State Shale Commision Returning to Next Meeting>Regarding Marcellus Shale
10th May 2012
The next meeting of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission is returning to Garrett County after a hiatus when several meetings occurred in Annapolis and Hagerstown.
Allegany and Garrett counties are the only areas in the state with natural gas reserves in Marcellus Shale.
The meeting is planned for May 18 at the Eastern Garrett Volunteer Fire Department hall at 401 Finzel Road. The meeting will start at 10 a.m. and conclude around 1 p.m., said Brigid Kenney, a senior policy adviser at the Maryland Department of the Environment. An agenda is not yet available for the meeting.
Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine has repeatedly pointed out that “promises” were made early on to keep the meetings in Allegany and Garrett counties. Last week, Valentine said he and other Western Maryland members of the commission had expressed their concerns about several recent meetings outside the area, which made it difficult for local citizens to attend.
Valentine is generally favorable to the idea of drilling for natural gas in Marcellus Shale. His concerns were joined though, by those who are more cautious, including James R. “Smokey” Stanton of Oakland, who expressed his concerns in an April 17.
“I write to you today to protest and challenge your decision to hold meetings of the Maryland Marcellus Advisory Commission in locations far from Garrett County, and specifically the meeting scheduled for this Friday, April 20 in Hagerstown. I note the last meeting held in February was also at Hagerstown, and there was no meeting in March,” Stanton wrote.
“Scheduling meetings so far away from those of us who are most affected is a disservice to residents of Garrett and Allegany counties. Whether we local people are pro-drilling, opposed to drilling, or simply want drilling to be done safely, we have the right to have commission meetings held in our community to observe and participate in the commission’s deliberations... .”
Two different polls have resulted in conflicting results on public opinion on natural gas drilling in Maryland.
One recent poll shows a strong majority of Marylanders favor a cautious approach on the use of fracking to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus shale in the western portion of the state. That poll contrasts with previous industry-funded polls on natural gas drilling, and there’s a reason for that, said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
“The message Maryland voters are sending is that second chances are rare and expensive,” Tidwell said. Pennsylvania is now trying to do studies after permitting drilling.
One of the reasons his organization commissioned the poll by OpinionWorks was to combat the impression given by the industry polls. “We felt there was a gap,” he said.
The industry polls avoided questions about fracking or the chemicals used in fracking, he said. They showed a more favorable view of natural gas drilling. The Maryland Petroleum Council has paid for two polls in six months and funded a just-released study that proclaims the economic benefits of gas drilling.
“The utilization of Marcellus shale formation in Western Maryland in order to produce natural gas would have transformative economic and fiscal impacts,” the study by Sage Policy Group said.
Among those impacts would be jobs created by each well.
“Applied to the estimated amount of total extractible natural gas available within the play, the study team projects ... approximately 365 wells would be operating over the period 2016-2045,” according to the study.
The January poll asked questions including language such as, “Should we wait for at least three years or begin safe development sooner?” The January poll found strong support for drilling now rather than in three years when the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Committee issues a final report including environmental impacts of drilling.
The poll found 69 percent of the more than 800 respondents wanted to drill sooner, while 28 percent said to wait.
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