2:20 p.m. EDT, October 7, 2014
The development of natural gas supplies located deep in the rocky landscape of Western Maryland carries significant environmental risks, but there are regulations the state can impose that would reduce those dangers. The latest study of this issue — a draft report released last Friday by Maryland’s Department of the Environment and Department of Natural Resources — takes a somewhat optimistic view of that circumstance, but isn’t exactly a game-changer.
The assessment looked at the various phases of the fracking process, from site preparation and drilling to production and finally, reclamation, and rated the potential risks involved from low to high. Most surprising was that the authors regarded the risk of water contamination as being “low” and at worst, “moderate.”
That would seem to contradict a University of Maryland study released just two months ago that concluded there was a “moderately high” likelihood of pollution from fracking, which involves the injection of pressurized water, sand and chemicals into wells to break up underground rock and release natural gas that is trapped within it. But that study, too, recommended ways the state could reduce that risk through regulations such as keeping fracking wells a healthy distance away from drinking water wells.