Garrett County (MD) Zoning Panel Approves DCL Fracking Controls

Changes in zoning regulations to prevent the siting of natural gas well-heads in the Deep Creek Lake watershed were recommended this week by a county planning board.

The measure now goes to county commissioners, all of whom campaigned in 2014 on pro-gas development platforms. Before approval, they must first hold a public hearing; no date has been set.

Garrett County Commissioner Jim Hinebaugh, an ex-officio member of the planning commission, was active in weeks' of discussion about the proposed change with lake stake-holders, including the lake-area Property Owners’ Association. He indicated at Wednesday’s hearing that county commissioners look favorably upon the recommendation. 

Hinebaugh added, however, that commissioners are not inclined to act until after the much-anticipated overhaul of state gas-drilling regulations is announced later this year. “We want to see the new regs first.” 

Among the six on the zoning board, only one — Jeff Messenger — dissented. He said afterward that he knew many in the county supported gas development, and he predicted a scrappy debate was still to come.

The move came after 11 citizens, including several DCL business owners, petitioned the planning body in March to change “language of the zoning ordinance to bring it into compliance” with provisions of a new Deep Creek Lake Watershed Management Plan recently negotiated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and county government. That plan, though only advisory, calls for no well-heads in the DCL watershed, the area in central and southern Garrett County drained by the Youghiogheny River and all tributaries upstream of the dam. 

If approved, the zoning change would not prevent shale gas development (“fracking”) county-wide. Landowners within the watershed could still lease their properties for gas development, and fracking “laterals” from vertical well-bores could still enter the watershed from outside its boundaries. Recent industry announcements suggest distances approaching 10,000 feet are technically feasible.

At the hearing, several people including Planning Commission Chairman Tony Doerr suggested that limited zoning tweaks might not prevent adverse impacts. These include water and air contamination, as well as health consequences that have led to hundreds of lawsuits in more than a dozen states since the fracking boom began in the eastern US in 2004. If fracking comes, Doerr noted, there would still be “industrialization" of rural areas and “lots of trucks.” 

The ban is only on well-heads in areas surrounding the lake, and it was clear at Wednesday’s hearing that the POA was the main organization representing those interests. POA President Bob Hoffman, for instance, had recommended changes that attempt to restrict “associated development” (particularly pipelines and compressor stations) near the highest-valued homes in the county. Those changes were approved in the final language. 

James Stanton, president of Youghiogheny Watershed Association, urged county officials to also pursue more comprehensive protections. Engage Mountain Maryland appealed to supporters to seek adoption of the ordinance. The organization also advocated for regulatory-based controls on fracking in the 2016 Maryland General Assembly. Eric Robison, an EMM co-founder, stated at Wednesday’s meeting that he had served on a planning commission subcommittee. 

The state currently has a legislated moratorium against fracking that is set to expire on Oct. 1, 2017.    


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Western Marylanders Renew Call for Fracking Ban as Prince George’s Leads Way 

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.” 


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Citizen Shale Supports Passage of Accident Gas Storage Bill

Further Information: Paul Roberts, Citizen Shale, 301.746.4287

ANNAPOLIS — Enhanced safety requirements at Accident’s natural gas storage facility are being considered by the Maryland Department of the Environment. But at a House of Delegates bill hearing last week, the department opposed attempts to codify into state law protections designed to prevent disastrous releases like the one late last year near Los Angeles.

The House Environment and Transportation Committee heard testimony on March 2 from several western Marylanders in support of the legislation. Before the hearing, Garrett County’s elected representative, Del. Wendell Beitzel, submitted a letter of opposition to Committee Chairman Kumar Barve, the Montgomery County Democrat who was champion of the 2015 moratorium on shale gas development. 

A decision on whether to recommend the bill to the full House could come as early as next week. 

Del. Andrew Platt from Montgomery County introduced the bill after a blow-out in Porter Ranch, Calif., sickened hundreds and forced some 2,000 families into temporary housing. The blown well leaked toxic pollutants for four months and hundreds of millions of cubic feet of methane — a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide — because the facility’s owner had no way to shut it off. The utility also lacked an emergency plan.

“This bill is a common-sense attempt to prevent a Porter Ranch-type event from occurring in Maryland,” said Del. Platt 

The Accident Dome storage facility, owned by Spectra Energy of Houston, is the state’s only underground gas storage field. The bill requires Spectra to increase well-head inspections using advanced infra-red detection technology, ensure mechanical integrity of the facility’s 84 existing wells and their valves, and set operating well-pressure limits.  

MDE first took "no-position" on the bill, then made a last-minute change in course to oppose it, calling it redundant to current and forthcoming department rules. An agency spokesman later said that although MDE had no serious objections to the bill’s provisions, the governor’s legislative staff had decided that the administration should oppose the bill.

