ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Natural gas drilling in western Maryland would be restricted until the state finishes a two-year study under a bill passed by House lawmakers on Wednesday.

The House of Delegates voted 98-40 to approve the measure on drilling in the Marcellus Shale region in far western Maryland.

A permit for drilling could be granted by the state before the study is completed in 2013, if it is shown that drilling could be done without harming health or the environment. But opponents of the bill say it essentially amounts to a two-year moratorium on drilling that could bring needed revenue to western Maryland and the state.

Supporters, however, said further study is needed to make sure the hydraulic fracturing method used to recover the natural gas doesn’t pose health or environmental risks.

The process involves blasting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water thousands of feet underground to crack shale and release natural gas trapped inside. The Environmental Protection Agency is examining the process to see if it may contaminate drinking water supplies.

Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill, said she has received 400 emails from Garrett County residents who support the bill, because they have concerns about the drilling.

“We need just a time out,” Mizeur said during a floor debate. “We need to get it right. There are many other states that drilled first and asked questions later. Second chances are expensive. We need to get it right the first time.”

Delegate Wendell Beitzel, R-Garrett, said that while there are opponents to drilling in the county, most residents support moving forward to tap into the economic benefits natural gas drilling would bring to the area.

“It’s a question of property rights and what they have and their right to do that,” Beitzel said.

Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, said it was wrong for the state to not let people in western Maryland decide what’s best for them.

“There’s a war on rural Maryland and that war is taking place right here in this legislature,” Smigiel said. “The urban areas think that the rural areas are there for them to dictate to, how they live and what they do with their personal property and how they should live their lives.”

But Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, said the study was a prudent approach to protecting the environment and health concerns, not a rural vs. urban battle.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Environmentalists have been raising concerns that the natural gas drilling rush in Pennsylvania is contaminating rivers and aquifers that supply drinking water. The water that comes up from natural gas wells is intensely salty and tainted with barium, strontium, radium and toxic chemicals.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (4)
  1. sheriff willie says:

    I’d like to drill some politicians in the ass in Anapolis, get a ten yr supply of gas.

  2. Tom Huber says:

    I think this measure is ridiculous. Marcellus drilling has one major impact which is water pollution. There is an easy fix for this, require drillers to use closed system fracking and then clean the waste water and recycle it. Some companies already practice this process so it is completely feasible. This article is disingenuos in its picture. They show an offshore oil rig which looks and functions completely different than an onshore marcellus rig.

  3. Patrick W. Riley says:

    I write to express my strongest support for HB 852 The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Act of 2011. Thank you for your well reasoned concerns regarding the dangers of developing the Marcellus Shale in Garrett County.

    I am a local Garrett County resident and have lived here for over 46 years. My wife Bambi and my four children share my views on this issue. The gas companies will admit that Marcellus Development is a very intensive heavy industrial activity. We do not choose to live in a heavy industrial zone. Clean water, air, safe roads and the peaceful enjoyment of my property are fundamental rights that the State has a duty to protect.

    The citizens of Garrett County are largely a conservative bunch. We do not want the government telling us what we can do with our private property. I have often spoken against regulations promoted by our local Planning Commission. I was elected to our School Board several years ago on a traditional family values platform. That being said, government does have a legitimate role in our lives. The role of the State in protecting my property from theft and destruction is well established. When my neighbors use of his property destroys mine. It is the duty of the State to intervene.

    The known impacts of Shale Gas development are great enough to prohibit its wide spread development. When the unknown but, likely damage to our environment is considered. It is my strong opinion that the State must intervene.

    The Maryland House reflected the will of the people today!

    Most Sincerely,
    Patrick W. Riley

  4. Drilling companies in colorado says:

    He great stuff. Keep it going. Looking forward to the next.

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