Big Oil & Gas isn't going to take a fracking ban bill sitting down. In fact, they've come out swinging, throwing lots of advertising punches into persuading Maryland residents that fracking will save Western Maryland's economy while contributing to energy independence. It may be too little, too late for those who are already informed on the issue. Fracking has blanketed Pennsylvania and West Virginia, so there are plenty of horror stories shared across the boarders. Television and radio ads are becoming more frequent. While searching for the most recent count on earthquakes caused by fracking in Oklahoma an online pop-up ad may appear, boasting fracking’s glowing reputation. It would be laughable if not for the insidious deception that could fool those not armed with the facts from peer-reviewed studies that say otherwise. Websites are masked as responsible, unbiased sources of information asking the public to oppose a ban on fracking. It’s implied that political posturing against the natural gas industry is charged with ulterior motives. Truth be told, high-paid lobbyists from the oil and gas industry have been working the halls of Annapolis since unconventional gas drilling began. Industry pockets are deep and may also fund those testifying against ban legislation. Protestors promised transportation, and a free meal may have no stake in fracking but will show up at rallies to hold a sign. Union workers are expected to support action aimed against any industry, temporarily putting their personal judgment aside. Industry representatives will go so far as to knowingly share outdated favorable data that has long-since been discredited, while siting updated peer-reviewed damning evidence as poppycock. A recent web page titled Energy Citizens was asking voters to oppose a ban on fracking in Maryland. "Don't let lawmakers put politics before Maryland's future," the site says, while asking for petition signatures to oppose a ban. "Clean and safe natural gas production is finally within reach for Western Maryland—along with all of the benefits that come with it. Don’t let lawmakers cave to pressure from anti-energy activists who want to ban hydraulic fracturing in our state." It's surprising that the industry-funded site would call the natural gas production process "clean and safe" since production and delivery are the main objections. Once extracted, natural gas burns relatively clean compared to coal. The extraction and delivery process or “production” is where extensive study has been conducted and problems are discovered.
Before your furnace lights or your stove kicks on the environmental damage has already been done. Over the long-term, gas well casings continue to degrade leading to further issues with leaking pipeline and toxic chemicals working their way into aquifers that feed water wells. High volume hydraulic fracturing is in its infancy compared to other extraction methods. It’s still unknown what the integrity of the hundreds of thousands of wells already drilled will unleash below ground. Who are the "anti-energy" activists Energy Citizens are referring to? It has been said time and time again that those opposing fossil fuel extractions are completely supportive of green energy from the sun and wind while asking for more research to identify new energy sources or improve existing ones. No one is asking to go without lights or heat. A more conscientious state is now converting to energy saving appliances, lighting, and building products to reduce consumption. Solar arrays are becoming commonplace and wind farms cover most of the ridges in Western Maryland. Annapolis just welcomed over 1,000 citizens who marched and rallied at Maryland's State House on March 2nd. Powerful speakers from a variety of interests trumpeted a litany of reasons to ban fracking that included risks to public health, safety, the environment, tourism, agricultural lands, under served communities, and the very fabric of rural living. Crowds were energized, taking home the message, “Ban Fracking Now!” As those who gathered and chanted together, it became clear that this was not simply politics, but a movement nourished by social mores. Unsettling public health issues cross party lines. Fracking's potential to contaminate and deplete limited water supplies and destabilize tender economies is well documented. Maryland has a long history of mitigating previous environmental mistakes from acid mine wastewater in the west to chicken waste disposal in the east. Taxpayers may not be ready to bare another burden to fix environmental problems brought on by gas development. They are already strapped with funding water treatment from the messes coal mining leaves behind, and ongoing clean up of the Chesapeake Bay. Protecting the celebrated Maryland blue crab and the waters of the state seems an expense residents are willing to pay for now. As the fracking campaigns ramps up, be careful what you read and always look for the source of information, or who is funding it.
Google the word “fracking” and the top two listings are industry sponsored, but thanks to Google's awareness, are now identified as ads. Be smart in your research and scrutinize what you read. Seek out trusted sources that have no financial stake in the outcome if fracking is allowed in Maryland. Engage Mountain Maryland is opposed to fracking based on scientific research, peer-reviewed studies, documented cases of contaminated wells, and first-hand accounts from boots on the ground in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Updates continue to become available that have further supported worrisome claims. Glossy ad campaigns don’t change the truth but they sure can crowd it out.