At the hearing, two Citizen Shale board members testified in support of the bill, along with a resident who lives on the Dome and an emergency services expert. Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network were among the advocacy organizations submitting positions and offering testimony, as well. 

In response to MDE’s assertion that the bill wasn’t needed because many of its requirements were already required in regulations, Citizen Shale Board President Paul Roberts said the protections were important enough to be codified in state law. He identified “a common refrain from MDE of ‘No worries, we’ve got this,’ which many people in western Maryland simply don't accept.”

Five years ago, he noted, the agency was set to allow shale gas-drilling using regulations last updated 20 years earlier that didn’t even mention fracking. He said citizen involvement pushed MDE to overhaul the regulations, thus saving many western Marylanders from the miseries experienced by people living near drilling in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Ohio. 

The regulatory overhaul in Maryland began under former Gov. Martin O’Malley. The moratorium bill passed last year requires new regulations this year. But no permits may be issued before Oct. 1, 2017, giving legislators one last review of the regulations — in next year’s legislative session. 

Also testifying for the bill was Linda Herdering, whose home near Garrett College and the county airport is surrounded by active gas wells. She and her husband, who sold their Husky dog-sledding business last year, frequently hear pressure “blow-downs” coming from Spectra equipment and worry about dangerous emissions. Herdering said the affects on their dogs’ health was also a constant concern. “We probably would not have opened the business if we had known about the Dome when we located there,” she said.

Mark Richards, a Citizen Shale board member and retired Howard County assistant fire chief who lives part-time in Garrett County, warned that the all-volunteer nature of local emergency services, as well as shortages of equipment and training, would pose significant obstacles for crews reacting to a Porter Ranch-type incident. Citizen Shale also supports the bill because it requires a comprehensive risk management plan.

Rick Bissell, Ph.D., a Garrett County resident and professor and graduate program director of emergency health services at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, also testified for the bill. Response times for EMS and back-up crews, if needed, can be long, Bissell said, and the hospital emergency department 25 miles away in Oakland could be swamped quickly by an emergency far less demanding than what happened at Porter Ranch. Total transport time to larger emergency departments in Cumberland or Morgantown could take an hour or more, depending on weather.

A Spectra executive was the only person to testify against the bill. He said that the bill wasn’t necessary — but not for reasons cited by MDE. No regulations are yet approved, he said, but Congress is working with federal pipeline regulators. He claimed that imposing new oversight at the state level could prove “redundant.”

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Environmental Health Partnership Announced for Accident Dome Project

[February 26, 2016]  Federal officials in Maryland — Sen. Benjamin Cardin and Rep. John Delaney — voiced support this week for a collaboration announced by local non-profit Citizen Shale, in a grant request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to measure toxic air pollutants near the state’s only underground natural gas storage facility near Accident, Md. 

Citizen Shale is awaiting word from EPA on its Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement grant application, filed Feb. 12. Recipients of the two-year, $120,000 grant in each of EPA’s 10 regions will be announced this summer. Securing this grant would be Phase I of a more extensive project to address air quality, health effects, and emergency preparedness in the Accident area.

Sen. Cardin, in a letter sent on Tuesday to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, described "this first attempt” by citizens to measure known emissions at Accident capable of "adverse human health impacts.” Those emissions cause the Spectra Energy facility routinely to be in “non-attainment” with the U.S. Clean Air Act. The project also seeks to discover whether other toxic substances are being released, and, importantly, to measure their potential to cause harm.

In addition to the Garrett County Planning and Land Management office, the Maryland Environmental Health Network, and the University of Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, Cardin noted other partners include the Garrett County Health Department and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg.

Rep. Delaney, who met with Citizen Shale board members in Garrett County last week, commended the innovative partnership.

"While we have assembled diverse experts that can address air quality and environmental health issues — from data collection to necessary policy changes — we also hope to involve Spectra Energy,” said Citizen Shale co-founder and board member Natalie Atherton, who coordinated writing the proposal over five months for the all-volunteer board. “There may be probable solutions for citizens' air quality concerns that, if implemented, could be cost-effective for Spectra, by reducing natural gas lost through leakage.” 

EPA, working with a bi-partisan group of senators including Maryland’s Cardin, is currently updating national policies on emissions of fugitive methane, increasingly identified as a greenhouse gas more potent in its climate effects than carbon dioxide.   

Eric A. Davidson, professor and Director of the Appalachian Laboratory, said: “Good baseline data are essential for understanding how air quality varies across the region today and for documenting possible future changes.” 

Rodney Glotfelty, who directs Garrett’s County health department, echoed Davidson, adding his hope to adapt the program for use elsewhere in the county. “Improving knowledge about the multitude of factors that can contribute to poor health may be a great outcome of this partnership and fits well with our public health mission." 

