By Don Sincell, Editor of the Republican Newspaper, Oakland, MD.
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For those who are not convinced that the industrial practice of fracking for natural gas has a significant negative impact on property values, we suggest this: Go to your computer and Google "fracking, property values."
We did that in our newsroom just this morning, and we immediately hit upon a list of 41,800,000 (yes, nearly 42 million) articles/items on the Internet about the topic, with probably 90% of those articles stating that fracking has clearly reduced property values in states where the practice is currently permitted.
The posts come from hundreds of sources, the majority of which appear to be objective and based on hard data from the real estate profession and various other trustworthy, unbiased organizations and publications.
Most studies have shown a wide range of property devaluation as a result of fracking, with some properties originally valued at tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars simply becoming unsalable.
For many others, the average devaluation ranges from 10 to 25%. Most of the devalued properties lie within 2,500 feet, or about ½ mile, of a well pad.
If fracking is ultimately permitted in Maryland, and the natural gas market recovers, it is estimated that there will be several hundred well pads located in Garrett County, meaning that many of our homes and most of our privately owned land will be situated within ½ mile of at least one well pad.
Garrett County's proposed fiscal year 2017 budget totals just under $75 million, with approximately $40 million of that financed by property taxes. Just two years ago that latter number was $43 million, but property values have already been on the decline.
Now, let's be conservative and assume that with fracking the average decrease in property values for the county will be just 10%, an extremely modest figure. That equates to a drop of $4 million in property tax money to the county. If the average is 15%, that figure rises to $6 million.
And as noted previously, without any doubt there will be many properties much closer to well pads whose value will virtually decrease 100%. Yes, absolutely worthless and thus impossible to sell.
Whatever boon there might be from fracking, it will be extremely short-lived, maybe no more than two or three years. But it would take decades for property values to recover, and God forbid, if there were even one contaminating mishap caused by fracking, certain properties would remain valueless for eternity.
Property devaluation is, of course, just one of so many negatives connected with fracking – many of which have been the topic of this column over the last several years – negatives that are causing more and more people to be opposed to fracking.
The Gallop organization – a 100% objective source – reveals that about 40% of the general public was opposed to fracking in March of last year. But today, just 12 months later, that number has ballooned to 51%. Many people are gullible, particularly on topics they know little about. But that gullibility goes away in most folks once they are enlightened with information and shared experiences.
If the trend continues, by March 2017 – or about six months before Maryland's moratorium on fracking expires – we estimate approximately two-thirds of the public will be in opposition.