Ban frack­ing in Md.

A Garrett County na­tive ar­gues that Gov. Ho­gan’s pro­posed frack­ing rules won’t do enough to pro­tect ground water and urges leg­isla­tive ac­tion

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE - Stephen Mogge, Bal­ti­more

As a Bal­ti­more City res­i­dent and a home­owner in Garrett County, I think the most re­cent round of reg­u­la­tions pro­posed by the Mary­land De­part­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment falls far short of ad­e­quately pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and cit­i­zens from the dan­gers of hy­draulic frac­tur­ing.

The MDE’s pro­pos­als make it clear that the only “reg­u­la­tory” course of ac­tion is for the public’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives in An­napo­lis to ap­prove a com­plete ban on frack­ing next year.

In re­cent years we have gone from a man­date in which the state would only per­mit frack­ing if there were no “un­ac­cept­able” risks, to a set of pro­pos­als that ac­cepted some mod­er­ate and high-level risks, and fi­nally to the cur­rent pro­posal, which re­duces pre­vi­ous pro­tec­tions and seeks to cod­ify mod­er­ate and high-level risks as the norm.

The lat­est pro­pos­als in­crease the drilling site well pad set­backs from per­sonal water wells from their pre­vi­ously pro­posed 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet. This is an im­prove­ment but still far from ad­e­quate.

The gov­er­nor’s com­mis­sion pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied 2,000 feet as pos­ing a mod­er­ate risk; a min­i­mum of 3,200 feet would pose a low-level risk and be much safer. The new reg­u­la­tions pro­pose only a 300-foot set­back from streams and wet­lands.

Keep in mind that frack­ing could well come to over half of the state. Cit­i­zens should se­ri­ously con­sider whether it is ac­cept­able to have hy­draulic frac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions a mere 300 feet from streams, rivers, wet­lands and the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

No­body, ex­cept those who stand to make a profit, wants their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments in­dus­tri­al­ized in this way. No­body wants the dan­gers of frack­ing in their back­yard.

In its June 2016 pro­pos­als, the MDE iden­ti­fied frack­ing re­stric­tions for Western Mary­land wa­ter­sheds that even­tu­ally flow into the Potomac River and through heav­ily pop­u­lated ar­eas of the state.

In the re­cent pro­posal, the MDE adds the Deep Creek Lake wa­ter­shed to its re­stricted list, in what can only be con­sid­ered a cyn­i­cal ef­fort to ap­pease wealthy prop­erty own­ers. Of course, most peo­ple on Deep Creek Lake know that frack­ing any­where in Western Mary­land de­stroys the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment as well as their prop­erty val­ues on the lake. Even so these pro­tec­tions still leave two-thirds of Garrett County — the Youghiogheny River wa­ter­shed — vul­ner­a­ble to the dan­gers of frack­ing.

Im­plicit in the MDE’s pro­posed wa­ter­shed re­stric­tions is the idea that these en­vi­ron­ments and the peo­ple who live there need Last month, Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­posed new rules to gov­ern hy­draulic frac­tur­ing in Mary­land. to be pro­tected from the harms of un­reg­u­lated in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion. But ap­par­ently the en­vi­ron­ment and peo­ple in the Youghiogheny Wa­ter­shed don’t merit such pro­tec­tions.

In what amounts to a “get a big­ger ham­mer” ap­proach, the MDE sug­gests adding an­other layer of well-cas­ing in drilling op­er­a­tions. Again, im­plicit in this idea is an ac­knowl­edg­ment that well cas­ings are im­per­fect and that they fre­quently fail, al­low­ing flow­back con­tam­i­nants to seep into the ground and con­tam­i­nate water sup­plies, an­i­mals and peo­ple.

As for the meth­ane emis­sions that con­trib­ute even more to global warm­ing and cli­mate change than car­bon diox­ide, the MDE es­sen­tially leaves that re­spon­si­bil­ity to the gas in­dus­try it­self.

It’s clear that the MDEis un­der-re­sourced and un­pre­pared to reg­u­late emis­sions and most other as­pects of the hy­draulic frac­tur­ing process. These are just a few of the con­cerns that arise from the re­cently re­leased reg­u­la­tory pro­pos­als.

The prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with the hy­draulic frac­tur­ing at ev­ery stage of the process make it clear that a frack­ing in­dus­try that has proven so ir­re­spon­si­ble has no busi­ness op­er­at­ing in Mary­land. There is only one course of ac­tion cit­i­zens can take and that is to sup­port a to­tal ban on frack­ing in the state.

KEITH SRAKOCIC/AP

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