Garrett and Allegany counties in Western Maryland have higher poverty rates than most other counties in the state. In fact, per reports, more than half of the households in the region earn less than $50,000 annually. Both counties sit in a rural section of the state that stands to lose even more if legislators, again, cut the cord — perhaps, this time, for good — on a line of work that could help these families make ends meet: oil and gas production and the use of hydraulic fracturing ("Maryland General Assembly approves fracking ban," March 27).
Just look next door in Pennsylvania where the average energy production job pulls in a reported $93,000 annually. Greenlighting hydraulic fracturing would be far from a cure-all for Western Maryland, but why would we ever want to cut ourselves out of the economic opportunities this prolific technique has provided? The living-wage jobs it could churn out would no doubt be a significant step in the right direction for a portion of the state looking to boost its way of life and economic opportunities.
That's why it was irresponsible for our government officials to ban access to this type of high-paying work statewide, especially given the long history of hydraulic fracturing throughout the U.S. and the vast array of safe, reliable, cost-effective resources it would produce. Hydraulic fracturing in Maryland would stimulate job growth, boost the economy and lower energy costs for cash-strapped households and businesses. What's more, federal studies have shown that hydraulic fracturing does not harm local drinking water and even helps cut carbon emissions.
Instead of voting to halt these benefits, state lawmakers should act on their promises to support every safe, economic resource and opportunity available to them.
Mike Butler, Pittsburgh, Pa.
The writer is executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance Mid-Atlantic.