Opening up Maryland to fracking won’t bring energy security to the region, won’t solve our economic problems and won’t provide clean energy. The oil and gas industry’s talking points that claim otherwise are nothing but the result of a highly orchestrated and well-financed public relations campaign, one aimed at prolonging America’s destructive dependence on fossil fuels.
Marylanders need to see through the oil and gas industry’s spin. Maryland has an opportunity to ban fracking now. We already know enough about the impacts of drilling and fracking for natural gas to know that we don’t want it in our state.
If we do not stand up for Maryland now, the oil and gas industry will drill and frack for as much natural gas as it can profitably extract from the shale and other rock formations that lie beneath our state, from Garrett County to the Eastern Shore. This will industrialize rural communities for the worse, bringing air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, marred landscapes and caravans of trucks full of toxic waste.
The industry’s plans to export large amounts of natural gas overseas, including from a terminal proposed for Cove Point on the Chesapeake Bay, would only intensify these negative impacts. Exports would spur more drilling and fracking more quickly, resulting in an even more destructive economic bust once the gas is gone and industry moves on. The economic benefits of the boom would be felt outside of Maryland, where the industry is based, but we would be left to pay the economic and environmental costs of the industry’s legacy of pollution. We already know this.
We know that drilling and fracking hundreds of new shale gas wells in Maryland each year would mean hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic waste, and there are no good disposal options. The shale gas industry would bring harmful local air pollution, among other public health and safety problems, to our communities. And communities across Maryland would face serious short- and long-term risks to their drinking water resources.
These risks would stem from increased demand for freshwater for fracking fluid and from leaks and spills of toxic wastes, either at well sites or on the road as the waste is trucked away for disposal. Also, hydrocarbon gases, undisclosed industrial chemicals and other contaminants can seep into aquifers via aging wells, natural faults and the fractures from fracking. Finally, we know that extracting, transporting and burning natural gas would contribute significantly to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, and thus to the rise in sea level and increase in extreme weather that already threaten our state’s economy.
Allowing shale gas development in Maryland will bring all of these problems. And despite their claims, the oil and gas industry’s so-called best practices, even if perfectly regulated and enforced by a new and costly regulatory regime in Maryland, will not solve these problems. But of course, regulation and enforcement won’t be perfect. At the federal level, the oil and gas industry enjoys sweeping exemptions from every major environmental law. Marylanders can expect the oil and gas industry and its promoters to work tirelessly to weaken regulations and to defund state-level enforcement of any regulations they fail to thwart.