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Maryland State Government Maryland Department of the Environment

Public Comments on the Draft Report
Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Part II
Basic Practices
 
 

I WAS EMPLOYED IN THE BUSINESS OF NUCLEAR PROJECT DEVELOPMENT BY THE WORLD'S LARGEST ENGINEER/BUILDER OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS.  I HAVE SOME UNDERSTANDING OF ENGINEERING RISK.

FRACKING IS, LIKE NUCLEAR, CHEERILY PROMOTED WITHOUT ACCOUNTING FOR CONSEQUENCES.  THE BUSINESSES AND INDUSTRIES BENEFITING FROM FRACKING SHOULD HAVE THEIR ASSETS EQUALLY "AT RISK" AND SHOULD ULTIMATELY BE ACCOUNTABLE.

THAT MAY SOUND LIKE WISHFUL THINKING.  YET, I KNOW THE HUGE PROFITS GAINED AND THE TOTAL LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY.

PLEASE DO NOT PUT THE CITIZENS AT RISK, EITHER ENVIRONMENTALLY OR FINANCIALLY.

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I am an Environmental Scientist based in Maryland and I have seen the impact of fracking operations firsthand throughout the state of West Virginia. I have read this report and I believe it fails to address all of the potential risks of fracking. The risks of fracking are poorly understood, especially within certain geological formations.

As fracking has occurred in neighboring states, concerns about harm to water, air quality, health, and local economies have increased. I believe these potential impacts must be weighed closely against the benefits these operations offer to the LOCAL economy.

Until these risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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Doesn't the report fail to address all of the potential risks of fracking? In neighboring states, there have been continuing concerns about the harm fracking to water, air quality, health, and local economies have increased. Such risks need to be thoroughly studied before regulations are set in stone re fracking.

Thank you for considering my comments on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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Fracking is like the death penalty...once you have done it there is no taking it back. We need to be really, really sure before we unleash the polluters on our water/air supplies that we aren't going to suffer the consequences of their rape, pillage and plunder of our natural resources. The burden of proof should be on those that would inflict this harm on the rest of us and that should come before we become victims and not to ask taxpayers to later mitigate to the extent possible. Get it right the first time, too much is at stake to try and deal with it later.

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It is clear from news stories that fracking has produced a range of unacceptable consequences to ground and well water, health, seismic status in every single state in which it has been allowed.   I think it is very ill-advised to allow fracking in our state, only to find out that we have made a big mistake. I also observe how political corruption has followed fracking in a number of states.   This is not what I would like to see happen in Maryland.

I do not believe we yet understand the consequences of fracking sufficiently to allow it. Prohibiting fracking has little consequence, since the natural gas resources will stay in the ground, available for future generations, when and if safe technologies are developed.   Right now, I have little confidence in the report that has been produced or its conclusions.

I therefore wish to make my views known to you as a taxpayer, voter, and civic leader.

Thank you for this opportunity to make my views known to you.

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I believe YOU SHOULD GET THE FRACK OUT OF THE WAY!.

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Given that the data is not yet in on the full consequences of fracking, as a registered Maryland voter, I beseech you to not add our state to the list of guinea pigs which may suffer irreversible consequences especially to our water resources.

In my professional capacity I can confidently add that methane is an enormously important driver of climate chaos and the leaks associated with fracking are an extremely poor policy choice given other energy choices available.

Until the risks of fracking are thoroughly studied, any attempts to create a functional regulatory structure is premature and thus foolhardy.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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As we have seen in neighboring states, and other parts of North America, the risks to humans and the environment have not been adequately addressed or controlled before fracking has begun.  The release of methane has been a great danger to people and animals, and the disruption to agriculture, vegetation and to the topography has been severe and worsening in many instances.  We do not want a slipshod development of natural gas in our state.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the draft management practices for hydraulic fracturing for the development of natural gas in Maryland.

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This does not sound like good engineering (much less good science) to me: "The Best Management Practices [as of 9/9/2013] were hastily assembled without completing an analysis of the potential risks to health and the environment."

I believe this report fails to address all of the potential risks of fracking. The risks of fracking are poorly understood.

As fracking has occurred in neighboring states, concerns about harm to water, air quality, health, ROADS &TRAFFIC, TECTONICS, and local economies have increased.

