Maryland Gov. O’Malley Issues Order to Study Marcellus Shale Drilling – State Will Not See Drilling Until 2014 Earliest

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley yesterday signed an executive order requiring two Maryland agencies—the Department of of the Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to conduct a study on the impacts of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Gov. O’Malley’s order is called the “Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative” and it sets up a board to work with both the MDE and DRN during the process. The board will be composed of representatives from both the environmental community and the drilling industry, as well as a private citizen from Western Maryland. The Marcellus Shale region only touches a small portion of Maryland, running through the “panhandle” counties of the state—underneath all of Garrett County and much of Allegany County.

The panel will “pull together all of the information that we need in order to insure that Marcellus Shale gas drilling, if it’s done in Maryland, can be done to protect public health and the environment,” says MDE Secretary Robert Summers.

Opponents are worried that the chemicals used in this process will contaminate groundwater. “You have to make sure you have all the best practices in place to insure that there isn’t any  spillage, or leakage or any explosion that might cause the chemicals to be introduced either into nearby streams or other surface water or even ground water in the vicinity of the well,” says Secretary Summers.*

The executive order calls for the study to be issued in three parts:

One is the findings and related recommendations regarding whether legislation should be introduced to establish a revenues source, such as a State-severance tax, and the need for a bill to cover liability for damages caused by gas exploration and production. The deadline for that is December 31st, 2011.

Another goal is to have recommendations on all aspects of natural gas exploration and production in the Marcellus Shale by August 1, 2012.

A third goal is to have a final report on the findings and recommendations on the impacts natural gas exploration and production by August 1st, 2014. They will include potential contamination of groundwater, handling and disposal of waste water, environmental impacts, the affects on local forests, greenhouse gases and the impact on the economy.*

Although the second goal of the initiative is to “have recommendations on all aspects of natural gas exploration and production” by August of next year, the “final report” is not due until August 2014, leading MDN to conclude Maryland will not not allow drilling until that later date—at the earliest. An unfortunate circumstance for landowners interested in leasing their land for drilling from Garrett and Allegany Counties in the People’s Republic of Maryland.

*930 WFMD News Radio (Jun 6, 2011) – Governor Signs Executive Order To Study Marcellus Shale Drilling