Elected leaders of the Town of Bel Air have taken a stand against fracking in Maryland, even though it's not likely the practice ever will happen in Harford County.
The five town commissioners signed a letter dated Jan. 31 supporting the Harford County Climate Action group's efforts to get the state to impose a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to capture natural gas and shale petroleum deposits.
"At this point in time, base on what we know collectively, we have reached a consensus that there needs to be better and safer ways other than fracking to extract natural gas from Maryland's rock formations," the letter, signed by Mayor Susan Burdette and commissioners Philip Einhorn, Brendan Hopkins, Robert Preston and Patrick Richards, states. "We are of the opinion that there are presently issues with fracking that negatively impact human health, clean water and the environment and we are not comfortable at this point with any decision to continue with plans to begin fracking in Maryland. We support your efforts and the efforts of others to oppose fracking at this time and support a full ban on fracking in Maryland."
The Harford Climate Action group came to the town in July and asked for a letter of support for a fracking ban, Burdette, chair of the board of town commissioners said.
"That was the first time most of us knew anything about a moratorium on fracking," Burdette said.
But before they could support a ban, Burdette said, the commissioners needed to know more about fracking and what it entailed, which led to several presentations by Harford Climate Action members before the board during town meetings late last year.
In addition to those presentations, some of the commissioners did their own research about fracking "and we couldn't find anything with evidence that fracking was safe," Burdette said.
Burdette is also going to be a speaker at a town hall educational forum on "Economic and Health Impacts of Fracking in Maryland," presented by Harford Climate Action, the Harford Community College Environmental Club and the Harford County League of Women Voters.
Other speakers at the town hall, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15, in Room 132 at HCC's Edgewood Hall, include Martin Reisinger, Dr. Gina Angiola and Betsy Singer.
The commissioners chose to support Harford County Climate Action and a fracking ban based on "the combination of having a group of citizens asking us to support the ban with our own research, and a lot of it is we wanted to support a lot of towns in Western Maryland," Burdette said. "We may have a problem with the Chesapeake Bay someday, in Harford, and we want to be able to call for their help and get their support as we support them."
She cited towns like Friendsville in Garrett County, where it took years to get clean water.
The fracking process, she said, uses millions of gallons of water, a significant drain on a town's infrastructure. Hundreds of wells are drilled, she said, and tanker trucks destroy infrastructure and roads.
"What we're worried for in Western Maryland is what happens to the town once they come in and leave," Burdette said. "It's better not to start than to try and stop it."
While it's not likely fracking will ever be done in Harford, Burdette said, the county could certainly be affected, as much of the area's public water supply comes from the Susquehanna River and other Chesapeake Bay tributaries.
"Since it uses millions of gallons of water, it's going to affect us somehow with the Bay. There's contamination to deal with. There are earthquakes caused by fracking, which would certainly reach over to Bel Air. Air quality," Burdette said. "It's just a small state, I think it would affect the whole state, what happens out in Western Maryland."