Fracking rules fall woefully short

Will tough standards for fracking accomplish what advocates intend?

In a recent letter to the editor, Garrett County native Stephen Mogge reports just-released Maryland Department of the Environment fracking regulations add "the Deep Creek Lake watershed to its restricted list."

This is partially true. The watershed joins with the three regional drinking water reservoirs where fracking permits will not be issued under the proposed regulations. But it is misleading to suggest such restrictions will protect these critically important resources ("Lawmakers should ban fracking in Maryland," Oct. 3).

The restrictions only apply to land uses such as locating wellheads and associated equipment. The regulations do not apply to the subsurface lands. Natural gas wellheads will be allowed on abutting parcels from which horizontal drilling could penetrate below the surface of land in the watershed, creating risks to groundwater and aquifers.

The Hogan administration's decision to leave these areas unprotected provides factual evidence rebutting Maryland Petroleum Council Executive Director Drew Cobbs' claim that the regulations are "too strict" ("Fracking rules do no good," Oct. 6). Strict regulations would protect DCL and drinking water supplies.

Another place where Mr. Cobbs can be challenged is his frequent assertion that fracking will produce jobs. Yes, there will be some jobs, but the following are reasonable follow-up questions: What kinds of jobs? For whom? For what duration? Will they benefit the neediest in Garrett County? There are no answers to these questions because after five years of discussion, there still does not exist an independent, comprehensible analysis of the impact of fracking on the resort-based economy in Garrett County. But lacking such a study, we just do not know what will be the net impact on jobs. Many local business people (not tied into the fracking clique) are deeply concerned about net job loss as a result of the negative impacts of fracking, particularly on the lake owners and tourism.

Mr. Cobbs also omits the fact of fracking produces a boom-bust cycle which we can see in many communities in nearby Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Out here in Garrett County, we are fully aware our natural resources and their attraction to tourists and lake property owners are the backbone of our economy and major source of jobs. Will we still have over a million tourists visiting when the natural beauty is marred by an industrialized landscape? Will second home buyers chose to purchase a lake property where the water resources and air are tainted by fracking and scenic country roads clogged with heavy tanker trucks? Not likely. Unlike those of us who live here, they will just seek vacation spots elsewhere, leaving the county economy on life-support.

It is hard to understand why the proposed regulations do not protect drinking water reservoirs and Deep Creek Lake. Did they add the watershed to the off-limits list in order to, as Mr. Mogge suggests, "appease wealthy property owners?"

In the coming days, lake property owners, our visitors and all citizens of Maryland need to grasp the consequences of the decision to not provide protection from negative impacts of fracking for Deep Creek Lake and drinking water reservoirs. This decision shows the failure of the regulations to comply with MDE's stated goals to "protect the public health, safety, environment and natural resources." It is now up to citizens and the General Assembly to demand these reasonable goals are met.

Barbara Beelar, Oakland

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