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Maryland Fracking Opponents Call For Study

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Enviromentalists took to the steps of the state capital to renew their push for a moratorium.
Matt Bush
Enviromentalists took to the steps of the state capital to renew their push for a moratorium.

Opponents of fracking in Maryland are renewing the push during the upcoming session of the General Assembly. A group announced Monday that they want a moratorium on the practice until Maryland completes a study on its potential impacts.

Paul Roberts founded the website Citizen Shale and owns a winery in Garrett County, where companies want to drill into the portion of the Marcellus Shale that lies in Maryland. Roberts is also on an advisory commission appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley that is looking at whether Maryland should issue drilling permits.

"We don't want to be in a Pennsylvania position, where we barge forward just because there is so much money at stake, only to find out if we don't have enough information to decide if this is a good thing or not," Roberts said after the commission met Monday..

But there is no funding for a full-scale study, which is why Montgomery County delegate Heather Mizeur introduced a bill last year that would have funded such a study through fees on land leased to drilling companies. It passed the House, but failed in the Senate.

"The oil and gas industry is trying to wait us out," Mizeur said. "They're trying to make sure we don't have the money to do the intense studies. And without the resources, I think they believe at the end of 2014, if we can't come up with solutions and can't continue to get answers to the questions, that maybe we'll just issue drilling permits."

Mizeur supports a moratorium until a study can be done. 

"This gas has been trapped under this shale rock for millions of years," she said. "We can wait a few more years to get the answers that we need. Second chances are really expensive and we have to get it right the first time."

The earliest drilling permits can be issued is the end of 2014, so a moratorium is essentially in effect already for this year and next. Opponents of fracking say it pollutes water supplies, while supporters say the natural gas the process unleashes from the rock provides a bountiful domestic energy source. Maryland has the least amount of the Marcellus Shale of the six states the rock formation lies under.

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