Maryland Proposes America’s Strictest Fracking Rules

(REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Maryland unveiled what may be country’s strictest regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” yet.

In Maryland, State Department of the Environment introduced new rules which would prevent fracking within 1,000 feet of a private drinking water well, require four layers of steel casings and cement around wells, and force energy companies to replace any contaminated water.

These rules “will be the most stringent and protective environmental shale regulations in the country,” Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s Environmental Secretary, said in a statement Tuesday. “If fracking ever comes to western Maryland, these rigorous regulations will be in place beforehand to help ensure safe and responsible energy development.”

State officials said they expect fracking regulations to be formally proposed in mid-November with a 30-day public comment period. State lawmakers have until the end of the year to formally adopt the regulations.

Maryland currently has a total ban on fracking which lasts through late 2017, and environmentalists are worried state officials won’t regulate fracking as strictly as possible.

“If they don’t have enough capacity to write the regulations, how can we believe they’ll have enough capacity to effectively implement all the safeguards?” Josh Tulkin, director of the Maryland Chapter of The Sierra Club, told The Baltimore Sun.

Environmentalists and the oil industry disliked Maryland’s previously proposed regulations. Environmentalists claim the regulations would lead to earthquakes and groundwater contamination, despite being drafted by former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan supports fracking because of the new jobs and wealth into the state. Several counties in western Maryland are on top of the Marcellus shale formation, which is the largest reserve of natural gas in the U.S. Even modest landowners on the shale formation can make up to $35,000 a month in royalties payments.

O’Malley and the state’s Democratic-led General Assembly imposed a moratorium on fracking in 2011, citing alleged risks of groundwater contamination and increased earthquake activity.

Scientists and government bodies have repeatedly agreed that fracking does not cause the contamination of groundwater. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) science advisers recently stated that fracking has no “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water in the United States.” The EPA’s assessment of fracking risks to groundwater concurs with numerous scientific studies from regulatory bodiesacademics, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

“To my knowledge, I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater,” Obama’s Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz told reporters.

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