PA “ruined” by fracking

Last night, Wednesday,  June 22, Maryland Department of Environment held up the state of Pennsylvania as a model for our state as the Department writes and implements fracking regulations.  (see Cumberland Times-News coverage:

http://www.times-news.com/news/local_news/state-officials-gather-input-as-fracking-regs-get-refined/article_01cea859-c1da-5aa3-9f54-53e203a2e1de.html

 

The Center for Public Integrity released this article almost concurrently:

It is the story of Jesse and Shirley Eakin, whose water went bad seven years ago, and who are still awaiting a decision by the State of Pennsylvania as to whether the fracking industry is responsible.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/pennsylvania-fracking-water_us_576b7a76e4b0c0252e786d5e

MDE is holding public meetings in Baltimore and McHenry, and allowing a public comment period on issue papers they will use to justify and write fracking regulations.  

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MDE releases Fracking Issue Papers for Public Comment

The Maryland Department of the Environment (“the Department”) has developed Marcellus Shale "Issue Papers" that discuss specific topics that generated extensive interest when the Department proposed new regulations for oil and gas exploration and production in January 2015.  The issue papers describe the Department’s current thinking with respect to key issues from the 2015 proposal.  Each issue paper includes an overview of the requirements included in the 2015 proposal and the Department’s tentative suggestions for revising those requirements. 

The Department will be holding three public meetings to discuss these issue papers.  The public meetings are scheduled for:  

·          Wednesday, June 22, 6-8 pm @ Allegany College, Continuing Education Building, 12401 Willowbrook Road, SE,  Room CE 12-14, Cumberland, MD 21502

·         UP NEXT Monday, June 27, 6-8 pm @ MDE Headquarters, Montgomery Park, 1800 Washington Blvd, first floor conference rooms, Baltimore, MD 21230

·         Wednesday, June 29, 6-8 pm @ Garrett College, 687 Mosser Road, Auditorium (Room 715), McHenry, MD 21541

The three public meetings will provide an opportunity for the public to provide comments on the issue papers.  Additionally, comments on the issue papers may be submitted via email or paper mail.  Written comments will be accepted through July 18, 2016 by e-mail at marcellus.mde@maryland.gov or by mail at:

Attn: LMA Director’s Office

Maryland Department of the Environment

1800 Washington Boulevard, Suite 610

Baltimore, MD 21230

Based on continuing review and evaluation of the comments received on the issue papers, the Department will propose a revised set of regulations in the Maryland Register in advance of the October 1, 2016 promulgation deadline. Following proposal, the Department will provide an additional 30-day written comment period before taking any final action on the regulations.

Any questions should be directed to Jeffrey Fretwell – jeffrey.fretwell@maryland.gov or 410-537-3537.

Click here to read the issue papers

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Reminder: Josh Fox Film Premiere this Tuesday

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MDE Announces Public Meetings to Discuss Fracking Regs in MD

Maryland Department of the Environment (“the Department”) will be holding three public meetings to discuss the development of new regulations for oil and gas exploration and production.  The Department is required by State law to adopt new regulations to provide for the hydraulic fracturing of a well for the exploration or production of natural gas by October 1, 2016.

The public meetings are scheduled for:

·         Wednesday, June 22, 6-8 pm @ Allegany College, Continuing Education Building, 12401 Willowbrook Road, SE,  Room CE 12-14, Cumberland, MD 21502

·         Monday, June 27, 6-8 pm @ MDE Headquarters, Montgomery Park, 1800 Washington Blvd, first floor conference rooms, Baltimore, MD 21230

·         Wednesday, June 29, 6-8 pm @ Garret College, 687 Mosser Road, Auditorium (Room 715), McHenry, MD 21541

 

The Department had proposed regulations for oil and gas exploration and production on January 9, 2015.  Since the close of the comment period on the 2015 proposal, the Department has been reviewing the 2015 proposal to ensure that it protects public health, safety, the environment, and natural resources while avoiding unnecessary barriers to responsible development of the State’s natural gas resources.

The Department has developed several “issue papers” that discuss specific topics that generated extensive interest when the Department proposed regulations in January 2015.  The issue papers describe the Department’s current thinking with respect to key issues from the 2015 proposal.  Each issue paper includes an overview of the requirements included in the 2015 proposal and the Department’s tentative suggestions for revising those requirements.  

These issue papers will be released prior to the first public meeting on June 22.  A separate email will be sent alerting you to the availability of the issue papers.  The three public meetings will provide an opportunity for the public to provide comments on the issue papers.  Additionally, comments may be submitted via email or paper mail.  Directions on providing comments via email or paper mail will be included in the separate email when the issue papers are released. 