"This is an exciting project,” said Rebecca Ruggles, MdEHN director. "We look forward to helping bring citizens, scientists, business and government officials together for a science-based dialogue.” 

Ann Bristow, a MdEHN steering committee member from Garrett County, noted that "this will build on two science-based public meetings about the Accident Dome” that she organized last year with another local non-profit, Engage Mountain Maryland.   

Citizen Shale, active for five years in efforts to halt the poorly regulated shale gas-drilling that Maryland state regulators and local officials were set to allow starting in February 2011, helped push former Gov. Martin O’Malley to intervene. 

Since last summer, the organization has re-focused on board development and strategic planning. Paul Roberts, co-founder and board president, noted that the organization has overcome countless challenges, including the recent death of an esteemed board member, Marilyn Moors of Friendsville.

“It is our commitment to community engagement, as Marilyn made her life's work, that made us the right group to form this partnership,” said Roberts. “Our hard-working board now has 15 members, with a few openings still to fill. We have a minister, several professional educators, a  map-maker, farmers, firemen, and a Fullbright Fellow working in Indonesia, plus an award-winning film-maker — young and old, mostly from Garrett and Allegany counties, trying to insist on sound policy choices for our children, our neighbors, and our future.”

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First fracking water contamination case goes to jury trial

Approximately forty families from Dimock, PA have sued the gas industry over water contamination -methane migration into their private wells.  Most have settled out of court, but the final two families in the long list are taking their case to a jury.

Read more from Reuters Feb 23, 2016.

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Please Participate: Economics of Fracking in MD

Downstream Strategies was chosen to execute the scoping process for an economic study of Garrett County, MD, the first place that might experience fracking should it be permitted in Maryland.  Downstream Strategies hosted a scoping session on Tuesday February 23.  According to residents who attended, about 75 people attended and many voiced concerns about the limited scope and methodology, including a narrow focus that may not take into consideration agriculture, agro-tourism, health and water protections, and the lack of new business investment in response to the potential for fracking.For those not able to attend the public forum at the Garrett College auditorium, there are multiple ways and plenty of time to participate in the scoping phase of the economic impact study on tourism, second home and real estate values, and outdoor recreation within Garrett County, MD.The public forum was meant to give those in attendance an overview of the scoping phase of the project and an opportunity to provide comments. Kendra Hatcher of Downstream Strategies provided a handout and gave a public presentation as an overview of the economic study.  Most of the time was spent listening and gathering feedback from citizens and property and business owners.

If you are a stakeholder, but missed this meeting, there are ways to participate from afar:

1.     Online survey
The survey can be accessed on a computer or mobile device at

This survey will be available until March 18, 2016. Downstream Strategies will provide paper copies if necessary. Please contact Kendra Hatcher:

Kendra Hatcher
Downstream Strategies
295 High Street, Suite 3
Morgantown, WV 26505 

The survey will provide Downstream Strategies with useful information about the priorities and concerns of the respondents, but it is an informal survey. This type of online survey is meant to gauge public perception, and is not part of a scrutinized study.

2.     Direct communication with Downstream Strategies

Downstream Strategies welcomes and will include all comments provided through email or phone conversations as part of this scoping phase. They seek feedback from individuals, as well as opinions from stakeholder groups.

The comments and survey results will be summarized and will be presented at a future Shale Gas Advisory Group meeting. These meetings are open to the public and all material will be available on their website at

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Annapolis 2016: Citizen Shale Announces Positions on Proposed Legislation

Senate Bill 361

NO POSITION This controversial bill, which advocates say would improve odds for success in lawsuits against shale gas-drillers, presumes, first, that fracking will be allowed. Some believe that giving such ground sets an unacceptable precedent, given what is now overwhelming evidence of fracking’s danger to humans and the environment, and the ineffectiveness of any state (or nation, for that matter) to regulate this industry. Citizen Shale respects everyone’s right to advocate for legislation in the General Assembly, but prefer, instead, to continue building momentum for the Don’t Frack Maryland Coalition’s comprehensive legislation and ban on hydraulic fracturing in 2017.


House Bill 1112

SUPPORT This legislation would require the Maryland Department of the Environment to adopt specified regulations to promote the safety of natural gas storage wells and facilities. This bill only refers to the one storage field in Maryland, operated by Spectra Energy in Accident, Garrett County, Md. Del. Andrew Platt of Montgomery County developed this legislation after a catastrophic, five-month-long gas leak in the Porter Ranch community of Los Angeles sickened and drove thousands of people from their homes. Citizen Shale will be offering testimony at the March 2 hearing in the House of Delegates. According to Del. Platt’s office, roughly a dozen state, local, and national organizations have lined up to support this common-sense legislation.


