Western Maryland residents and organizations renewed calls this week to prevent shale gas development in Maryland, hours after the Prince George’s County Council voted unanimously to ban the industrial process.
"Many western Marylanders don’t believe that the risks from fracking can be effectively managed, either by MDE or through civil litigation after the fact,” said Nadine Grabania, founding board member and secretary of Citizen Shale. “Alarming problems in other shale states continue, a raft of recent science proves harm, and public opinion continues to mount against fracking. We, along with more than 80 organizations across the state, are committed to a ban on fracking in Maryland."
Citizen Shale was among the first non-profit groups in Maryland to announce support last fall for securing a ban on fracking in the Maryland legislature. Key organizations supporting elected officials in Prince George’s, including Food & Water Watch and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, are also helping coordinate the Don’t Frack Maryland Coalition ban push in 2017, which promises to be among the most comprehensive legislative initiatives in Maryland history.
Grabania also noted growing opposition to fracking nationally. A recent Gallup poll found that 51 percent of Americans now oppose the process, and only 36 percent support it — a marked shift from last year when support among Americans for fracking was evenly split at 40 percent.
Additionally, a growing body of peer- reviewed research, now comprised of more than 550 studies, shows serious risks and harms to air and water quality, public health and the climate from widespread drilling and fracking across the country.
Jess Whittemore, a member of the Friendsville Town Council, which last year passed a resolution supporting the fracking moratorium, commented on Prince George’s action: “It is extremely encouraging to see some elected officials in our state take seriously their responsibility to protect the public from fracking. I applaud Prince George’s leadership and encourage our state legislators to follow suit.”
P.G. County and four other counties in southern Maryland are underlain by the Taylorsville Basin, estimated to contain more than 500 billion cubic feet of gas. In the same basin, across the Potomac River in Virginia, a Texas-based company has already leased more than 80,000 acres for development. Prince George’s County is the first county to take action against fracking since the moratorium passed. Montgomery County had previously adopted a change to its county zoning laws that essentially prohibits fracking.
All told, about half of Maryland’s counties — millions of people — could eventually be affected, should fracking ever be permitted in Maryland.
This week’s ending of the 2016 legislative session marks one year since the Maryland General Assembly approved a two-year moratorium on fracking. By Oct. 1, the Maryland Department of the Environment is required to finalize regulations for fracking.
"Significant new findings of human and animal harm have been documented since I served on Gov. O'Malley's commission. The latest research we reviewed is now two years old," said Ann Bristow, Ph.D., a member of former Gov. O’Malley’s Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission who lives near Finzel. "Drinking water contamination by fracking fluids has now been well-documented, the U.S. Geological Survey has formally acknowledged earthquake risks from wastewater injection wells and fracking itself, and methane emissions are forcing climate change at an alarming rate.”
"Knowing what we know about the threat of fracking, it's great to see Prince George's County taking action to ban such a hazardous industrial process”, said Allegany County resident Dale Sams. “But it's not just drilling and fracking that present hazards; we also have to be aware of the hazards inherent in the entire fracking-related infrastructure such as pipelines, gathering lines and compressor stations. We need to ban fracking across the whole state to protect our citizens and our environment, so I hope to see other local elected officials taking this kind of action."
“Young people are opposed to fracking because we recognize that the future of our communities, economy, and planet depends on keeping fossil fuels in the ground and transitioning to clean renewable energy”, said Erin Kroder, a junior at Frostburg State University and a member of Maryland Students Against Fracking. “Students and young people will organize and fight to ban fracking in Maryland.”