The Future of Gas Drilling in Maryland? What Future?

no futureWill Maryland ever allow shale gas drilling in the Marcellus-rich western part of the state? The honest answer—at this point in time—is that it’s very doubtful. In June, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed an executive order requiring the state to study the issue until 2014, which means drilling in Garrett and Allegany counties would likely not begin before that time (see this MDN story).

Gov. O’Malley also created a 14-member advisory commission to develop recommendations. Here’s the prejudicial views of one of the committee members, a member of Maryland’s House of Delegates:

…whether Maryland will allow drilling is a “very open question,” said Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, who is on the governor’s commission.

“Personally, I come at it probably leaning more towards the side of I would rather there not be any drilling,” she said.

Mizeur was the lead sponsor of a bill in the last legislative session that would have imposed a moratorium on fracking until the completion of a two-year study. The bill stalled in the Senate after passing the House of Delegates.(1)

Another member of the commission is Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine. Mr. Valentine would like to see drilling move forward, but he’s outnumbered by anti-drillers on the commission. Commenting on a draft study being prepared by the commission, he said:

“From what I see, the state wants to make (drilling) so restrictive that they’ll never come in,” Valentine said.

The draft report includes a proposal shifting the burden of proof for civil liability in accidents and damages that could be related to Marcellus shale drilling.

While the draft report is labeled “for discussion purposes only,” Valentine said in his mind it’s where the majority of the commission seems to be headed.

“If there are any problems, the presumption is the driller is guilty,” said Valentine. “I would think there would be constitutional issues,” with that approach, he said.(2)

Even though Mizeur’s bill instituting an official moratorium hasn’t passed the Maryland Senate yet, you can be sure there’s no drilling for the foreseeable future in Maryland—if ever.

(1) Maryland Daily Record (Nov 22, 2011) – Western Maryland faces ‘fracking’ fight

(2) Cumberland Times-News (Nov 22, 2011) – Draft Marcellus study raises concerns for county commissioners