The Dig

The Dig

Fracking and the Environment

In the protracted fight over fracking in Maryland, many interest groups have emerged. Environmentalists, like Emily Wurth, Organizing Co-Director at Food and Water Watch, have been rallying around concerns over air and water impacts. Industry advocates, like Drew Cobbs, Executive Director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, have been emphasizing jobs and economic activity. Maryland has taken what both refer to as a “cautious” approach to the issue.

The Dig: Fracking and the Environment

According to Dr. David Vanko, Dean of the Fischer College of Science and Mathematics at Towson University, both sides sometimes speak in hyperbole. Dr. Vanko chaired the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission, created by Governor O’Malley, which was tasked with investigating high volume hydraulic fracking between 2011 and 2014.

The regulations that were written after the commission’s recommendations were set to take effect in fall of 2017. However, citing fear about surface water and groundwater contamination, wastewater disposal, air quality, earthquakes, and public health, activists like Wurth were able to successfully push for a full ban on the practice. Cobbs, on the other hand, was hoping that Maryland would opt to compete with the other states who have chosen to participate in this market.

Dr. Vanko emphasizes that many states began fracking without developing “good” regulations and says that he hopes Maryland can continue to exercise caution. Emily Wurth is looking toward policy incentives for renewable energy. According to Cobbs, however, industry technology will continue to evolve, and even the burgeoning renewables field needs natural gas.

Footage courtesy of: Jon Bowermaster/Oceans 8 Films

Stills courtesy of: Thinkstock, The Wicklein Group

Fracking and the Environment

Natural gas development in Maryland has been a hotly-contested topic for several years. Environment, economics, and public health are often cited as major issues in the debates, even as the Maryland General Assembly passed a ban in March of 2017.

Maryland Public Television presents the details and personal stories behind the subject here, in an effort to clarify the arguments behind the policy.