Hearing Draws Fracking Opponents in Maryland

Mar 4, 2015

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Fracking opponents came out in force Tuesday to speak their minds at a Senate hearing on legislation that would limit natural gas drilling in Maryland.

After more than five hours of testimony on unrelated legislation, by 6:30 p.m. the Senate committee had only just begun hearing testimony on the two drilling bills one that would place an eight-year moratorium on fracking and another to prohibit the practice.

The worries range from public health risks to threats to the quiet, rural environment. Others fear excessive truck traffic will destroy the area's roads.

Elliott Perfetti, operations manager of Blue Moon Rising, an "eco-friendly vacation village" in Garrett County, said his concern with fracking is that it "threatens the foundations that our economy and our community are built on."

"It is not compatible with what our unique socio-economic landscape is," said the 30-year-old, who was born and raised in Garrett County. "We're not Pennsylvania, we're not West Virginia. We are different than those places. Tourism is our business, it is the brand of Garrett County whether people want it to be that or not."

Fracking is a drilling method by which highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground, shaking loose rocks and releasing gas. In 2011, former Gov. Martin O'Malley charged an advisory commission with studying the potential for fracking in Maryland's western Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties.

Currently Maryland does not have any fracking, but a portion of the western side of the state sits atop the Marcellus Shale deposit, which runs underground from New York to Tennessee. West Virginia and Pennsylvania allow fracking, while New York recently banned the practice due to health concerns.

At least two members have spoken out against the commission's nearly four years of work, criticizing the lack of attention to potential risks to public health.