House Bill 394

SUPPORT Known as the “chemical disclosure” bill, this measure was introduced in the legislature for at least the third consecutive year by Del. Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County. Citizen Shale provided written testimony for the bill hearing.

Senate Bill 525

NO POSITION A hearing is set for Tuesday Feb 23 in the Senate for this bill to update certain provisions of the 2011 Maryland Dormant Mineral Interests Act, and is sponsored by Garrett County Sen. George Edwards.  Companion legislation (HB576) has already been heard in the House).

For more information about these bills and others, log on to Bills may be researched in various way: by number, for instance, via the “Active Legislation” pane in the center of the page, or by legislator, accessed via the “Legislator” button at the top of the page; click on any legislator’s name for a list of current legislation.

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Fracking’s Economic Impacts: Forum for Public Input Feb 23

Join the Public Forum, Feb 23

Public Input sought on Future Economic Study of

Fracking’s Impact on Garrett County, MD

Shale Gas News
Garrett County, Maryland
Public Forum Scheduled for Input on Economic Study Scoping
A public forum regarding scoping efforts for a future study on the economic impacts of shale gas development on tourism, second home and real estate values, and outdoor recreation in Garrett County is planned for:

Tuesday, February, 23, 2016 from 4 P.M. to 8 P.M. in the Garrett College auditorium. The auditorium is located in Room 715 of the Fine Arts/Business Administration building.
The purpose of the forum is to inform the public and allow them to comment about the development of a study that will examine the economic impact of shale gas activity on tourism, second home and real estate values, and outdoor recreation in Garrett County.

The forum is hosted by Downstream Strategies, an environmental consulting firm, which was hired by the Garrett County Commissioners to develop a scope of work for the study.

The first half of the meeting is an open house and a presentation about the project is planned at 6 P.M. A public comment period will follow.

Public feedback will also be solicited through an online survey.

For more information, contact Kendra Hatcher at (304) 292-2450 or

The above announcement comes from Garrett County Economic Development.

Please visit for additional information.

Thank you for participating,

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A Difficult Good Bye

Good Bye, Marilyn Moors…

Because you were involved in so many community projects and so many lives, no one person can write it all, but At Citizen Shale we will attempt to add to the long list….

First, Marilyn you did nothing, if you did not make a difference.

You took responsibility for yourself, your family, your community, the world.  You led by example.  You put solar panels on your barn before solar panels were “in.”  You installed geo thermal heat. You put a huge and beautiful and loved farm in historic trust, thinking not of yourself but of future generations.  You carpooled.

You were a backyard farmer extraordinaire, a cook and food saver. You employed young people not only to help in the garden, but also to share in a sustainable lifestyle that was not hard or a sacrifice, but a joy.  And you always shared your bounty with the many, MANY people you called friends.

You were a person of faith, an active member of Unitarian Universalists congregations across the state. You were a mentor and a teacher.  You were a supporter of the library, the AAUW, civic organizations, and students and families in need here and in Central America.  And you loved animals.

You were an inspiration, wise and graceful.  You were with CitizenShale from the beginning, a vital member of the team who sought the first protections for our community from shale gas development.  And you were there with us, making connections and working harder than ever, when Maryland made history by establishing the first legislative moratorium on fracking in the United States.  Even as your health began to fail, you were still giving your all, and serving as “advisor emeritus.”  We thank you for your longstanding guidance and support, for your participation on our Board of Directors, for your compassion, for your friendship, for your vision, and for hope.


Marilyn on her beloved Buffalo Run, Friendsville, Maryland 2012

Dear Friends of Citizen Shale,

Please share the word about the memorial service next week in celebration of the life of our dear friend, Marilyn Moors who passed away on January 15 at the age of 81.

Unitarian Universal Fellowship of Greater Cumberland
211 South Lee Street, Cumberland, Maryland 21502
Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 3:00 pm
Refreshments afterwards

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More Proof: Fracking is Harmful to Our Health


According to a new report out of Yale University, some of the 1000 chemicals used in fracking are toxic to humans.  The researchers studied 240 substances found in fracking  fluid and identified 157 chemicals-including arsenic, formaldehyde, and benzene-  impact negatively on our developmental or reproductive systems.  Many of those chemicals already carry warnings by the federal government.

Fracking fluid is what the industry injects into the ground.  Researchers suggest that the flowback water, which contains both fracking fluid and substances from underground, may be even more toxic, but they have not studied samples from flowback.

Read more from the Yale News:



The chemicals in fracking wastewater have been studies by another team.   Turns out, the wastewater treated cells transform and become malignant cancer in a matter of weeks.  This study was performed using wastewater from the Marcellus Shale.  See the review at GreenMedInfo

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