Behind on Fracking
The boom in natural gas production has created plenty of jobs in Pennsylvania and Ohio but, thanks to a moratorium by the state's governor, Maryland has been left behind.
A study by IHS Global Insight found that 1.7 million jobs are currently supported by hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking. But not every state which sits atop the gas-rich Marcellus Shale is benefiting from the boom.
Last year, Maryland's Governor O'Malley issued an executive order which created a multi-year moratorium on fracking permits. The delay was meant to allow time for a proposed $1.5 million study of drinking water contamination which environmentalists in the state demanded. The study was supposed to be paid for by a tax on producers but producers simply chose to pull out:
When O’Malley created an advisory commission to study drilling impacts
and assessed a $5 per acre fee on land that oil and gas companies leased
from homeowners to pay for it, natural gas exploration was still
booming, and at least two companies were seeking permits. But the
companies pulled out of the lease contracts, taking away the funding.
With no budget to pursue a new study of fracking's effects on groundwater, the state has undertaken a less costly meta-analysis of previous studies on the topic.
Environmentalists used the same tactics in Pennsylvania in an attempt to restrict fracking, but the results were not what they hoped. The town of Dimock, PA, which was featured in the anti-fracking film Gasland, had its water tested by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the federal EPA. Both agencies cleared it as safe to drink.
Environmentalists in Maryland haven't given up. They held a brainstorming session to identify new ways to prevent new permits until a study is funded and performed. One anti-fracking state representative told the Post "No studies, no fracking. Until these studies are undertaken, there will be no drilling in Maryland."