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Marylanders speak out about environmental issues

Poll shows opposition to fracking, concern for Bay, crabs

Bryan P. Sears//Daily Record Business Writer//October 8, 2014

Marylanders speak out about environmental issues

Poll shows opposition to fracking, concern for Bay, crabs

By Bryan P. Sears

//Daily Record Business Writer

//October 8, 2014

A majority of Marylanders say natural gas hydraulic fracturing poses serious environmental concerns and would support banning its use in the state.

The results are part of a new statewide poll conducted by the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College that gauged concerns about environmental issues including the controversial process commonly called fracking as well as the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

“What this poll shows is that Marylanders have a pro-environmentalist lean,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the center. “A lot of environmental issues cross over and are business issues.”

One of those issues involves the possibility of opening up portions of Garrett and Allegany counties where there are deposits of Marcellus Shale for hydraulic fracturing and the related issue of a liquid natural gas export facility at Cove Point in Lusby, Maryland.

Of those surveyed, 59.6 percent said they agreed or strongly agreed that fracking posed an environmental threat in Maryland. Nearly 58 percent said they believed the state should discourage the use of the process in the state while more than 52 percent said the state should impose an outright ban.

The General Assembly has considered bills that would institute a temporary or permanent moratorium on the process. None have passed, and Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore City and chairwoman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, has said she would not consider a permanent ban while a task force works toward a final report and recommendations that could determine whether the process is allowed in Maryland. Task force members say they hope to develop some of the strictest guidelines in the country.

Kromer said the Goucher College poll suggests state residents would like to go further.

“It’s because of the potential environmental impacts,” Kromer said. “A ban on fracking would be very popular with the public.”

The Goucher poll of 708 residents across the state was not broken out by region, but Kromer said the biggest support for allowing fracking would come from the western Maryland counties most likely to see an both an economic benefit and environmental impact from natural gas drilling.

Kromer said that the predominant opinion on fracking in Maryland is more in line with residents of New York than it is in Pennsylvania where fracking has been allowed for some time.

While both major gubernatorial candidates agree that the Cove Point Liquid Natural gas plant should be converted to an export facility, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown has opposed fracking in western Maryland while Republican Larry Hogan has said he believes the process should be allowed if environmental concerns could be addressed.

“I don’t think a fracking ban is in his future,” Kromer said of Hogan.

Concern for the Chesapeake Bay, crabs

Respondents to the poll also expressed concern for the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

More than 62 percent said they rated the overall health of the bay as fair or poor. Nearly 85 percent said they were somewhat to very concerned about pollution of the nation’s largest estuary.

In a related question, nearly 53 percent of those polled said they would support a one-year ban on harvesting crabs in the bay to address concerns about declining populations.

“This is a question that I think shows how much (Maryland residents) love the bay and the environment,” Kromer said. “The fact that they’d be willing to go a year without their favorite local food if it would help the crab population really shows that.”

Earlier this year, the state Department of Natural Resources announced that the bay’s crab population of about 300 million was above pre-2008 levels but that the estimated 69 million spawning-age females were below the safe level of 70 million.

Officials said crab harvesting continues at safe levels since conservation measures were imposed six years ago and environmental factors, including colder than usual winters, coastal currents, natural predators and weather patterns could also be affecting the population.

The agency estimated that the colder than usual winter this year killed up to 28 percent of adult crabs and “one of the worst cold-kill events since the start of the survey in 1990.”

Kromer said environmental issues would likely affect the 2014 campaign for governor.

“You can’t get elected governor without being pro-bay,” she said.


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