Slowing Down Natural Gas Drilling in Western Maryland
Western Maryland sits on top of the Marcellus Shale, an underground rock formation that spans from New York to Virginia - including most of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. New drilling technology makes extracting natural gas from the shale commercially viable for the first time.
But just as there's no such thing as a free lunch, there's no such thing as free energy, either. There are already thousands of wells in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, with plans for many more. And though drilling companies claim that their techniques are safe, there have been thousands of safety violations in just a few years - an average of more than three per day.
Here in Maryland, 150,000 acres of land has been leased and drilling firms have filed for permits to begin extracting gas. Were they to receive necessary approvals, it would take as little as two months to begin extracting natural gas.
Evidence continues to mount that Maryland was wise in its go-slow, study-first approach to shale gas drilling. The Environmental Protection Agency recently released two reports that showed drinking water contamination in Wyoming and earthquakes in Ohio – both caused by activities related to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.
In 2011, Heather worked to pass legislation to ensure that Maryland takes a go-slow approach on natural gas drilling. The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Act passed in the House, but failed in the Senate. As a result, Heather worked with Governor O’Malley to issue an Executive Order to create a study of natural gas drilling in Maryland. This study – the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative – will examine the short- and long-term economic and environmental impacts of shale gas drilling in Maryland.
Though Maryland called a successful “time-out” on drilling last year, our fracking study is unfunded, making it nearly impossible to complete a comprehensive examination of natural gas drilling in Maryland. Without this funding or revenue from another source, the Departments cannot ensure the completion of detailed environmental and health safety studies, which must be conducted before we determine whether drilling should occur in Maryland.
The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Study Fee (HB1204/SB798) filed by Heather and Senator Brian Frosh establishes a retroactive $10-per-acre fee assessed by the state and charged to oil and gas companies with leasing interests in Maryland, and will fund this critically important study.
Heather has also introduced bills to protect Maryland’s consumers and landowners and to ensure corporate transparency on the part of energy companies wishing to drill in Maryland.
House Bills 1033, 1034, 1040, 1072, 1170, and 1172 will require energy companies to keep and provide records about their shale gas drilling; establish a transfer tax on the sale of mineral rights and the transfer of oil and gas leases; require energy companies to disclose shale gas drilling risks as part of standard leasing language; create a searchable registry of oil and gas leases; require companies to file complete copies of leases; and require land speculators to provide home and landowners with a notification informing them of their rights before signing a gas lease.
Associated Press via Cumberland Times-News: Maryland house approves fee for gas drilling study
WAMU: Are Fracking Fees the Future in Maryland?
Washington Post: Md. House panel approves doubling “flush tax” as environmental bills move through legislature
The Gazette: Fracking might be years off, but the bills pile up
The Daily Record: Gas drilling moratorium fails in General Assembly
Washington Post: Sitting atop huge gas reserve, Maryland debates drilling practice known as fracking Associated Press via Washington Post: House OKs plan for 2-year study before allowing gas drilling in Marcellus Shale in western Md.
Chesapeake Bay Journal: Other states look to Pennsylvania to learn from Marcellus Shale errors
Associated Press via Washington Post: Measure to limit drilling in Marcellus Shale in western Maryland moves forward in House
MarylandReporter.com: Five strikes, and you’re out: Beitzel fails on fracking
Associated Press via Washington Post: House ready to debate natural gas drilling
Carroll County Times: Drilling moratorium makes sense.
Baltimore Sun: Two-year delay proposed in shale gas drilling
Baltimore Sun editorial: Go slow on shale drilling
Baltimore Sun: Declaring Marcellus law
Capital News Service: Natural gas extraction debate heats up at State House
WYPR's Environment in Focus: A Freeze on Hydraulic Fracturing? [MP3]
Delegate Mizeur's Baltimore Sun op-ed: Water on fire? Time to put this on ice.
CNN: 'Fracking' yields fuel, fear in Northeast
New York Times: Dark Side of a Natural Gas Boom
See Heather in Action: