Maryland pretty seriously reevaluating that fracking moratorium

posted at 8:31 am on December 10, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

As states up and down the eastern seaboard have raked in the thousands of private-sector jobs and millions upon millions of dollars in revenue that have come from tapping into the oil and gas resources trapped in the Marcellus Shale formation using the hydraulic-fracturing technique known as “fracking,” Maryland has conspicuously declined to get in on the shale-gas boom. The state’s blueish influences managed to inflict a moratorium on the practice, citing fears of potential groundwater contamination to shut down the natural gas industry before it really got started, but as Virgina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and others have seen only flourishing success from allowing fracking, Maryland’s pro-gas advocates are starting to speak up. WaPo reports:

But there are signs that Maryland’s resolve is weakening. Time is slowly running out on a de facto drilling moratorium imposed by O’Malley, who issued an executive order last year that barred the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) from approving drilling permits until a scientific study costing $1.5 million could be completed. The state did not fund the study, and the deadline for completing it is summer 2013. …

“What we’re hoping for with this session is a very strong shot across the bow,” said Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery County), who has sponsored numerous pieces of anti-drilling legislation. “No studies, no fracking. Until these studies are undertaken, there will be no drilling in Maryland”

But in the past legislative session, the American Petroleum Institute thwarted a state Senate bill that sought to place a fee on the oil and gas industry for the study, which would investigate the quality of Maryland’s underground water in Garrett County, where the state’s Marcellus Shale is most abundant, and examine whether chemicals used in fracking would taint it. …

“Tell me another example where a business wants to come into Maryland and has to pay for a study to do it,” Cobbs said. “When you’re working with people who don’t want to compromise, that’s the end result.” …

Maryland’s ‘environmentally conscious’ (read: big-government progressives who are predisposed to believe that all drilling is bad) managed to demonize fracking by crying wolf over the ostensible threats of groundwater contamination, but not even the oh-so-zealous, power-wielding EPA has been able to find an excuse to shift regulatory authority from the states to the feds based on that ostensible threat.

Another argument the anti-fracking agitators like to drudge up is that the price of natural gas has been declining, meaning that pretty soon, companies won’t even want to start breaking ground anyway — but if the U.S. government would hurry up, get its act together, and start allowing American companies to export the relatively cleaner-burning natural gas into the burgeoning world market, the subsequently increasingly prices mean we would be on the receiving end of robust economic growth and job creation. The question isn’t whether natural gas is a boon for both the economy and the environment, because it undeniably is; the question is whether states like Maryland and the federal government will ever allow it to be all that it can be.

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