This blog post was written by Megan Spindler a student at Frostburg St. University. Megan is interning with CCAN this semester.
While the popularity of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”) grows, so does the list of reasons why it should be done with extreme caution or not at all. In addition to poisoned drinking water, streams and rivers, new research from Cornell University shows that the carbon footprint of fracked natural gas is greater than that of coal due to the extraordinary planet-warming power of the methane, which is released in large amounts during every stage of the fracking process.
Still, one problem lingers above the rest: No one really knows exactly how dangerous fracking will turn out to be.
The tools are in place to solve this problem. In 2011 Governor O’Malley signed an executive order (“The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative”) to form a commission to study the effects of fracking in Maryland- this includes the effect of fracked methane on climate change. The commission lacks funding, however, and without it the governor’s fracking executive order is destined to remain a paper tiger, unable to perform the research needed to ensure Maryland does not suffer from the same fracking-related disasters our neighboring gas-rich states have experienced.
This year, several Maryland politicians seek to make the gas industry pay their fair share to ensure that fracking is done safely. Delegates McIntosh (D-Baltimore) and Hixon (D-Montgomery) have introduced a bill that would establish a severance tax for 15% of the wholesale value of any natural gas produced in Maryland. Revenue from this tax would go to overseeing fracking processes and repairing potential environmental damage. Delegate Mizeur introduced a bill to establish a retroactive, per-acre fee on lands leased by gas companies to fund the commission established by Governor O’Malley and bring the study to life. Both bills would place the responsibility of safe fracking in the hands of the gas companies and out of the hands of Maryland taxpayers.
If Maryland is going to frack, it is important to take a lesson from our neighbor states and proceed with absolute caution. To show your support, sign the petition calling on the Maryland General Assembly to fully fund the important work of the commission tasked with studying the full impacts on Maryland of fracking for natural gas.