Gov. Martin O'Malley has proposed funding the state's study of "fracking" for natural gas, ending a two-year legislative standoff over getting the industry to pay for it.I have it on good authority that the study to examine baseline data on surface water and air quality in Western Maryland is already in the works.
O'Malley included $1.5 million in his fiscal 2014 budget "to provide citizens, business leaders and policymakers the research and data they need to fully consider the potential economic and ecological impacts of natural gas extraction in Maryland," according to a summary of the spending plan released by the governor's office.
Of that, $1 million is to go to his "Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative," launched in 2011, in which a commission O'Malley appointed is studying the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called "fracking," in which large quantities of water, sand and chemicals are pumped deep into the ground to free up gas trapped in layers of shale. The other $500,000 is earmarked for gathering "baseline" data on groundwater, stream and air quality in western Maryland.
The plan, at least from the democrats point of view is to study fracking to death. Almost no mineral extraction in the United States is so widely practiced with so little apparent effect on the environment. Even the retiring administrator of the EPA has admitted they have not been able to detect ant effects of fracking on drinking water. It's unlikely any new study will find the smoking gun that all the other studies, and tens of thousands of well already fracked have missed.
But, like Governor Cuomo of New York, O'Malley intends to hold it off with a new study, hoping to find some minor negative effect they can blow up into a major finding in the media, and shut down fracking in Maryland permanently, to the delight of the enviro-activist supporters. Even if it doesn't work and no deleterious effects are found, it will have stalled the process several years, and made the business environment in Maryland seem questionable to investors in fracking. Mission Accomplished.
Honestly, I don't much care whether Maryland approves fracking or not, from an energy perspective. We're a smallish, fairly urban state, and we don't need the money as bad as parts of Pennsylvania, for example. If we don't extract it soon, it will always be there in the ground in reserve, when we need it worse and practicality finally wins out over zealotry. But the dishonest and anti-scientific means used to discourage fracking irks me.