Criteria for new energy sources
Water in western Maryland already tastes funny
To begin the search and development of new energy sources, let’s define some requirements:
1) New energy will not damage the environment and the people
2) New energy will power peoples’ needs such that it is renewable
3) New energy will be clean and not pollute the air or water
Now, does natural gas from fracking meet these criteria? Answer is no. Therefore no.
“Sitting atop huge gas reserve, Maryland debates drilling practice known as fracking
By Darryl Fears, Sunday, March 27, 6:21 PM
Natural gas is often hailed as the most promising energy source to feed America’s power-hungry future: cleaner than coal and oil, and free of the fears surrounding nuclear power. And sitting atop one of the largest gas reserves in the world, Maryland is one of several Chesapeake Bay region states that stand to profit handsomely.
But the process of drilling for the “clean fuel” is now embattled, as the Maryland General Assembly recently sought to do what no other state in the region has done. Before a single well has been drilled, it moved to ban the practice, boldly stepping into the center of a heated conflict.
In a vote that reflects growing national concern over the practice known as hydraulic fracturing, state lawmakers in the House on Wednesday passed a bill that would essentially place a moratorium on drillinguntil the Maryland Department of the Environment completes a two-year study to determine whether it endangers drinking water and public health, as some environmentalists in nearby states that allow drilling charge.
“We’re not going to be like other states that drilled first and asked questions later,” said Maryland Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), who drafted and sponsored the legislation. “We understand that second chances are expensive, so we should slow down and take the time to do this right the first time.”
The gas has been entombed for about 380 million years in a thick layer of rock called the Marcellus Shale, which covers 95,000 square miles from Ohio to Virginia. But the industry just recently discovered an economical way to get at it: a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, using blasts of water mixed with chemicals to fracture the shale and release the gas.
It’s a difficult and expensive way to get at the hydrocarbons, but the Marcellus Shale formation is now thought to hold as much as 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — with about 50 trillion cubic feet already recoverable using current technologies. Drilling could potentially bring in billions of dollars in tax revenue and jobs, along with lease payments and gas royalties from companies to property owners.
But environmentalists say fracking is a dirty business, and some government officials have listened.
The state of New York imposed a moratorium on new drilling permits in December after environmentalists raised concerns about the threat to drinking water. Drilling has launched an economic boom in Pennsylvania, but energy companies there have been hit with numerous citations for environmental violations and lawsuits from residents claiming that drilling fouled their water.
And U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said this month that he is considering federal regulations to ensure that the drilling does not damage waterways. Speaking earlier this month to the House Natural Resources Committee, Salazar said: “We are going to have a huge backlash . . . from the American public if we continue to inject chemicals and fluids into the ground without people knowing what it is that’s being injected.”
A hydraulic fracturing well is drilled vertically for up to 5,000 feet, then horizontally for about a mile, according to experts. Up to 5 million gallons of water mixed with undisclosed amounts of chemicals, including benzene, a carcinogen, and radium, a radioactive element, is fired down the well.
The hole is surrounded by concrete to keep chemicals from seeping into groundwater, and industry leaders insist there is no proof that it has. But a portion of the chemicals come back to the surface in wastewater.
The proposal passed in Maryland last week would delay the plans of two companies, Chief Oil and Gas andSamson Resources, which obtained leases worth millions of dollars from property owners to drill in Garrett County, in the state’s far west.
Under the proposed law, Maryland would levy a tax on the companies of $10 per leased acre to pay for its study, estimated to cost $1 million by its completion in August 2013. The money would help the state Department of the Environment, which lost staff to budget cuts, hire workers to conduct the study.
A companion bill in the state Senate is expected to face a tougher road to passage as gas industry lobbyists work against it. Senators are scheduled to take up the issue before the legislature adjourns April 11.
Robert M. Summers, acting state environment secretary, testified in committee on behalf of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration, supporting the House bill with the condition that it include a study, paid for by the industry, and allow his department to grant a permit if a company can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that its operation would not adversely impact public health and the environment.
“Natural gas . . . is a better source of energy than coal or oil, and it is right here,” Summers said in an interview. “We have throughout the history of the country taken advantage of our resources,” but without “sometimes preventing the environmental damage that could be caused.”
Virginia officials are not as reluctant. The state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy gave a favorable review to the permit of Carrizo Oil and Gas, allowing the company to seek a special-use permit for an exploratory well in Rockingham County. But county supervisors tabled the request indefinitely over concerns about its environmental impact.
Natural gas has potential benefits beyond being a cleaner burning fuel. A Pennsylvania State University studysaid gas exploration created 29,000 jobs and added $240 million to state and local tax coffers in 2008.”