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Industry, critics spar over fracking in W. MD

Energy industry representatives and skeptics sparred Thursday over taxing natural gas drilling in western Maryland and the state's plan to take up to three years to study the environmental impacts of the hydraulic fracturing drilling technique, the Associated Press reports.

At the first meeting of an advisory committee Gov. Martin O'Malley appointed to study the risks and benefits of "fracking" for gas in Marcellus shale in Garrett and Allegany counties, Drew Cobbs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, pressed to expedite the study and adoption of any new regulations to cover drilling.

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The panel met at Rocky Gap State Park. Cobbs said the industry would consider funding an environmental baseline study in return for an accelerated timeline, according to the AP.

Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, who failed this year to get the General Assembly to restrict Marcellus drilling, proposed an extraction tax of up to 10 percent.  Industry representatives warned would discourage potentially lucrative drilling in western Maryland.

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