Md. is already going slow on shale gas drilling

We are pleased to see The Baltimore Sun's acknowledgment of the many benefits of accessing the abundant resources available in Western Maryland and other states in the Marcellus Shale formation ("Go slow on shale drilling," Feb. 14).

Clean-burning natural gas is a vital resource for America's energy future. It heats and cools millions of homes, generates electricity and is the base material for millions of useful products — from medicines and medical equipment to fertilizers and wind turbines and solar panels to the composite that makes today's airliners safer and more energy efficient.

In addition, developing domestic natural gas sources will generate billions of dollars in government revenue, boost economic activity, create thousands of jobs, benefit consumers, help us to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on foreign energy.

Marylanders need to know the facts about hydraulic fracturing, a proven process that has been used in the United States for 60 years.

More than 1 million wells have been completed in the United States using this process, helping to produce more than 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Hydraulic fracturing is not exempt from environmental regulations. Maryland and other states are responsible for ensuring the safety of drilling and hydraulic fracturing activity within their borders.

Hydraulic fracturing fluids are 99.5 percent water and sand. Further, hydraulic fracturing occurs below depths where suitable drinking water can be found. There are no confirmed cases of groundwater contamination connected to the fracturing operations.

Without hydraulic fracturing, we would lose 45 percent of domestic natural gas production and 17 percent of our oil production within five years. And we would eliminate thousands of good jobs.

Legislation to slow the development of the Marcellus Shale in Western Maryland is unnecessary, particularly since the Maryland Departments of Environment and Natural Resources are setting no speed records in reviewing this important issue. MDE has all the authority it needs to require whatever measures it deems necessary to safely develop this resource and fully protect the environment.

MDE's mission is to "...protect and restore the quality of Maryland's air, water, and land resources, while fostering smart growth and economic development." The departments have been carefully studying the issues related to the development of the Marcellus Shale in Western Maryland, including hydraulic fracturing, for at least two years. One company applied for a drilling permit almost a year and a half ago and it is still under review by the agencies.

We wholeheartedly agree that Maryland should proceed cautiously, but progress needs to be made. The oil and natural gas industry is committed to working with state officials to get it right and to provide this energy in a safe, technologically sound way with the least possible impact on the environment.

Drew Cobbs

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council.

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