For months, the mantra of the Western Maryland delegation in Annapolis has been "Restore the highway user fees!"
While the mantra continues to be sung loud and clear, the delegation is 100 percent behind hydraulic fracturing.
One might ask what is the relationship between restoring highway user fees and hydraulic fracturing? The answer is that rural roads were not built for the heavy truck traffic required to sustain hydraulic fracturing.
A study published in the Journal of Infrastructure Systems in 2014 found that heavy truck traffic related to hydraulic fracturing cost the state of Pennsylvania between $13,000 and $23,000 per well in 2011.
The researchers concluded that "roadway damages in Pennsylvania and subsequent costs to PennDOT are expected given the increase in road traffic associated with this industry."
Keith Eshleman and Andrew Elmore of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Appalachian Laboratory wrote that "we believe that it is inevitable that there will be negative impacts from [fracking] in Western Maryland (and perhaps beyond the state's borders) and that a significant portion of these 'costs' will be borne by local communities."
Yes, just as PennDOT is absorbing the costs in Pennsylvania, citizens of Maryland's two westernmost counties will also be absorbing the costs if hydraulic fracturing is permitted.
An estimated 400 hydraulic fracturing wells will be drilled in Western Maryland. This means there will be between 960,000 and 1.6 million heavy truck trips as tanker trucks transport water and chemicals along the rural roads of Allegany and Garrett counties.
Based on the research stated above, the estimated cost of roadway damage in Allegany and Garrett counties will be between $5.2 million and $9.2 million.
One can only conclude that lawmakers are willing to allow hydraulic fracturing so a few citizens in far Western Maryland can make money as the oil and gas industry sucks these resources out of the mountains in the name of "energy independence" — then sends them to markets in Asia.