By RACHAEL PACELLA, Capital News Service
Allowing hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" in Maryland would cause water contamination, pollution and infrastructure damage, according to a report released recently by Environment Maryland.
"The report we're releasing today documents the many dollars and cents, every cost to our families and communities," said Tommy Landers, director of Environment Maryland, at a press conference in Baltimore.
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Hydraulic fracturing uses the injection of water and chemicals deep underground to access natural gas shales. Western Maryland sits on a small portion of the Marcellus Shale, a 95,000 square mile deposit of natural gas that has been fracked in other states, such as West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
At the Baltimore press conference, Rep. Shane Robinson, D-Montgomery, an opponent of fracking, announced plans to introduce legislation banning fracking in Maryland.
"We need to focus on what is best for Marylanders, not what is best for boardrooms," Robinson said.
The Environment Maryland study uses examples from other states to illustrate what the cost of drinking water contamination, groundwater cleanup, health problems, air pollution, road damage and other issues could be.
In Dimock, Pa., for example, contaminated groundwater ended up costing $11.8 million dollars, according to the study.
The study also uses roads in Pennsylvania as an example of how increased transportation can put stress on infrastructure. According to the report, some roads needed to be repaved every 7 or 8 years, as opposed to every 15 years.
Pennsylvania has bonding requirements for the local roads affected by drilling, making the natural gas companies responsible for the cost of repairs.
The Environment Maryland report mentioned Pennsylvania's bonding requirements, but said they would not account for the impact on major highways or the cost of traffic delays and vehicle repairs caused by congestion and temporarily degraded roads.
Additionally, Robinson said fracking would not create sustainable jobs for Marylanders, and would in fact create jobs overseas through increased natural gas exportation.
But Drew Cobbs, the executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, said if fracking does come to Maryland, the effects would be positive. He said the state would not need to pay to replace any contaminated water, because the drilling company would be liable.
In March, the Maryland Petroleum Council released a report on the economic benefits drilling would bring to western Maryland.
"Our study and other studies have shown some environmental impacts, but they're reversible and far outweighed," Cobbs said.
Cobbs added that drilling would create numerous jobs for Marylanders, based on what has happened in other states.
Gov. Martin O'Malley issued an executive order last year calling for a study of Marcellus Shale drilling by 2014, essentially placing a moratorium on the controversial method until more research is done.
The EPA is planning to release the first progress report of a study on hydraulic fracturing's impact on drinking water resources in late 2012. The full study is expected to come out in 2014.