MD Gov. to Introduce Fracking Regulations

Outgoing Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley announced that natural gas fracking will move forward in Maryland, but only under a set of strict regulations that he is set to propose next month. From The Washington Post:

“[The regulations] draw upon the ‘best practices’ of other states and nations where hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” takes place, administration officials said. In some cases, the regulations will go further than other jurisdictions in restricting drilling locations and seeking to limit the risks of drinking-water contamination and air pollution.

The rules would not take effect until after O’Malley is succeeded by Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R), who has called drilling opportunities in Western Maryland ‘an economic gold mine’ and criticized the state for taking too long to decide whether to authorize it.

Hogan, who takes office Jan. 21, could make major changes to the regulations O’Malley is proposing, or scrap them altogether.”

Environmentalists are celebrating the new rules, which are based on the results of an exhaustive report that was released in late November by the Maryland Department of Environment.

However, a piece released by The Washington Post editorial board warns that although many of the new regulations will be effective, some of them may be too strict for the state to see any economic benefits:

“The governor, for example, would establish a de facto moratorium on any drilling for at least another two years because the rules would require drillers to conduct “background monitoring” of environmental conditions for at least that length of time before beginning operations — above and beyond even the expanded background monitoring that the state has already been doing. Of course this sort of information would be interesting and, potentially, useful. But it’s not necessary to run a reasonably safe operation. Air pollution reduction equipment, monitoring technologies and careful handling of waste are.

It’s past time that Maryland began allowing energy companies to proceed with fracking, with a sensible eye toward safety.”