Until these risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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Fracking is bad for Maryland.  No independent study has linked long-term jobs or economic growth to fracking.  The amount of water needed is too great for the benefit.  The dangers of the chemicals used (TONS - SEE REFERENCES) while small as a percentage are too great.

The independent studies conducted by University researchers across the state of Texas have determined that fracking causes earthquakes of 4.0 and higher within miles of fracking sites.  Insurance companies do not cover earthquake damage in Maryland.

From Wikipedia: According to the United States Department of Energy, hydraulic fracturing fluid is composed of approximately 95% water, 4.5% sand and 0.5% different chemicals.[52] These percentages are by weight, so hydraulically fracturing a well uses 4-7 million gallons of water (15000-27000 tons) and 80-140 tons of chemicals. There can be up to 65 chemicals and often include benzyne, glycol-ethers, toluene, ethanol and nonphenols.[194] [65] Some[who?] have argued that although many of these chemicals are harmful, some of them are either non toxic or are non toxic at lower dosages.[195] However, their concentration in hydraulic fracturing fluid have proven toxic to animals and humans.

Flowback, health hazards, too much clean water use, dangers of contamination, put Maryland and the bay at risk.  Simply not worth the risk.

IF YOU MUST ALLOW FRACKING - REGULATE IT AND CHECK IT!  I did work for the Mine Safety and Health Administration as a computer consultant for several years and mine owners cheat, or are uniformed, or make mistakes, or ... and kill people and the environment.  The only increase in jobs will be for state officials to monitor mine operations or to replace the people who are too sick to work or die from fracking. Allow fracking and I'll be one of the first to lobby for a class action suite against Maryland for endangering the public health and seek damages from the state for failing to protect us!

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This report fails to address all of the potential risks of fracking. The risks of fracking are poorly understood and undocumented.  Any practice that dumps millions of gallons of known carcinogens and toxins into our groundwater cannot be safe under any circumstances.  The consequences to public health, groundwater, waterways, wildlife, the ecology have not been studied or even given much thought.  Waste disposal is problematic since there is no safe disposal method (in other states waste too is being pumped into the groundwater and causing health problems).

As fracking has occurred in neighboring states, concerns about harm to water, air quality, health, and local economies have increased.

Given the huge numbers of Marylanders completely dependent on well water (and who are concentrated in those areas where fracking would be prevalent) any thoughts of permitting fracking are toying with lethal consequences.

In other states the industry has been settling lawsuits of those directly impacted by fracking with gag agreements to do all they can to ensure their practices are unexamined and the consequences unreported.

Until all the risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to permit or to set regulations to permit fracking are reckless and premature.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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Please reconsider thoroughly exploring the risks of fracking. This report should uncover ALL potential risks, and ways in which they might be mitigated if fracking is to proceed. How will our groundwater be protected? What will prevent VOCs from contaminating our air? I believe it is vital to protect our natural resources. I understand the need to develop more sustainable energy practices on domestic soil, but not at the cost of our health.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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I think that it is premature to consider "best practices" for fracking. There is too much risk inherent in fracking, so even the "best" practices can have terrible consequences.

Western Maryland is a beautiful part of our state. Why would we risk long term and permanent damage to our community to enrich a few energy companies?

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I don't believe it is responsible to move forward with fracking in Maryland at this time.

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I do not think fracking should be allowed under any circumstance. The risks outweigh the benefits. The practices degrade ecosystems. Pollute water, and use huge amounts of water in the process. In a time of expanding populations, it is not wise to use so much water to frack.

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WE DO NOT WANT FRACKING. CAN YOU FRACK THIS INTO YOUR HEAD!

NO FRACKING!!!!