Based on continuing review and evaluation of the comments received on the issue papers, the Department will propose a revised set of regulations in the Maryland Register in advance of the October 1, 2016 promulgation deadline. Following proposal, the Department will provide an additional 30-day written comment period before taking any final action on the regulations.

Any questions should be directed to MDE's Jeffrey Fretwell – jeffrey.fretwell@maryland.gov or 410-537-3537. 

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Western MD Anti-Fracking Writing Contest

JF 16 T-shirt contest promo

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Josh Fox film premiere in Frostburg June 14

What: new film How to Let Go of the World and Love the Things that Climate Can't Change

When: 7pm, June 14, 2016 (doors open at 6:15pm)

Where: Palace Theatre, 31 East Main Street, Frostburg, MD

JF 16 Poster full

A free screening of award-winning documentarian Josh Fox’s newest film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Cant Change, comes to western Maryland on June 14 at the Palace Theatre in Frostburg. Fox and a panel of regional shale gas development experts will be available after the film for questions and discussion. 

Doors open at 6:15 p.m. and the film begins at 7 p.m. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Admission is free but donations are requested. 

The provocative director of Gasland and Gasland 2, which earned numerous Emmys an Oscar nomination, agreed to personally attend the event — most likely the only rural Appalachian venue for his new film — to help Marylanders spur the campaign for a legislative ban on “fracking.” 

In addition to Citizen Shale, the western Maryland community group involved in the fracking debate since 2011, virtually all organizations across the state pledging to secure a ban in 2017 are co-sponsoring and will send representatives: Food & Water Watch, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club of Maryland, Howard County Climate Change, and Waterkeepers Chesapeake.  

“We hope this film will be a catalyst for all communities concerned about gas development,” said Natalie Atherton, a founding member of Citizen Shale. “We are in our sixth year of hard work to prevent fracking from ever coming to Maryland. It seems all who have seen Josh Fox’s new film come away believing that there is still time, working together, to make wise energy choices — conservative, efficient, alternative, renewable choices — that protect the natural environment that is necessary for a safe, sustainable, healthy life.”  

In How to Let Go, Fox continues in his deeply personal style, investigating climate change — the greatest threat our world has ever known. Traveling to twelve countries on six continents, the film acknowledges that it may be too late to stop some of the worst consequences and asks, "What is it that climate change can’t destroy? What is so deep within us that no calamity can take it away?”

Among those providing answers in the film are Bill McKibben, widely considered the most influential environmental voice in America today; political commentator, author, and former Obama administration “green energy” director Van Jones; Tim DeChristopher, the Utah climate activist who spent time in prison due to his beliefs; and many others working on the climate-change front lines around the world. 

How to Let Go premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It just won the "2016 Documentary Award of Environmental Advocacy” at the Washington DC Environmental Film Festival and will be screened at leading festivals around the country, including the Telluride Mountain Festival, DC Environmental Festival, Cleveland International, Princeton Environmental Film Festival, Environmental Film Festival at Yale, and Hot Docs. 

Fox, who has toured more than 350 cities and earned a reputation as a leading fracking critic, says he believes that showing his film on the front lines of the fight against dangerous and “extreme” fossil fuel extraction can help individuals in communities find democratic means and shared resources to support each other. More than just a film, How to Let Go is intended to be a launch pad for education and action in communities. Fox believes local communities should decide their own climate and energy solutions. 

For further information, visit the Western Maryland movie premiere Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/events/821757457958148/?active_tab=highlights, or go to citizenshale.org

 

 

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Friendsville, MD Proposed Fracking Ban under Review

Friendsville Town Council on May 26 voted 4-2 to refer a draft ordinance banning fracking within town limits to their attorney for review. 

Council Member Jess Whittemore said the town felt it had to take this action because county government is considering zoning changes to prevent siting of gas well-heads within the Deep Creek Lake watershed only — not county-wide. 

Whittemore also wrote a letter to the editor, which appeared in the local Republican on May 26, charging that county government's actions have started a class war over fracking. After all, most of our wealth is vested in tourism industry amenities and vacation real estate near Deep Creek Lake. if county commissioners adopt the recommended zoning change, said Whittemore, “everyone else, including Friendsville, will be on their own.” 

 

Citizen Shale’s View 

F-ville_box

 

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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.    

2-CS_position_zoning_BOX_edited-2

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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

MEDIA RELEASE
CITIZEN SHALE, 8 MARCH 2016
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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