Maryland Gov. O’Malley Taking Closer Look at Marcellus Shale

Maryland Gov. O’Malley Taking Closer Look at Marcellus Shale

Maryland may be moving closer to allowing natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale formation in that state. Although two competing bills are being considered in the state legislature—one to prohibit production and one authorizing production—Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is said to be interested in studying the issue more closely. 

To that end, O’Malley convened a meeting of stakeholders in western Maryland. During the meeting, O’Malley expressed special interest in using the carbon dioxide extraction method instead of the more common and more cost-effective hydraulic fracturing (fracking) method. 

Fracking Opponents Speak Out
Allegany County Commissioner William Valentine said in the meeting the carbon dioxide extraction method is used every day in Canada and argued it is more environmentally friendly than hydraulic fracturing.

Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery) and Del. Marvin E. Holmes Jr. (D-Prince George's County) have coauthored a bill to prohibit Marcellus Shale natural gas production. Mizeur said after consulting with the O'Malley administration, she and Holmes would submit an amendment setting a July 2013 deadline for studying the issue. 

Sharp sparring occurred in committee testimony on the Mizeur-Holmes bill. Proponents of natural gas production said the process is safe, brings needed jobs to the region, and helps cut down on coal-burning and foreign dependence on oil. Opponents argued environmental protection should take precedence over energy production. Specifically, they claimed natural gas production could jeopardize water quality, which would in turn hurt tourism. 

“The governor’s ultimate decision will be guided by science, and that is why the governor is supportive of further study, based on the best science available, regarding the environmental impact of fracking’” O’Malley’s press secretary, Shaun Adamec, told Environment & Climate News.

Economic Benefits of Production
Allegany County Commissioner Creade V. Brodie Jr. expresses support for Marcellus Shale natural gas production.

“In light of our current economic recession, it would be great if the Western Maryland communities could benefit from the economic opportunities provided by natural gas exploration and extraction,” Brodie said.

“Personally speaking, I am excited about the prospect of additional long-term job creation in the private sector, particularly with a natural resource that can be utilized to help reduce our nation’s dependency on foreign sources of fuel. I firmly believe that all exploration and extraction efforts must be done in an environmentally responsible manner to protect Western Maryland and our neighbors,” Brodie explained.

Pamela Gorman (gorman2006@gmail.com) is a former Arizona state senator.