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I'm certain you have heard of the direct negative environment effects of fracking, but I would also like to bring to your attention the environmental havoc that "boom town" populations will bring to Maryland. Just look at the border between North Dakota and Montana. Once pristine back country with towns no bigger than 500 have become modern-day refugee camps, known as "man camps." Sometimes the company builds them, but they're never adequate enough and soon lots and roadsides are littered with RVs that empty waste into neighboring streams. We already have water population issues in the Chesapeake watershed and ground water depletion in the Western Maryland without added strain.  Additionally, there's no long-term planning involved with regard to housing, because there's no need to build housing for a boom industry and migrant population. That's what fracking is, a short-term economic boom with longlasting effects that outweigh any short-term financial gains for those who call, or want to call, Maryland home. I understand there are a lot of Marylanders who need jobs, but I think we are much better equipped to provide them with long-lasting skills and better opportunities than what fracking could bring. Our state is one of the wealthiest and most educated in the country. We could definitely try harder to find a solution for our unemployed other than environmental degradation.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/02/north-dakota-oil-field-housing_n_946349.html "Rent for a house here can run into the thousands of dollars, if you can find one that's vacant. The most desperate among the new arrivals show up and pitch tents in vacant fields, or sleep in their cars."

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Please be sure that before you approve fracking in Maryland you have all repeat all the necessary information, including the very serious risks.  The report now before you doesn't suffice. The risks of fracking are poorly understood. There is no rush; review all the facts before you act. Until these risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature.

I appreciate the chance to comment on something that is important to me, but more important to my children and grandchildren.

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My husband and I also campaigned, had a sign in our yard, and voted for Governor O'Malley, and like others who have commented here, we have been highly disappointed in many of his actions.  We would like to support him when and if he runs for President, but that becomes less likely as his poor decisions continue to multiply.

We, and almost all of our friends, even slightly aware of Maryland's environmental decay are absolutely opposed to any fracking, any place in Maryland.  Although we live in a suburb of Annapolis, we have friends in Friendsville and have walked the shoreline of the beautiful Youghiogheny river.  This remote part of Western Maryland is all that is left of Maryland's lovely, less polluted areas.  Overdevelopment of Maryland's Eastern shore during the last 30 years along with the runaway development allowed in Anne Arundel county and Baltimore city has ruined the Chesapeake Bay probably forever.  The difference in the small creeks and backwater draws of both the Severn and the Magothy Rivers between now and when we first came to this area is literally unbelievable.  We cannot imagine that with having observed this destruction, any citizen of Maryland would even consider unleashing the evils of fracking onto any part of the state.

Ask the rural citizenry of North Dakota how they have profitted from the oil and gas industry's destruction of their wild and scenic beauty. They have traded the economic benefits of a large and clean tourist industry for the envisioned economic benefits of fracking.   Soon the companies will depart, the high paying, but temporary jobs will dry up, but the tourists will never come back because the destruction of that environment is permanent.  Other states, such as Pennsylvania, New York, etc also regret permitting fracking.  The wonderfully beautiful South Texas desert, (area between San Antonio and the various border cities), even as we write is being fracked and consequently destroyed by a sub division of an international petroleum company whose name has become an anathema along the Gulf coast.

Why would any citizen of Maryland, no matter how greedy, even consider taking this risk with our state?

Buy an electric car, improve the rail and bus travel opportunities, access wind and solar energies, bike or walk, wear a sweater around the house in winter.  Keep the air conditioning temperatures in restaurants, stores, offices in the mid-seventies or higher.  Above all, don't think our abundant water is endless.  Stop fracking and other environmentally destructive practices for good.

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We own property in Western Maryland and are witness to some of the fracking operations in neighboring Pennsylvania.    We are aware of many instances of environmental degradation which have occurred across the line. Of primary concern to us are the demand for water by fracking and the intractable wastewater issues.

Until these risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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I know from many years at EPA that hydrogeology can be surprisingly vulnerable. Good clay layers have protected huge aquifers like the Ogala for many many centuries. Cavalier fracturing is. Foolibelieve [sic] this report fails to address all of the potential risks of fracking. The risks of fracking are poorly understood.

As fracking has occurred in neighboring states, concerns about harm to water, air quality, health, and local economies have increased.

Until these risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland

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I am opposed to fracking.

As it has become more widespread, in spite of people being paid off by the corporations profiting from this practice, in spite of a propaganda campaign falsely touting the safety of fracking, the truth about its harmful effects to the environment and to public health can not be silenced.

Instead of continuing to harm the environment and put all people at risk, we should be tapping the safe sources of power already available. The focus should be harnessing solar and wind to provide our power.

