This story was corrected on April 17. An explanation follows the story.
More coordination among federal agencies that oversee natural gas production should help as Maryland assesses whether, and how, to permit drilling and fracturing Marcellus Shale deposits, state officials said.
Under President Barack Obama’s executive order, which was issued Friday, representatives from agencies that oversee aspects of the controversial process would work toward creating a comprehensive approach to regulation and toward eliminating duplication or unneeded burdens on the industry, which has seen profits drop with prices.
Jay Apperson, a spokesman with the Maryland Department of the Environment, said in an email to The Gazette that Obama’s move “is an opportunity for us, along with other states, to more efficiently access federal resources on Marcellus shale.”
Under an executive order from Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), the state is not issuing permits for natural gas wells until it completes a study to determine best practices and how the methods and toxic materials associated with forcing fluids into rock to release natural gas could affect the environment and public health.
Legislation that would have imposed a fee on land leased for gas wells to pay for the last stage of the study cleared the state House but did not get a vote in the Senate, leaving the Department of the Environment to figure out how to finish the study.
“We've said all along that as we study this issue we will build upon information from other studies, including work being done by other states or the federal government,” Apperson wrote. “As the federal government coordinates the work within its different agencies, we will be able to more easily find information on any given topic relating to Marcellus shale. Beyond that, we will continue to move ahead with our work as outlined in the Governor's Executive Order.”
“It’s good for the administration to be using the Maryland model at the federal level to determine the best way to go forward,” Del. Heather Mizeur, a member of the commission overseeing Maryland’s investigation of the practice, known as fracking, said Monday.
But Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring said she is concerned the order seems “bent a little toward ‘we are going to drill,’” whereas Maryland has taken the approach of finding out what it needs to know first rather than go ahead, as some states have, and later regret it.
Mizeur, a former domestic policy adviser for U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), said sources in Washington have told her there “continues to be a debate within many agencies between scientists and politicos and, right now, politicos are winning sometimes.”
Maryland’s natural gas deposits, believed to be deep under Garrett and Allegany counties, account for only 1 percent of the total projected to be trapped in the Marcellus Shale, and Maryland is just one of 22 states with potential to tap shale gas, noted Drew Cobbs, the American Petroleum Institute’s lobbyist in Maryland.
Cobbs said he does not think federal coordination will have any effect in Maryland, “considering we are still years away” from drilling in Maryland.
But Cobbs said if it becomes too costly to drill in Maryland, gas companies could opt to invest elsewhere.
Explanation: The original version misspelled the first name of Jay Apperson.