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No fracking in Western Md. [Letter]

I read with great interest the editorial, "Fracking still worrisome" (Oct. 8). I live in Western Maryland and am very concerned. I don't understand why we're having this debate.

Fracking for natural gas in Western Maryland will not help America become energy independent. We simply do not have oil and gas reserves that make that possible. What is even more concerning is that gas operators don't want to sell this gas locally or even distribute it in the United States. They want to sell it overseas.

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The state of Maryland commissioned several studies to determine if fracking posed unacceptable risks. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, they have not yet decided what constitutes unacceptable risk. Unacceptable risk should be very well defined, measurable and quantifiable. It should have been defined before any of the studies were done. It should clearly and unambiguously indicate whether the results of the studies indicate if the risks are unacceptable. Otherwise, studies are pointless.

The results of the Health Impact Assessment state that overall there will be a medium negative impact to the health of Western Marylanders. It doesn't tell us what those impacts are (for example, cancer, emphysema, asthma, etc.) but it does say that our current health care infrastructure will be overwhelmed. That means that lots of people are going to get sick and be financially damaged. That alone should indicate that the risks are unacceptable.

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The economic study wasn't able to conclude that the local economy would improve. It was not certain new jobs for locals would be created or what effect it might have on tourism or whether real estate values might decrease. What is clear is that local communities will have to pay for more local infrastructure including health care, schools, road repair, police and for various kinds of emergencies including traffic accidents, pipeline leaks, chemical spills, explosions, worker injuries, resident health problems, domestic violence and increased sexually transmitted diseases.

It is also clear fracking will cause environmental damage especially to water. It has happened everywhere fracking is allowed and it can't be stopped. Currently, wells thousands of feet long are cased in concrete (a substance with relatively poor shear strength) and subjected to thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. This takes place in an environment that is constantly shifting. Given those conditions, the concrete is going to fracture providing what's in the well a pathway to drinking water. Pipes and seals within the cased well are going to leak as well. It is unrealistic to expect otherwise.

Why should we shoulder the burden? We're going to get sick, our environment damaged and there'll be no improvement to the local economy. Local government is going to have to find lots of money to pay for additional health care infrastructure, police, schools and road repair. Most of that money will be provided by local tax increases. All of this is documented both by the studies done by the state or by the experience of communities where fracking is currently taking place.

What's the rush? That gas isn't going anywhere. When we've learned how to extract it so that it doesn't harm anything and benefits all instead of a few then we can get it. Until then let's do the best we can with what we've got and be thankful that we're not going to suffer the kinds of things that other communities have to endure.

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Jim Guy, Oldtown

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