The far western panhandle of Maryland is beautiful country, graced by deep lakes, wild forests and of course the Upper Potomac River. Unfortunately it also contains a slice of the Marcellus Shale, the geologic basin that has been the target of the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” industry in neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia for years. The resulting gas drilling boom in those states has taken a grim toll on the environment and local communities, in the form of air and water pollution, worker deaths, public health impacts and fractured “boom and bust” economies. Maryland hasn’t seen fracking yet – but it could happen as early as October 2017.
To address this threat, Potomac Riverkeeper Network joined the Don't Frack Maryland coalition, made up of over 100 organizations concerned about the risks posed by fracking, now well proven by other states’ experience and a rapidly growing body of scientific evidence confirming the likely harm to our environment and communities that could result if fracking takes off in Maryland. Potomac Riverkeeper Network supports the Coalition’s call for a statewide ban, citing the fact that no state has developed and enforced regulations protective enough of the environment and public health to warrant allowing it. In fact, Maryland’s proposed regulations are remarkably weak and would put our drinking water, air and health in danger.
The two year moratorium currently in place in Maryland is set to run out in October 2017, when fracking regulations due to be proposed in fall 2016 go into effect. Rather than use that time to conduct a thorough risk assessment of fracking, Governor Hogan’s administration instead issued proposed changes to draft regulations written during Governor O’Malley’s tenure that would further weaken, not strengthen state fracking rules. These changes include elimination or reduction of setbacks to protect surface and groundwater drinking water aquifers, including Deep Creek Lake, and shamefully weak air and water quality monitoring requirements. Potomac Riverkeeper Network raised concerns about the O’Malley regulations, and we are gearing up to fight these weaker standards as part of this Coalition.
While Garrett and Allegany counties would be immediately and disproportionately burdened if fracking proceeds, the long term impacts would be felt across Maryland. Federal approval of the Cove Point natural gas export terminal will spur development of natural gas pipelines and compressor stations across the state, resulting in additional air and water impacts. Western Maryland has already endured the tainted legacy of acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines, which severely impact local streams and the Potomac River. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past and allow harmful fossil fuel extraction that will benefit the gas industry and burden local communities and future generations.
It’s not just this coalition that’s opposed to fracking. A broad range of business and community interests in Maryland have spoken out, including dozens of business owners who warned Maryland policymakers of the risk fracking posed to the state’s thriving tourism and sustainable agriculture sectors. In addition, a 2015 poll found that a majority of Marylanders support a long-term moratorium on fracking. Local communities have used zoning laws to enact bans, including Mountain Lake Park and Friendsville in Garrett County, Prince George’s, Montgomery and Charles County. Other local ban efforts are underway.
What You Can Do
Potomac Riverkeeper Network and the Coalition need your support and your voices to fight fracking in Maryland. Our message to the next General Assembly must be loud and clear – fracking endangers public health and our environment, and has no place in Maryland. We support a robust Maryland economy built on a clean environment and sustainable energy resources.
To join our campaign, sign up for our email list and follow us on Facebook. Never forget that a strong grassroots movement can win this fight! We have seen it succeed in New York, where the collective actions of thousands of people led Governor Cuomo to ban fracking permanently. Don’t forget to visit www.DontFrackMD.org and follow Don’t Frack Maryland on Facebook to learn more and get involved!