I wish the people in power who make decisions based on corporate misinformation (or profitable corporate backing?) would take it upon themselves to investigate thoroughly (or have an unbiased, credentialed third party conduct testing) and become educated in the truth about the effects of fracking.

Look at the science. Cause and effect.  Unless you're one of the corporations involved, or an unconcerned politician eager to accept their financing - the effects are in no way positive.

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I commend the State of Maryland, and you all specifically, for taking this issue seriously. This is an important business issue that could raise significant revenue for the State, and as such, should be thoroughly explored. This project also poses significant health, safety, and environmental risks, which should also be completely vetted. Thank you for your efforts.

I do not believe that it is possible to know how to minimize the impact to sensitive resources, without first fully understanding the specifics and the magnitude of the impact. Surface impact is less important in this instance than total impact. I am concerned about the amount of objective and substantial research that has been done to determine that these methods aren't harmful, as most of the coincidental consequences seem pretty blatantly negative. 

Educated guesses, no matter how educated, are still guesses. And guessing is a dangerous thing to do with resources that are not easily replenished.

However, I believe that smart regulations, consistently enforced, and proper funding (secured appropriately those specific companies that are responsible for Maryland creating these regulations and requiring the enforcement of them) could assuage my concerns.  Additionally, funding from permitting or other fees created by a Marcellus Shale program could be used to create programs for development and use of renewable and sustainable energy sources.  Since - like oil - these gases are likely to be exhausted faster than they can be organically replenished, investment in additional fuel sources is lucrative for the future of Maryland.

I appreciate the opportunity to comment on this Initiative.  I am also grateful for your service to myself and fellow Marylanders.  I trust you will have all our best interests at heart while you make these critical decisions.

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I am writing as a Maryland citizen who is very concerned about the risks of fracking. It appears to me that best practices can't be established without a thorough understanding of those risks. Fracking uses immense amounts of fresh water which is irreplaceable, and that effect occurs even when other damage might (or might not) be successfully minimized.

As fracking has occurred in neighboring states, concerns about harm to water, air quality, health, wildlife habitat, and local economies have increased. The fact that the industry has tried to stifle the voices of those who've suffered indicates that there may be even more danger than most are aware of.

Until these risks are thoroughly and realistically studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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I’m opposed to any step toward fracking in Maryland at this time. I welcomed Governor O’Malley’s decision in 2011 to place a hold on drilling and to first determine whether fracking would pose “unacceptable risks” to Marylanders. The evidence is stacking up in neighboring states that fracking causes long-term harm to water resources, air quality, health, rural infrastructure and local economies, in addition to worsening climate change.

Your draft "Best Management Practices” report on fracking in Maryland fails to adequately address the full scale and severity of these risks. The report puts the cart before the horse since the state has yet to even begin a thorough analysis of the unique risks of drilling in Maryland. Without this risk analysis, the state is moving blindly in developing “best practices.”

If, after thorough and careful study of Maryland-specific risks, it becomes relevant to discuss “Best Management Practices” for fracking in Maryland, any such recommendations must:

  1. Protect the climate: Require gas companies to meet a zero percent leakage rate for methane throughout the fracking process. In light of the Governor’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, it is contradictory to allow one of the biggest climate polluting industries in the US to go unregulated in Maryland. Your report does not go far enough to protect our climate.
  2. Protect our water, health, and safety: Setbacks for well pads and infrastructure from private and public water wells, homes, schools, and office buildings should be at least 3,500 feet. A recent Duke study found methane in wells up to 1 kilometer away from drilling sites. Additionally, fracking infrastructure, like compressor stations and pipelines, has caused explosions and fires in communities in PA, NJ, CA, OK, and more. Your current setbacks of as little as 300 feet are not sufficient to protect Marylanders from these risks.

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I am commuting on the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Best Practices Report.

This report completely fails to address all of the potential risks of fracking. The risks of fracking are poorly understood but probably include polluting ground water and destabilizing the ground underneath. It is associated with earthquakes.

As fracking has occurred in neighboring states, concerns about harm to water, air quality, health, and local economies have increased.  These risks know no state boundaries.  Fracking risks can't be contained.

