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Opponents Of Fracking In Md. Say Process Causes Health, Environmental Problems

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Tapping into natural gas supplies by fracking has brought promise to energy independence, and some say, real problems for those who live next door to the process.

Alex DeMetrick reports it’s also fueling a push to keep fracking out of Maryland.

From New York south, there is a vast deposit of Marcellus Shale. In Pennsylvania and West Virginia, it is being tapped for natural gas by fracking.

Forcing water and chemicals under high pressure into the shale, it shatters rock, releasing trapped gas.

Four years ago, Craig Stevens says it also turned some well water a cloudy brown in his Pennsylvania county.

“The water discolor is not the problem. It’s what’s in it,” Stevens said. “According to a Duke University study, it’s showing thoranium, three types of uranium.”

Veronica Coptis says neighbors in West Virginia are getting sick.

“From respiratory illness, stomach problems, neurological disorders that are released from nearby fracking,” she said.

Claims independent studies have not always verified in states where fracking is allowed.

In Maryland, there is now a push to put a law on the books requiring studies, before any drilling can be done.

“There will be no fracking in the state of Maryland until or unless we have robust scientific studies that show the environmental and public health impacts of this kind of activity,” Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery County, said.

Drew Cobs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, says the group opposes the plan.

Meanwhile, Tom Amontree, Executive Vice President Of America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), responded to Mizeur’s call for a legislative ban on hydraulic fracturing in Maryland.

“Numerous scientific studies and the day-to-day commitment of industry under appropriate state-led oversight demonstrate that natural gas can be and is safely and responsibly produced in communities across the country. Natural gas advances cleaner air. In fact, a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration concluded that increased use of natural gas is largely responsible for U.S. power sector carbon emissions declining to levels not seen since 1992. And, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has testified that she is unaware of any instances where hydraulic fracturing has harmed ground water supplies. With natural gas, we do not have to choose between advancing a cleaner energy economy and protecting our environment. With safe and responsible development, and effective state-based oversight, we can enjoy both benefits.”

Fracking has been a financial boon for some. A “60 Minutes” report highlighted landowners who have benefited.

Landowner C.B. Leatherwood: “I never dreamed of money like this.”
“60 Minutes’” Leslie Stahl: “$434,000, just like that.”
Leatherwood: “It fell from the sky.”

That kind of money could bring fracking to Western Maryland.

Opponents say industry lobbying killed a similar study-before-drilling bill this year.

“This isn’t about American energy independence. It’s about the largest, richest corporations in the world trying to make more money,” Paul Roberts, owner of Deep Creek Cellars, said.

Gov. Martin O’Malley has issued an executive order placing a moratorium on fracking until studies prove it safe. But that order expires with the end of his term in 2014.

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