Monday, January 2, 2017

Maryland Fracking Fight Continues

A group of Maryland lawmakers has put on hold the Hogan administration’s plan for regulating “fracking” for natural gas in the state, setting the stage for a debate in Annapolis early next year over whether to permanently ban the hotly disputed drilling practice.

In a letter issued late Thursday, leaders of the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee informed Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles that they want more time to study his department’s proposal to tighten state rules governing oil and gas exploration and extraction.  The panel's co-chairmen, Baltimore Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg and Montgomery County Sen. Roger P. Manno, both Democrats, asked Grumbles to delay final adoption of the regulation and turn over all comments received after it was proposed in November.

A lawyer for the joint House-Senate committee told members last week that under state law the panel could delay final adoption of the rule until mid-February, unless the administration willingly held off longer. Manno had said before the hearing that a delay would give the General Assembly a chance to vote on whether to impose a permanent ban on fracking before the rules could take effect.
As you might expect, the fight breaks out along the usual urban/rural split line with urban environmentalists unalterably opposed to anybody finding more energy to heat their house with. . .
Del. Dan Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat, was unpersuaded, raising a series of other concerns. He questioned the deterrence value of penalties laid out in the regulation, which would charge violators up to $1,000 a day, with a maximum of $50,000. Fines that size are just “the cost of doing business” for many oil and gas companies, Morhaim said.
. . . while rural types, where the fracking would actually occur, are more concerned with money and jobs.
Bill Bishoff, a Garrett County dairy farmer who is president of the county Farm Bureau, said farmers and other property owners who favor gas drilling support the rules, though they consider them “a bitter compromise.” They’re so stringent they’re likely to discourage the industry from drilling in Maryland for years until the market tightens up and gas prices can cover the higher costs of complying with state rules, he said.

Even so, Bishoff expressed frustration that the debate has dragged on for years.

“It’s a huge game of whack-a-mole,” he concluded. As regulations have been drafted and debated to address concerns, he said, opponents “keep coming up with new concerns.”
Of course. For the modern green weenie, the objections to fracking are not about making it safer, it's about slow motion prohibition of any fossil fuel production. Solve one objection, and they'll come up with two more.

Realistically, Maryland is a small state with relatively little land in the Marcellus Shale, the major fracking strata. Fracking won't make a big economic boon in Maryland the way it has in other states, although it will certainly be a boost to the "deplorable" counties near Appalachia, which could definitely use the boost.

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