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Fracking in Maryland
Chesapeake PSR supports a ban on fracking in Maryland. Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is expanding rapidly across the United States, as the oil and gas industry seeks new sources of production. Without a sustained effort by residents to ban fracking in Maryland, this dangerous technology could come to the state as soon as late 2017.
Here's why: In 2015, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Environment – Hydraulic Fracturing – Regulations Act. This law requires the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to publish fracking regulations by October 2016, and it allows those regulations to take effect a year later. Unless the General Assembly intervenes, fracking will be permitted in Maryland after October 2017.
At risk is not only western Maryland, which sits atop the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, but almost every county in Maryland. Gas reserves are scattered throughout the state. The health and safety of residents of every county in Maryland will be at risk from expansions of fracking-related infrastructure such as compressor stations, processing facilities and pipelines.
Fracked gas production harms human health
What is fracking? This term has been used in a variety of ways in different contexts. In its narrowest and most technically accurate usage, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a well stimulation process in which mixtures of water, chemicals and sand are injected under high pressures to break apart the underlying rock formations and release the stored gas. The gas then flows up to the head of the well where it is captured and transported by pipeline to facilities where it is burned to create energy or is used for other petrochemical applications, such as the production of plastics or synthetic fertilizers.
Recent changes in the technology have allowed recovery of previously inaccessible stores of gas. However, those changes have also made fracking a riskier process. The use of much larger volumes of toxic fluids, longer horizontal wells extending for miles laterally deep below the surface, multiple wells in close proximity to each other, and the nature of the slickwater chemicals being used all combine to create significant risks to public health, safety, and the environment from fracking.
In the Marcellus Shale region of the United States, the released gas is predominantly methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful on a 20-year time scale than carbon dioxide.
Although current fracking techniques have become common only in the last 15 years, scientific literature now includes more than 900 peer-reviewed studies on the public health, climate, and environmental dimensions of this type of unconventional gas development. The vast majority of studies looking specifically at effects on water and air quality, or human health, suggest that unconventional gas development enabled by high-volume hydraulic fracturing poses serious threats to human health and safety, and those threats extend well beyond the drilling area. In fact, as we continue to learn more about this process, we are finding that there are threats from every step in the lifecycle of unconventional gas development and production.
Health impacts of fracking and fracking-related infrastructure include respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous system problems, adverse birth outcomes, blood disorders and potentially cancer. Recent studies, for example, show associations between increases in preterm births and low birth weights and maternal proximity to drilling and fracking operations during pregnancy. Those living near fracking areas frequently cite concerns about increased stress, air pollution, noise, vibrations and lights from round-the-clock drilling; dust, exhaust and dangers associated with constant truck traffic; strains on water resources; polluted drinking water; disposal issues associated with vast amounts of contaminated fracking waste water; and increases in seismic activity.
Although it may take decades to understand the full nature and extent of the risks of fracking-related activities to human health, the overwhelming body of scientific literature backs up public health concerns that fracking causes significant adverse health consequences that cannot be addressed adequately by laws and regulations.
Chesapeake PSR supports a shift to clean, renewable energy
What is the answer? Chesapeake PSR is working to end our dependence on dirty energy sources as quickly as possible, and to build a new energy system centered on the efficient use of clean, renewable energy.
Supporting a ban on fracking is a critical part of this effort. Our fracking work includes:
Supporting common sense legislation
Chesapeake PSR will support legislation during the Maryland General Assembly's 2017 session to prevent fracking in Maryland from beginning.
Amplifying the voices of science
We are working to amplify the voices of doctors, researchers, and other health professionals who are concerned about the potential health effects of fracking in Maryland. One way we do this is through our work as co-chairs of the Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland (CHPMD), a project joining Chesapeake PSR, Maryland Environmental Health Network (MDEHN) and Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). CHPMD tracks the latest scientific findings on fracking and reports those to the public and elected leaders in Maryland. Read CHPMD's December 2016 press release on the letter signed by more than 150 health professionals and presented to the Maryland General Assembly calling for a ban on fracking in Maryland.
Pushing for greater transparency in the industry
In May 2016, Chesapeake PSR delivered a petition to the American Petroleum Institute and America's Natural Gas Alliance asking them to ask their members to disclose publicly the number of nondisclosure agreements they have signed with individuals who claim unconventional gas development or fracking has harmed their health, contaminated their drinking water, or otherwise damaged their property. We are also asking for the location and the specific reasons for each fracking non-disclosure agreement. We can't let the industry claim fracking is safe and then let the industry hide important information from the public on how fracking has harmed people. Read our press release on the petition.
How you can help:
SIGN our health professional letter supporting a ban on fracking in Maryland
Read more about Chesapeake PSR's position on fracking.
Volunteer with Chesapeake PSR.