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Garrett County wants more study on impact of fracking

OAKLAND — A western Maryland county is seeking more information on the local impact of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

The Times-News of Cumberland reports that the Garrett County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to endorse the findings of a local advisory commission that has been studying the issue. Garrett County holds most of the Marcellus shale gas reserves that could be tapped under regulations recommended by a state panel.

The local panel recommended further exploration of the fiscal impact of gas drilling and its potential effects on public safety, public health and the county’s tourism industry.

Chairman John Quilty says gas recovery holds potential for both new tax revenue and decreased property values.

The three county commissioners also voted to forward the report to their successors, who take office next Tuesday.

One comment

  1. Part of the report the commissioners approved is an analysis by a county economist of projected severance tax revenue against projected devaluation of property. The economist estimated tax revenues using the State’s 2 development scenarios and lined these figures up with data from a Colorado county that experienced a 7% county-wide loss in property values and a 25% loss for properties within 1km of fracking sites.

    In all but one of the scenarios, Garrett County (which relies on property tax revenue from second homes funding about 60% of its budget) would see property tax deficits greater than the revenues it would derive from shale gas development.

    It is critical that Governor-elect Hogan, and the General Assembly understand these ominous projections when the gas industry and its lobbyists hype the “benefits” of fracking. Garrett County’s economy (Maryland’s second largest tourism destination) depends on its unspoiled natural resources and on people making short- and long-term investments in enjoying them. The State’s own economic study only skirted this reality, and Governor OMalley, given his recent decisions on this front, thinks subjecting Garrett County to these risks is acceptable.

    Many whose lives are invested in this county find this reality an unacceptable economic risk.