The Marcellus Shale band which runs through western Maryland contains natural gas that can be extracted using a controversial process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Currently there is no fracking in Maryland, but the process is being used in two of our neighboring states (Pennsylvania and West Virginia).
If fracking is to occur in Maryland, we need to ensure that it can be done safely. To that end, Governor Martin O’Malley signed an Executive Order in 2011 which established the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative. Under this initiative, an advisory commission was formed and is currently working on the issue. They are required to deliver a final report on their findings by August 1, 2014.
Personally, I don’t think the oil and gas industry has proven or will prove that fracking can be done safely. We have seen it contaminate water in Wyoming and cause earthquakes in Ohio, not to mention numerous surface accidents in Pennsylvania and other states.
Until a safe method for extracting natural gas from Marcellus Shale is developed, we should work on legislation to protect our citizens and our environment. To me, the best way to do this would be to ban the process.
Finally, even if a safe way to extract natural gas from Marcellus Shale is developed, we still should not over-rely on so-called ‘bridge fuels’. (It is important to remember: natural gas–when you include the extraction process–has a carbon footprint similar to coal.) Rather, we must focus on improving the viability of renewable alternatives. If we fail to pivot our focus, we will be stuck with an antiquated economy, lose the opportunity to create a new job-creating industry, and continue our reliance on overseas fuel.
Here is some information on fracking from Food & Water Watch’s website:
- Fracking chemicals are toxic and can contaminate water from spills or accidents.
- Fracking produces hazardous wastewater, which can contain radioactive substances as well as toxic chemicals, making disposal difficult and dangerous.
- Fracking requires millions of gallons of water, which can deplete local water supplies.
- Fracking can cause natural gas to migrate into drinking water sources, which can cause houses and wells to explode.
- There have been more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near drilling sites around the country.
Just what IS fracking? You may be confused because of a disinformation campaign. Read about the facts and fiction of fracking.