What: Public comments on the proposed updated regulations for oil and gas development by the Maryland Department of Environment
• Proposed Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Regulations
• Proposed Regulations Summary Document
When: Due this Wednesday, Dec 14, 2016
The Maryland Department of the Environment under Gov. Larry Hogan published updated regulations allowing hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the Nov. 14, 2016, edition of the Maryland Register. According to MDE, “The proposed regulations will ensure that any exploration and production of oil and gas is conducted in a manner protective of public health, safety, the environment, and natural resources.” (emphasis added)
Comments on this regulatory proposal will be accepted through Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016.
Write and Send public comments to:
Jeffrey Fretwell, Director, Legislative and Intergovernmental Relations
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230
or call 410-537-3537
or fax to 410-537-3888.
or email to Marcellus.email@example.com,
•INDUSTRIALIZATION: No regulation can prevent the change in rural character that occurs when fracking begins. Thousands of trucks transporting equipment and hazardous materials to sites across western Maryland will not go unnoticed by visitors and residents. Flaring wells, roaring drill rigs and compressor stations, hazardous traffic, higher crime rates, and permanent pipeline clear cuts across forested vistas will industrialize western Maryland and forever change what attracts visitors and investments to the area: the perception that this place is unspoiled and special.
•ECONOMY: No drilling setback has been proven to mitigate loss of value to residential property. Neither state, nor county government have done a full cost/benefit analysis of how fracking will effect the value of our homes; those values constitute a large portion of the property tax base, the revenue from which supports our county schools and emergency and social services. Without an analysis of how fracking will reduce jobs and income in the tourism, recreation and second-home real estate sectors, it is not possible to claim that fracking can provide economic benefits to the majority of local citizens or to the state.
•PUBLIC SAFETY: Garrett County has the second-highest car crash fatality rate in the state, before adding heavy industrial traffic from fracking. The transportation plans required in MDE’s regulations (.33) use vague language like “minimize”, “avoid”, and “if practicable”; plans do not require that roads and road shoulders be assessed for adequacy to handle high volumes of industrial vehicle traffic, nor that sites be accessible by more than one route. All but main arteries in Garrett are undersized and not built for industrial truck traffic.
•SEISMIC RISKS NOT ADDRESSED: Regulations fail to incorporate ongoing Maryland Geological Survey (MGS) research on the hydrogeology of western Maryland that began in 2014. Groundwater migration and fault-mapping studies reveal the unpredictability of water migration in the region’s largely unconfined, fractured rock aquifers. MGS has already mapped faulting from the Marcellus layer to the surface in the Accident and Deep Creek Lake quadrangles. MGS recommends baseline seismic study in all areas before drilling is permitted. Horizontal drilling would be permitted beneath all drinking water reservoirs in Garrett County, as well as Deep Creek Lake. Has the State addressed effects of induced seismicity on the structural integrity of reservoir dams?
•REGULATIONS NOT BASED UPON CURRENT SCIENCE: Our knowledge of fracking’s impacts to our health and environment has grown exponentially since the state’s fracking study commission ended in 2014. Over 900 peer-reviewed studies have been published, yet the current regulations take a tiny fraction of this new data into account. Issue papers released by MDE stated that regulations are based on MDE’s 2013 Best Management Practices Report; the most current research citations in this report date from 2012 and only two health studies are cited.
UPDATE: And just this week we have one more critical piece of information: MDE's regulations do not take into account the findings of EPA's Final Report on Impacts from Hydraulic Fracturing Activities on Drinking Water Resources. EPA’s report concludes that hydraulic fracturing activities CAN impact drinking water resources under some circumstances and identifies factors that influence more frequent and severe impacts. The report also identifies uncertainties and data gaps that limited EPA’s ability to fully assess impacts.
•ASSESSMENT & MONITORING PROTOCOLS INCOMPLETE: Regulations include several areas that promise “the Department shall develop” (.51-C, .19-C) guidance for various assessment and monitoring protocols. If the state has not yet determined staffing and funding needs for these programs — including gathering critical specifications for analysis and data submission, monitoring and assessment for water quality, terrestrial and aquatic living resources, and geophysical assessments — how do we know that permitting fees proposed are sufficient?
•REGULATIONS & THE SHALE PLAYING FIELD ARE NOT SET IN STONE: Putting our faith in regulated drilling is no guarantee of protections. If the state of Maryland allows fracking to go forward, regulations and other laws intended—theoretically—to strengthen the regulatory playing field can be weakened and amended by the General Assembly with pressure from the gas industry or other parties. The Administration can also roll back protections in critical areas.
•NO CONFIDENCE IN MONITORING AND ENFORCEMENT: The state could pass the strongest-possible regulations for fracking, but they mean nothing if the state lacks capacity to enforce them. The burden of monitoring and enforcement will likely fall on under-resourced local communities. MDE officials during the Marcellus Safe Drilling Initiative actually stated that citizens would need to be "the eyes and ears of enforcement." Is that your job? Since Gov. Hogan took office, MDE has seen at least 18 months of cuts to its budget and staffing. It is likely these cuts will continue in 2017. Since MDE has not yet developed monitoring and assessment protocols (still TBD, see “Assessment & Monitoring” above), it is not known whether permitting fees set forth in regulation are adequate to fund staffing and monitoring responsibilities.
•ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE & EQUAL PROTECTION: Garrett County does not have county-wide performance zoning that would allow some control over placement of fracking sites. Allegany County recently updated zoning ordinances to ALLOW fracking in all zones, including areas zoned residential. MDE's regulations prohibit drilling (.20) in three watersheds for municipal drinking water sources and for Deep Creek Lake, leaving the rest of western Maryland open for development. If fracking might cause harm in these watersheds, it has the same potential for harm in all areas. Residents outside protected watersheds are deprived of equal protection.
Tuesday December 20, 9:30 am. Annapolis, MD
Attend our press conference prior to the Adminstrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) committee hearing on the proposed regualtions for fracking in Maryland. More info on this event: https://www.facebook.com/events/716531401862253/