Until these risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature. We should not be experimenting with fracking now. The damage can't be undone if we act too early, but as we learn more, we will have our options if we wait now.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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I believe that allowing fracking in Maryland before more thoroughly investigating the potential risks and dangers is unwise and unnecessary.  As fracking has occurred in neighboring states, concerns about harm to water, air quality, health, and local economies have increased. Until these risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature.

At a minimum no company or person should be allowed to frack in Maryland without disclosing the full array of chemicals and water used in the fracking process.  For many decades now the national Toxics Release Inventory has afforded some transparency to US citizens with regard to the chemicals in use in manufacturing and other industrial processes.  This same standard must be applied to those entities seeking to extract natural gas from our environment.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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I believe this report fails to address all of the potential risks of fracking. This is serious business.  The risks of fracking are poorly understood, and I read a lot of scientific articles  - in AAAS "Science" and in "New Scientist" magazines.   The damage can be permanent, for all intensive purposes to the local human population.

As fracking has occurred in neighboring states, concerns about harm to water, air quality, health, and local economies have increased.

Until these risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

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I believe this report fails to address all of the potential risks of fracking. The risks of fracking are poorly understood.

As fracking has occurred in neighboring states, concerns about harm to water, air quality, health, and local economies have increased.

Until these risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

PLEASE hold off and do this right!

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I believe the assessments so far are too hasty to justify commencing fracking. Let is not make Maryland another state in which you can set the tapwater on fire.

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As a resident of Delaware who lives near Maryland and beach goer, I urge you to reject the deeply flawed fracking "beyst management practices" plan that supports the natural gas industry's aims and would pave the way for fracking in Maryland.

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Before you make a final decision, please be sure you have researched everything about what happens to communities when there is fracking involved.  Below is a link to an article about a small town in Texas who is losing it's drinking water...this probably would not happen in Maryland because we are close to the water, however, there are numerous problems with fracking and I don't think the current research supports resolving problems for many contingency issues.
http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/08/14/fracking-strains-water-supplies-oil-or-water

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We have seen the ravages of this drilling in Pennsylvania. It cannot be made safe with present technology nor "best practices" in using present technology. Please see my PowerPoint presentation regarding the need for an immediate halt to drilling in Pennsylvania, and please do not get started in Maryland.
http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/StephenCleghorn-1652270-the-case-for-moratorium-50-min-clickable-v4/

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Earlier this year, a government-contracted scientist said "it is inevitable that there will be negative impacts from Marcellus Shale Gas Development [in Maryland]... and that a significant portion of these 'costs' will be borne by local communities." Yet, in spite of these warnings, Governor O'Malley is moving forward with weak guidelines that cater to the natural gas industry.

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I have lived in Maryland for 46 of my 50 years. DON'T RUIN OUR STATE! There's a reason countries like France (which is sitting on a boatload of natural gas), Germany, Ireland have BANNED it. South Africa has banned it in certain regions. The Czech Republic is considering a total ban.

Do you want this to be your legacy in Maryland? KEEP MARYLANDERS SAFE! Please do not allow fracking to poison our groundwater. We don't need the natural gas at that cost.

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I am writing you to express my grave concern about the possibility of irresponsible fracking in Maryland, especially in densely populated areas such as Montgomery County.

The text below is from Greenpeace. If even half of it is true, your support of the "Best Management Plan" is unwarrented. My understanding is that fracking can be done responsibly, but only if governments are willing and able to force the private sector to do so. I urge you to carefully consider the full impact if fracking on the citizens and environment of this state, and the scope of regulation required to ensure their safety, before accepting or endorsing this report or anything else related to fracking.

From Greenpeace:

As a resident of Maryland, I urge you to reject the deeply flawed fracking "best management practices" plan that supports the natural gas industry's aims and would pave the way for fracking in Maryland.

The O'Malley administration recently released the "Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Best Management Plan," bringing us one step closer to allowing fracking in Maryland.

It is appalling that the administration is set on moving forward so quickly without even examining the impacts that drilling and fracking would have on Maryland's public health and economy. It seems as though the administration has already made up its mind to allow fracking in Maryland.

