Public wants fracking studies, but who should make final decision?

A natural gas well site in Burlington, Pa. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)

Updated: Feb. 25, 2013 at 4:47 p.m.

A new poll suggests more than three-quarters of Maryland residents want the General Assembly to ensure studies are completed before hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is allowed in the state.

But those asked did not agree on who they would trust to make the final decision on whether to allow fracking, according to the poll commissioned by environmental advocacy group Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

While 78 percent of the 800 randomly-selected registered voters polled by Annapolis-based OpinionWorks said the legislature should require environmental and safety studies before fracking is allowed, only 48 percent said the government should make the final decision, followed by environmental groups (31 percent) and oil and gas companies (9 percent).

A task force convened by Gov. Martin O’Malley is already studying fracking and there is a de-facto moratorium on issuing drilling permits to energy companies. But some state lawmakers — led by Del. Heather R. Mizeur, D-Montgomery, and Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County — want to give the moratorium force of law.

“Marylanders expect us to be pragmatic in our approach,” Mizeur said.

A bill that would do that, S.B. 601, is slated for a hearing in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

The poll, conducted via telephone between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2, has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percent. Proponents of fracking, a controversial drilling technique through which a water and chemical mixture is blasted a mile deep to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale rock formation, say it represents a potential economic windfall for areas in Western Maryland. Critics worry about the environmental risks inherent in natural gas drilling.

“There is a lot of smoke,” Zirkin said. “And some of us believe, fire.”

O’Malley included $1.5 million in his budget proposal this year that would pay for the continued study of fracking. But Mizeur reiterated Monday that studies could raise more questions than they answer, forcing further study.

“It’s not going to be the full amount of money needed,” she said.

One thought on “Public wants fracking studies, but who should make final decision?

  1. It is ridiculous that this is an ongoing debate. As Maryland Third Way corporate pols know the Marcellus Aquifer is already at threat of contamination from all the fracking around us and these delaying tactics are only meant to protect the fracking industry against public lawsuits surrounding contamination. It does not matter if Maryland fracks……these baseline studies and data are meant to protect against what we all know is coming from fracking in WVA, PA, and OH….there will be seeping from these states.

    What all of Maryland citizens want….and they all would if a media outlet in Maryland would explain the real issues…is the baseline data that will prove none of the chemicals used in fracking were in the aquifer before contamination. As we have seen over and again across the country corporate pols do not get this baseline and then when the public sues for contamination the courts side against them because they have no baseline data showing these chemicals were not there originally.

    PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW ALL OF MARYLAND’S DEMOCRATS ARE CORPORATE AND THEY WORK FOR CORPORATE INTEREST…THEY WILL LET THIS SLIDE IF YOU DO NOT SHOUT!!

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