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Gov. Martin O’Malley says that he is prepared to propose regulations allow fracking to go ahead in Western Maryland- with the proviso that companies submit to strict public health and environmental regulations.
Potential frackers in Maryland would have to submit five-year plans to the government detailing how they would go about fracking; Maryland would be the first state to require the submission of such plans. There would also be rules as to where well pads could be located and requirements that companies use the most advanced technologies so as to prevent methane pollution.
This shift in O’Malley’s policy is made possible by the release of a report yesterday that established ways in which fracking could go forward safely. The Baltimore Sun notes that ” in July 2011 the governor issued an executive order charging MDE [Maryland Department of the Environment] and DNR [Department of Natural Resources] to examine all aspects of unconventional natural gas development and to determine whether Maryland could allow it without unacceptable risks to the environment, natural resources and the public.” The final draft of the report was released yesterday.
None of these rules would take effect until after governor-elect Larry Hogan takes office. Hogan criticized O’Malley Tuesday for going forward on a number of controversial policies in his final months in office rather than acting earlier in his term. Speaking to the Washington Post, Hogan said that “We’re going to review every single one of them, I can assure you.” He had previously excoriated the O’Malley administration for dithering on fracking in Western Maryland- he referred to the Marcellus Shale there as “an economic gold mine.” Hogan also reiterated his support for fracking conducted in a “in an environmentally sensitive way.”
Drew Cobbs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, told the Post that, in regards to these regulations, “The question is whether companies can operate under that. I don’t know. It’s much more onerous and time-consuming.”
According to the Post and the report, “fracking could bring hundreds of new jobs and several million dollars in additional tax revenue to Allegany and Garrett counties” over the course of ten years. O’Malley acknowledged to the Post that “In the short term, as a practical matter, the industry will probably choose to frack in other states than Maryland where the standards are lower.” Despite this acknowledgement, he still asserted that “that responsible operations may well choose to come here” as opposed to states with looser regulations. There is speculation that Hogan, upon assuming office, will loosen these regulations in efforts to attract business away from other states along the Marcellus Shale.
A fracking advisory commission established by O’Malley in 2011 will have two weeks to consider and comment upon the report. The legislature could also get involved by passing these regulations or possibly choosing to loosen them- or shoot down the entire endeavor.
The debate between economics and environmental concerns also loomed large in the new farming regulations proposed earlier in November. Those regulations limit use of phosphorus-rich fertilizers so as to prevent more runoff from going into the Chesapeake Bay.
Featured image from Shutterstock
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