Several aspects of the report -- which cater directly to the gas industry -- are particularly troubling:

  1. The report does little to address how fracking wastewater will be disposed of in Maryland. In other states that failure to regulate wastewater disposal, the underground injection of this toxic fluid has been linked to earthquakes and contaminated drinking water.
  2. The state will not require that multiple companies submit comprehensive drilling plans together; rather, it will "encourage" them to work together on drawing up their plans. Asking the gas industry to voluntarily work together and share information about its drilling sites does nothing to guarantee that the public's interest is taken into account during planning.
  3. The report also rejects a proposal by one of its own scientists to limit fracking to only 1-2% of Maryland's land surface. No new cap on fracking has been set, likely because the gas industry has intentions to expand fracking to the Eastern Shore, Annapolis, Montgomery County and other regions.

I urge you to protect your Maryland constituents by ending this process altogether and banning hydraulic fracturing in our state.

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I am against fracking.

As the practice has become more widespread, in spite of people being paid-off by those corporations profiting from it, in spite of advertising campaigns spouting untrue propaganda about the safety of fracking, the truth about the unhealthy effects of this process on the environment and public health are coming to light.

Instead of causing further harm to the environment and the health of all people, we should be concentrating more effort on harnessing readily available and SAFE solar and wind power.

Rather than making decisions based on the FALSE information provided by corporate sponsors, who have so far received, and will continue to receive massive profits from this practice - the people the public entrusts to make these decisions should take it upon themselves to investigate thoroughly (through research and testing by a credentialed, unbiased third party) the truth about the effects of fracking. Look at the science of cause and effect.  Unless you're one of the corporations involved, or an unconcerned politician eager to accept their financing - the effects are in no way positive.

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Where are you going to live when our air and water and land are polluted from fracking? Got a nice place picked out where the water is clean? The air is breathable? Can the rest of us Marylanders join you?

I’m opposed to any step toward fracking in Maryland.

 The evidence is stacking up in neighboring states that fracking causes long-term harm to water resources, air quality, health, rural infrastructure and local economies, in addition to worsening climate change.

Your draft "Best Management Practices” report on fracking in Maryland fails to adequately address the full scale and severity of these risks. The report puts the cart before the horse since the state has yet to even begin a thorough analysis of the unique risks of drilling in Maryland. Without this risk analysis, the state is moving blindly in developing “best practices.”

If, after thorough and careful study of Maryland-specific risks, it becomes relevant to discuss “Best Management Practices” for fracking in Maryland, any such recommendations MUST:

1. Require gas companies to meet a zero percent leakage rate for methane throughout the fracking process.

In light of the Governor’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, it is contradictory to allow one of the biggest climate polluting industries in the US to go unregulated in Maryland. Your report does not go far enough to protect our climate.

2. Require setbacks for well pads and infrastructure from private and public water wells, homes, schools, and office buildings be at least 3,500 feet.

A recent Duke study found methane in wells up to 1 kilometer away from drilling sites. Additionally, fracking infrastructure, like compressor stations and pipelines, has caused explosions and fires in communities in PA, NJ, CA, OK, and more. Your current setbacks of as little as 300 feet are not sufficient to protect Marylanders from these risks.

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Please do not permit more fracking in MD, our state is better without it.

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On behalf of Grand Central Home Furnishings, representing fifteen employees, I am writing to offer our support in favor of the responsible drilling of Marcellus Shale, specifically in Western Maryland, and recognize that safe, reliable, affordable natural gas could be an important part of Maryland’s energy future.  Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to comment on the Best Practices draft document.

As a business leader, there are numerous well-documented benefits associated with Marcellus Shale development.  Through job creation and increased revenue for both the state and local businesses, the benefits will ripple across the region, providing money for businesses, education, transportation and other important infrastructure needs.  Likewise, we would be better poised to retain our youth and college graduates through not only drilling related careers, but ancillary positions, such as testing labs, engineers, surveyors, lawyers, etc., as well.
 
