Despite the claims in the All Opinions Are Local blog post “Opposition to fracking in Maryland is anti-science” by Thomas Wheatley, most of the more than 900 peer-reviewed studies on hyrdaulic fracturing, known as fracking, confirm increased risks to our health and the environment from fracking. A University of Maryland study in 2014 emphasizes increased health risks, especially to vulnerable children and elderly or others with weakened immune systems.
Specifically, there is a growing body of evidence of harm Wheatley chose to ignore in claiming that fracking is perfectly safe. These include respiratory distress from the toxic fumes and particulates released during fracking. Some of these compounds released are known to cause cancer (but studies are too short to demonstrate this yet, as cancers usually take years to develop). These compounds also cause a 40 percent increased risk of premature birth, which causes 35 percent of infant deaths as well as long-term disabilities.
Fracking-related noise pollution has been linked to sleep deprivation and a variety of chronic medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease and learning difficulties.
Western Maryland delegates are telling us to trust regulatory oversight, but even good regulations are useless in the face of an unwillingness to enforce them. For example, a recent study from Public Herald shows how the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection failed to do proper testing on water samples some concerned residents submitted and then did not report on almost 9,000 complaints.
The Environmental Protection Agency is threatened with being dismantled. President Trump’s proposals show an intent to shrink EPA’s budget by 25 percent and cut its workforce by 20 percent. EPA chief Scott Pruitt worked hand in glove with oil and gas companies to push fracking in his home state of Oklahoma, despite causing hundreds of formerly rare (mostly small) earthquakes there. He is an avowed opponent of regulation.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said in his inaugural statement, “We must get the state government off our backs, and out of our pockets, so that we can grow the private sector.” Does this sound like someone who will actively uphold safety regulations?
And a recent Post article did not adequately cover the appearance of conflicts of interest of Del. Wendell R. Beitzel (R-Garrett). He personally profitted from a $450,000 state-paid conservation easement on his land, which he then tried to change to allow drilling on the conserved land. Now he has proposed a restitution bill. Should the fracking ban pass in Maryland, it would impose a 25 percent tax on renewable energy production credits to fund payment to mineral rights owners.
The touted increase in jobs will largely go to skilled out-of-state drillers, not locals, and will be transient, as it was in Pennsylvania and North Dakota. Affected communities had an increase in violence, substance abuse and accidents, resulting in strains on local police, emergency response teams and hospitals. Our mountain roads are windy, foggy and treacherous in the winter.
This is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, the state would do better to focus on sustainable jobs in tourism, which is already growing in Western Maryland. Recreation has a far better growth outlook than does drilling. Other states are recognizing the risks. New York, Vermont and Massachusetts now have statewide bans or moratoria. Similarly, Florida is considering a ban to protect its tourism and water with a bill with bipartisan support.
Perhaps Wheatley and the Western Maryland legislators should consider that the Maryland Public Health Association, the Maryland Nurses Association, the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Maryland State Medical Society back a ban, as do many health professionals.
Most of Maryland’s residents live in places where anti-fracking resolutions are already in place. Any water contamination in the western counties will likely hurt their drinking water as well, as the Potomac River is the source of water for the D.C. area, including Maryland and Virginia.
We can’t afford the risks of fracking to our health, our water or the environment. It is unnecessary and unwise. We must pass the fracking ban in Maryland for our sake and for the future of our children.