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Maryland and fracking

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Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has called for a detailed study of potential drilling impacts on the state, to be finished by 2014. Until then, O’Malley has said he will not allow gas drilling companies to deploy fracking in the state, putting on hold permits to drill for natural gas in Marcellus Shale formations in Garrett and Allegany counties in western Maryland.[1][2]

Introduction

Marcellus Drilling News has said there are only two counties in Maryland where fracking would occur: Allegany and Garrett, located at the interior of Maryland and thus not including areas within the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. But a 2012 assessment published by the U.S. Geological Survey of shale basins along the East Coast stated there are several other shale basins, notably the Taylorsville and Delmarva basins, where there is "likely recoverable shale gas in quantity." Basins identified by the USGS include the Gettysburg, which stretches south from the Pennsylvania border, passing beneath Frederick; the Taylorsville, which stretches south from beneath Annapolis to the lower Potomac; the Del Marva, which consists of several separate rock formations beneath much of the Bay and the Eastern Shore; and the Culpeper, which stretches north from Virginia under western Montgomery County near Gaithersburg and north to Frederick.[3]

History

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has called for a detailed study of potential drilling impacts on the state, to be finished by 2014. Until then, O’Malley has said he will not allow gas drilling companies to deploy fracking in the state.[4][5]

"Recommended Best Management Practices for Marcellus Shale Gas Development in Maryland" was released in March 2013: the authors say that until fracking can be done safely near drinking water sources, drilling shouldn't be allowed within 2,000 feet of the surface. They also say wells should be closed-loop systems so that any spills can be contained, and that there should be no net loss of forestland. No drilling permits can be issued until the panel issues its final report in August 2014.

In June 2013 the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released a draft report (dated August 2013) of “Best practices for drilling and production" that they say should be required if horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is permitted in the Marcellus shale in Maryland.

In November 2014 the O'Malley administration released its report on fracking impacts in the state, which declared that hydraulic fracturing in Western Maryland could be done safely. The report stated that fracking could support nearly 3,400 jobs and generate millions in tax revenues. O'Malley also stated that he plans to enact the strictest fracking regulations of any state in the country. The adminstration admitted that fracking "no doubt" has environemntal and health impacts, but noted that proper safeguards can protect the public.[6]

Disposal wells

Proposed export terminal

Dominion Cove Point received authorization on October 7, 2011, from the Department of Energy to enter into contracts to export liquefied natural gas to countries that have free trade agreements with the United States. Under the authorization, Dominion is permitted to enter into multi-year contracts up to 25 years long with companies wishing to export natural gas to countries with free trade agreements. The authorization is for up to 1 billion cubic feet per day, using liquefaction equipment at the Cove Point facility to convert natural gas into liquefied natural gas.

On October 3, 2011, Dominion filed a second application with the Department of Energy, requesting authorization to export to additional countries not included in the first application. In this application, Dominion said exports would be in the public's interest because studies show they could provide an "enormous economic stimulus, provide energy price stability, promote the continued development of domestic natural gas and natural gas liquids, create thousands of new jobs in the oil and gas industry, increase tax revenues and improve the balance of trade."[7]

On February 6, 2012, the Sierra Club filed a motion to intervene with the Department of Energy, protesting the export of Marcellus Shale gas (among other sources) from the Cove Point facility, saying it would raise gas and electricity prices nationally and expand damaging extraction practices in the shale plays. The group also called for a full environmental impact study (EIS) on the effects of (and alternatives to) the increased Marcellus extraction embodied in the export proposal - such an EIS would be the first full EIS on Marcellus shale fracking.

Citizen activism

Legislative issues

State

  • HB 1204, the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Fee - passed by the House of Delegates on March 20, 2012, the bill would require energy companies to fund studies related to drilling best practices and environmental protection in western Maryland before gas extraction can start. Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is not yet permitted in Maryland. An executive order from Gov. Martin O’Malley in June 2011 created a 14-member commission to study various safeguards – including the impact of fracking on the environment and climate change. But that commission has no funding to conduct necessary studies. HB 1204 would create a one-year fee of $15 per acre on land already leased in western Maryland for potential fracking activity, which would generate at least $1.8 million.[8] On March 26, 2012, the House voted 82-51 to pass a 7.5 percent state severance tax, cutting the initially proposed tax in half.[9]

The gas industry opposed the bill, and it failed to pass the 2012 legislative session ending in April. The O'Malley administration said it would seek to pursue the study with available funds, and suggested it may therefore take longer to finish -- meaning the de-facto drilling ban may be extended as well. Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery) chief sponsor of the fee bill and other 'fracking' measures, said she may push for a permanent ban on fracturing in the face of the industry's opposition to the fee bill.[10]

Federal

  • The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (H.R. 2766), (S. 1215)--was introduced to both houses of the the United States Congress on June 9, 2009, and aims to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act.[11]
  • The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Act of 2011 (HB852/SB634) - requires the Maryland Department of the Environment to conduct a study to assess impacts of drilling on the environment and local communities before drilling permits are issued.[12]

Citizen groups

Industry groups

Reports

In a draft report released in October 2014, Maryland environmental regulators wrote that there was little risk of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in western Maryland.[13]

Resources

References

  1. Dusty Horwitt, "Federal Scientists Warn NY of Fracking Risks," Environmental Working Group, Feb. 22, 2012.
  2. Martin O'Malley, Governor of Maryland, Executive Order 01.01.2011.11, The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative, June 6, 2011.
  3. Wenonah Hauter and Shane Robinson, "Got Shale? What Marylanders Should Expect Without a Permanent Ban on Fracking for Shale Gas," HuffPo, July 29, 2012.
  4. Dusty Horwitt, "Federal Scientists Warn NY of Fracking Risks," Environmental Working Group, Feb. 22, 2012.
  5. Martin O'Malley, Governor of Maryland, Executive Order 01.01.2011.11, The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative, June 6, 2011.
  6. "O'Malley administration sets out path to fracking in Md." Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun, November 25, 2014.
  7. "Dominion Receives DOE Authorization to Export LNG" Dominion: LNG Exports, accessed February 2012.
  8. "Maryland House Votes to Require Energy Companies to Fund Safety Studies on Natural Gas Fracking," Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CitizenShale, March 20, 2012.
  9. "Md. House passes tax for Marcellus Shale," Boston.com, March 27, 2012.
  10. Tim Wheeler, "Mixed green bag: Bay bills advance, energy measures stumble," Baltimore Sun, April 10, 2012.
  11. "The 'Fracking' Of Ohio State Parks" Progress Ohio, March 16, 2011.
  12. "Hydrofracking: Is it Safe?" Sierra Club, accessed February 2012.
  13. "Maryland sees little risk to water from fracking" David Dishneau, Seattle PI, October 3, 2014.

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