These points are important to my business because our region has been dependent on tourism as a primary source of economic development.  Tourism is a GOOD thing for our area, however, in natural gas we have a possible way to stimulate the economy and keep more of our youth local.  Moreover, by allowing natural gas drilling, additional entrepreneur opportunities and workforce employment will naturally occur.  This is MOST important to my business as local residents have opted not to replace furniture due to rising costs of essentials (food and gas) yet a stagnation in personal income (i.e. an increase in the local economy will increase spending – part of which will be in home furnishings).
As noted recently by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rich Studley in his statewide campaign to “Protect Michigan’s Energy Future”, it has been documented that “more than 12,000 wells have been fracked in Michigan since the 1960s, mostly in the northern Lower Peninsula” and further asserts that “fracking has not been shown to harm Michigan’s groundwater or surface water.”

One specific area of concern is the process in which exploratory vs. permanent wells will be handled in the region.   While we appreciate the investment of time by the State and Commission members, it is also important to have the flexibility to be certain a sufficient quantity of natural gas is present.  Likewise, we would hope that if a permit is secured for an exploratory site and activity is determined, the permit would effectively translate to proceed as outlined in the then approved Best Practices.

In closing, thank you for your time and consideration of these comments.  Michigan is one of many states that confirmed responsible drilling is a proven economic driver that offers the potential to restore prosperity to the poorest part of Maryland through job growth, a stronger economy and the next generation investment.

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No fracking in Maryland! Protect our water. Protect Maryland from earthquakes. Protect local farms. DO NOT support fracking in Maryland or you will lose my support forever.

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HoCo Climate Change (formerly Climate Change Initiative of Howard County) is a nonprofit organization with more than 800 members based in Columbia, Md. With our partner organization, Transition Howard County, we are concerned about any industrial process that would threaten our climate, water, air, soil and health. 

In the absence of results from the state’s health and economic studies, we find it difficult to evaluate the proposed best management practices. State officials and Marylanders should be able to reevaluate the BMPs after the studies are complete. That said, many of the BMPs appear to be inadequate to protect the health and safety of Marylanders and the environment of the western counties. Here are our main concerns:

1) The proposed setbacks are insufficient to protect the environment and human health.  A recent Duke University study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found evidence of water contamination up to 1 kilometer (3,280 feet, or 0.62 miles) from drilling sites. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/06/19/1221635110.full.pdf+htmlProposed setbacks allow drilling 600 feet from “irreplaceable natural areas” and “wildlands” and a mere 300 feet from a stream, river, spring, wetland, pond, reservoir and 100-year floodplain.  Drilling so close to these fragile areas is unacceptable. In addition, the state could end up chasing away the campers, hikers, kayakers, canoeists and other vacationers who are the economic engine of Western Maryland. 

Under the proposed BMPs, the drill rig can be as close as 1,000 feet from an occupied building (house, school, medical office, store), 1,000 feet from a private well and 2,000 from public groundwater wells or surface water intakes and reservoirs. We do not think private wells and public groundwater wells should be treated differently.

The state should bear in mind that toxic air pollutants also pose a threat. One peer-reviewed study found high levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the air during the drilling phase. From the study: “Selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were at concentrations greater than those at which prenatally exposed children in urban studies had lower developmental and IQ scores.”  http://www.endocrinedisruption.com/chemicals.air.php

In light of the Duke study and information about air pollution, we recommend that all setbacks—whether from streams, springs, rivers, wetlands, ponds, scenic byways, reservoirs, schools, homes or shops—be at least 3,500 feet. (If the health study shows that even greater setbacks are needed to protect residents and wildlife from air pollution, then these setbacks will have to be revisited.) Proposed New York regulations call for a buffer of 4,000 feet from “unfiltered surface drinking-water-supply watersheds.” We recommend the state consider that distance as well.

2) We see no concern for the Chesapeake Bay in the BMPs. Fracking and its associated infrastructure, including well pads, pipelines and compressor stations, will result in additional deforestation, increased impervious surfaces, construction run-off, and other land-use degradation that will likely impact the Bay TMDL. Fracking fluid spills or waste would also contaminate the Bay watershed. In addition, BMPs call for frack waste to be sent out of state, presumably to Ohio for reinjection or treatment at an industrial and municipal treatment plants. We don’t think these are adequate solutions.  Reinjection causes earthquakes and could create pathways for toxic chemicals to eventually reach aquifers. In addition, the USGS says streams receiving processed wastewater have elevated levels of toxic chemicals: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3682&from=rss

3)    Fracking is an industrial activity best confined to areas zoned for industry, and the state should indicate so in the BMPs and eventual regulations.

