With "fracking" once again in the news, Maryland Public Television is airing a timely examination of the controversy around the controversial method for extracting natural gas.
At 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday (3/21), MPT broadcasts "Fracking: Weighing the Risks," looking at the pros and cons of drilling for gas in Marcellus shale deposits in Appalachia. The 40-minute documentary portrays the divisions within western Maryland, where some farmers yearn for royalties from gas wells to help them stay on the land while others fear that drilling could destroy their water supply, their property and their health.
Most of the show reviews through interviews and on-scene film the impacts of the shale gas boom in neighboring Pennsylania, where some communites have seen a surge in employment and businesses supporting the industry. Others, though, have kitchen taps that can be ignited because of methane infiltrating through the pipes and worry about other contaminants and the impacts of drilling on forests, streams and wildlife.
Following the documentary, MPT's Jeff Salkin moderates a 20-minute discussion between John Quigley, former Pennsylvania secretary of conservation and natural resources, an industry critic, and Chris Tucker with Energy in Depth, an industry group.
Maryland has yet to approve any permits for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Garrett or Allegany counties, where companies have secured leases on thousands of acres of land. The state is one year into what's been described as a three-year study of the impacts of fracking and possible safeguards the state could adopt if it decides to let gas exploration go forward.
In Annapolis, the House of Delegates just approved two measures that would finance a study of fracking's impacts and provide landowners more legal recourse if they believe their wells or property have been damaged by shale gas wells within 2,500 feet of their land.
The special includes interviews with Dana and Tom Shimrock, Garrett residents I featured in a recent Baltimore Sun story about western Maryland residents' concerns over the fairness of the leases they signed to permit drilling. In the MPT show, the Shimrocks articulate their conflicted feelings about drilling on their and others' property.
Overall, the report will leave you with expressions of hope that the drilling bonanza can yield economic benefits for impoverished communities, but also of concern that feckless oversight of the industry could devastate people's land and their lives.
If you miss the special Wednesday night, never fear, it'll air again about four weeks later, in April.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun