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Fracking Would Open Pandora’s Box in Maryland; Ban Needed Now
New Maryland-specific Report on Fracking Says No More Study Is Needed, Makes Case for a Ban Ahead of Key House Committee Hearing This Week
WASHINGTON - March 4 - Today national consumer organization Food & Water Watch released a report that says the harms associated with hydraulic fracturing justify a statewide ban. The report comes several days before the Maryland House of Delegates will consider House Bill 337, which would ban fracking in the state. The report includes a map to illustrate that allowing fracking in Maryland would negatively impact the entire state.
“Reducing the fracking conversation in Maryland to talk of drilling in Western Maryland is short sighted and dangerous,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “We know the oil and gas industry says they only want to frack in Alleghany and Garret Counties but their ultimate dream is to dot the entire state with fracking rigs. Inaction now may mean thousands of new wells could also be drilled in places like the Delmarva, Prince George’s County, and even Annapolis. Why would Maryland open Pandora’s box? It only takes one accident to poison an aquifer for generations.”
The Energy Information Administration estimates industry can extract about 646 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the portion of the Marcellus Shale that lies beneath Maryland. Roughly half of the Taylorsville basin lies beneath Maryland, and the U.S. Geological Survey estimates this portion contains another 500 billion cubic feet of extractable gas. The Culpeper, Gettysburg and Delmarva basins have not yet been assessed.
Among the many impacts of fracking, the report highlights the multiple ways that water resources, including waterways that provide drinking water for millions of Marylanders, may be put at risk by the threat of new fracking gas wells across the state.
The aquifers of the Eastern Shore, a source of drinking water for residents and businesses, are already declining at an alarming rate. The oil and gas industry’s extraordinary water needs, estimated to be 5 million gallons per well, would exacerbate the area’s water issues, and the inevitable accidents, leaks and spills of toxic wastes will be require significant cleanup costs.
In central and western Maryland, rivers like the Patuxtent and the Potomac would also be in danger of contamination because fracking chemicals from thousands of wells could come in contact with groundwater and its interconnected streams. As these wells age and degrade, they would create new pathways for hydrocarbon gases, undisclosed industrial chemicals and other contaminants to seep into the fractured-rock aquifers.
Far from being a so-called “bridge fuel,” artificially low prices of natural gas are undercutting renewables. According to a U.S. Department of Energy report the low price of natural gas is a threat to the development of wind energy. Wind power comprised approximately 42 percent of the added electricity capacity in the United States in 2008 and 2009, declining to 25 percent in 2010 and 32 percent in 2011. According to Bloomberg, in the third quarter of 2012, global investment in clean energy was 56.6 billion, a 5 percent decline from the second quarter and a 20 percent decline from the third quarter of 2011.
“We have a chance to stop fracking in Maryland before it begins,” says Hauter. “We shouldn’t be spending taxpayer resources on developing regulations to make fracking ‘safer.’ The only way to ensure that resources go to where they need to be—towards the development of renewables—is to ban fracking now before it’s too late.”