Fracking in Frederick County?

There has been a fierce debate in Maryland over hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, for more than six years. The controversial drilling method had started an oil and natural gas boom in places like North Dakota, Texas, and nearby Pennsylvania. In Maryland the debate has mostly focused in Garrett and Allegheny Counties, where fracking companies are hoping to tap into the lucrative Marcellus Shale, which also runs under West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York.

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But let’s back up. What is fracking? Hydraulic fracturing is a relatively new method for extracting oil and gas from rock formations deep underground. The process involved drilling a well, first vertically then horizontally, to access narrow formations of shale, which contains oil and gas. After the initial well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped in at high pressure to break apart the shale and release the gas, which travels back up the well to the surface. The process requires thousands of tanker trucks massive drilling rigs, and extensive networks of industrial infrastructure, not to mention millions of gallons of fresh water and toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.

Unsurprisingly, all of this activity has been a disaster for communities where fracking takes place. Contaminated drinking water, noxious fumes and noise and light pollution lead to serious health problems for residents and workers, and the traffic and infrastructure required fully industrializes areas that had previously been peaceful and rural.

Fracking hasn’t started in Maryland, thanks to a concerted effort by citizens, public health, and environmental advocates to prevent the gas industry from coming into the state. A two-year moratorium, passed in the spring of 2015, is currently in effect while the state Department of the Environment writes regulations to allow for fracking to being in October of 2017. But a grassroots coalition is once again mobilization to ensure fracking doesn’t come to Maryland, this time, for good.

(Click on the image to open a larger version.)

(Click on the image to open a larger version.)

The campaign to ban fracking in Maryland is already getting results. This April, after months of citizen organizing, the Prince George’s County Council voted unanimously to ban fracking in the county, becoming the first county to do since the moratorium passed in 2015. Prince George’s lies atop the Taylorsville Basin, which contains billions of cubic feet of natural gas and stretches from the Tidewater region of Virginia all the way to the state capitol in Annapolis. The victory in Prince George’s is hopefully only the first of many local wins yet to come.

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That brings us to Frederick County–could fracking come here? It turns out the answer is yes. Two relatively small gas basins run under the county: the Culpepper basin in the south, and the Gettysburg basin in the north. Fracking in these areas would threaten valuable farmland, sensitive ecological areas, and most significantly, the health and wellbeing of the county’s 240,000 residents. It is critically important that fracking be banned in Frederick County, and across the entire state of Maryland.


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Prince George’s County Council, press release: “Council Unanimously Approved Legislation Prohibiting Fracking in Prince George’s County”