Citing concerns that Maryland’s ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas might be lifted in 2017, the town council of Friendsville, MD, voted 5-1 Tuesday to prohibit fracking within its borders.
The town is the fourth locality in the state to ban fracking and the second to do so in sparsely populated Garrett County, Maryland’s most western. Mountain Lake Park, Garrett’s most populous locality, banned fracking in 2011.
Fracking has yet to occur in Maryland but is widely used in parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, including some areas near Garrett County.
Fracking is the general term for drilling horizontally deep underground, then injecting liquid at high pressure into rocks to force fissures and extract oil or gas. Critics say the technique can pollute the air and water and hurt the region’s tourism and outdoor recreation industries. New York state has banned the practice.
To the dismay of environmental activists, the Maryland Department of the Environment recently announced that it is drafting regulations that would allow fracking when a moratorium imposed by the General Assembly expires in October 2017.
Although MDE officials have said their regulations would set the “gold standard” for the nation and show the practice can be done safely, some lawmakers have expressed skepticism.
“We are doing all we can to protect our citizens and our resources,” said Friendsville Town Council member James Whittemore. “But the only way to fully protect Friendsville and the rest of Maryland is to ban fracking statewide.”
The county councils of the more populous Montgomery and Prince Georges counties, outside Washington, DC, have also banned fracking.
Paul Roberts, president of the Garrett County-based group Citizen Shale, said that “fully one-third of the state’s population now lives in localities that have banned fracking.”