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Delegate wants to ban fracking in Md. now

For some, a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Western Maryland is not enough. A Montgomery County delegate says Maryland has all the information it needs to ban fracking right now.

Del. A. Shane Robinson, a Democrat, said Thursday that he will sponsor legislation in the 2013 General Assembly that would ban the controversial drilling technique from being used in the Marcellus Shale.

Another Montgomery County Democrat, Del. Heather R. Mizeur, said this month that she would introduce legislation that would enact a moratorium on drilling until scientific safety studies are completed. But Robinson, speaking as advocacy group Environment Maryland released a report on the economic and environmental costs of fracking, said enough information already exists to ban drilling in the state.

“I don’t want our land to be a testing ground to a flawed process,” Robinson said.

Drilling could not happen in Maryland at least until August 2014, when Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 2011 executive order imposing a moratorium on fracking expires. An O’Malley-appointed commission has been studying best practices since 2011, but has not found the money necessary to complete costly scientific safety studies.

Miranda Carter, Maryland organizer for Food and Water Watch, says such studies are not necessary. She said other countries — including France and Bulgaria — have already stopped fracking, and the state of Vermont has banned the practice.

“If France doesn’t think it’s safe … and we know things have gone dangerously wrong, then why would we take the risk?” Carter said.

Fracking has been linked to minor earthquakes by a U.S. Geological Survey report, and drilling mistakes may have caused natural gas leaks in Colorado and water contamination in Dimock Township, Pa.

Carter pointed to a U.S. Geological Survey report that shows there is an untapped and unknown amount of natural gas below much of Southern Maryland, including the Chesapeake Bay, implying that any decision made on drilling in Western Maryland may ultimately have repercussions for other parts of the state.

Tommy Landers, director of Environment Maryland, said pollution could be found years down the line, too, leading to costly cleanup.

“The environmental damage from fracking is bad enough, but it turns out that this dirty and dangerous form of drilling imposes a heavy dollar and cents cost as well,” Landers said.

The industry says that, if conducted properly, hydraulic fracturing is safe and could create hundreds of jobs per gas well.

Western Maryland’s Garrett and Allegany counties contain about 1 percent of the Marcellus Shale, a mile-deep, rock-encased deposit of natural gas. Drilling is already underway in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which have much larger shares of the Marcellus Shale formation.