Posted March 1, 2017
Maryland lawmakers pushing for a permanent state ban on hydraulic fracturing should touch base with their constituents first. A new Goucher College poll finds that among those who have an opinion on fracking, most don’t want the state to make the current fracking moratorium permanent.
Goucher surveyed 776 people earlier this month and found 40 percent oppose banning hydraulic fracturing, with 36 percent supporting a ban. Twenty-four percent said they didn’t know.
With the statewide moratorium scheduled to expire Oct. 1, the General Assembly is considering banning hydraulic fracturing altogether, extending the moratorium and letting voters in each county decide whether to allow fracking in their jurisdictions.
There’s good reason to believe in Western Maryland’s energy potential. The energy-rich Marcellus shale, which has made neighboring Pennsylvania a prolific natural gas producer, also runs through Allegany and Garrett counties. Safe and responsible hydraulic fracturing is key to unlocking that potential.
A 2014 study by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute projected that energy development in those counties could support more than 2,500 jobs, add about $80 million a year in wages and result in more than $16 million in annual revenue for government over the first decade of development. A couple of charts from the study:
Looking at it another way, if the state were to ban hydraulic fracturing, significant local economic impact will be shelved with it. State Sen. Andrew Serafini:
“It's not ever going to happen in Montgomery County (near Washington, D.C.) or any other parts of the state, and so we're depriving those people in those counties of an economic opportunity and mineral rights.”
Certainly, natural gas is important to Maryland – as it is to the rest of the country, benefiting consumers and the environment. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, almost half of Maryland households use natural gas as their primary fuel for home heating, virtually all of it shipped in from other states and 66 percent of it developed with hydraulic fracturing. Increased use of natural gas across the country is the main reason U.S. carbon emissions from power generation are at 25-year lows.
The vast majority of Americans recognize the positive impacts of domestic natural gas production: job creation, economic growth, lower consumer costs and increased security. Nearly eight in 10 actual voters in November said they support the role natural gas is playing in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For Maryland, energy development in those western counties is opportunity. Union official David Stokes, in a recent guest column published in the Annapolis Capital Gazette:
Far Western Maryland, where our state's natural gas reserves are concentrated, is isolated from the booming metropolitan areas that characterize much of our state. Unemployment is higher, opportunities are fewer, and the decline of manufacturing and mining has left families struggling to make it on retail and service wages that are far below what they were once able to earn. Safely recovering the natural gas under their land is one of their best opportunities for a middle-class life. … Banning hydraulic fracturing in Maryland is bad economics and bad politics. It's the type of symbolic, feel-good gesture that might sound good in suburban Washington, D.C., or metropolitan Baltimore, but three hours away in Garrett County it's a much more serious issue for working men and women trying to put food on their tables.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.