4)    Under the proposed BMPs, the state would require disclosure of chemicals used in fracking before drilling begins as well as posting on-site and with emergency response agencies. If a company claimed its chemicals are protected as trade secrets, it would still have to disclose the information to MDE, which would determine if the claim was “legitimate.” MDE would divulge the names of chemicals deemed to be trade secrets “only to exposed persons or health care professionals.”   We maintain that Maryland should not allow toxic chemicals, secret or otherwise, to be injected into the Earth. The oil and gas industry can be counted on to have numerous accidents. We can’t afford to have toxic chemicals spilling near drinking-water sources, streams that support wildlife and soil for growing food. Nor can we afford to deal with water laced with toxic chemicals sloshing around underground in new fissures that could eventually reach aquifers. Cement casings fail immediately 5 or 6 percent of the time; over the life of a well, these casings continue to fail, also putting aquifers at risk. (Industry studies find up to 60 percent will fail after 30 years.)

Failure rate of casings: http://www.slb.com/~/media/Files/resources/oilfield_review/ors03/aut03/p62_76.ashx
If the gas industry wants to frack in Maryland, it should be required to demonstrate it is using nontoxic materials.

5)    Research shows that fractures created by fracking “communicate,” or connect, with existing fractures, which can eventually reach aquifers. Maryland is encouraging drillers to place well pads close together to protect the land, but will their proximity lead to unforeseen problems involving existing fractures? Clearly, more research is needed on this matter.

6)    The proposed BMPs allow flaring for up to 30 days for exploratory wells and place some limits on flaring during drilling. Nearby flaring sounds like a jet engine at takeoff. It also releases nitrogen dioxides, volatile organic compounds like benzene, and other substances linked to asthma and chronic bronchitis. This BMP is too vague. We recommend that Maryland bar flaring.

7)    Under the BMPs, company emergency response plans must include information on specially trained crews that can arrive within 24 hours of a blowout, fire or other accident. Twenty-four hours is an eternity when a high-pressure drilling operation malfunctions and toxins are spewed freely. That BMP is insufficient to protect everything in the well’s path: workers, nearby residents and the environment. Here’s an account of how badly things can go wrong when the company needed just 12 hours to get specially trained personnel on site:
http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/gas-drilling/after-blowout-most-evacuated-families-return-to-their-homes-in-bradford-county-1.1135253

8)    The well pad, according to the BMPs, would have to be surrounded by a berm designed to hold at least 2.7 inches of rain within a 24-hour period, so that spills of gasoline, oils and other hazardous chemicals wouldn’t flow onto surrounding land. Maryland weather records show more than that amount of rain has fallen in 24 hours on several occasions in the past few years, including during Superstorm Sandy. Climate change guarantees more deluges, so this BMP is not sufficient to protect the land, water, human health or wildlife. 

9)  Several studies show high levels of methane leakage during drilling and from pipelines. Methane doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere as CO2; but while it's around, it is much more efficient at trapping greenhouse gases. (It causes 72 times more warming than CO2 over 20 years.)   Several studies indicate that methane leakage rates are so high as to make the use of natural gas from fracking no better—and perhaps worse—for the climate than coal. (Leakage must be under 2 percent for natural gas to be better than coal. Studies show leakage rates ranging from 4 to 11 percent.)

The BMPs endorse industry self-regulation, which we do not find sufficient:
 
The UMCES-AL report recommended that all operators in Maryland should voluntarily participate in USEPA’s Natural Gas STAR program. This program is a partnership between EPA and industry that encourages oil and natural gas companies to adopt cost-effective technologies and practices that improve operational efficiency and reduce emissions of methane. It is up to each industry partner to determine which technologies and practices it will implement to reduce emissions. A company joins by signing a Memorandum of Understanding, then develops an implementation plan, executes the program, and submits annual progress reports. No State action is necessary to allow operators to participate in the Natural Gas STAR program.

The BMPs should require gas companies to meet a 1 or 2 percent leakage rate for methane throughout the drilling process. In addition, leakage should be monitored by a certifiable method and reported annually. Otherwise the BMP means nothing.
http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/THOC/Fracking.pdf

http://www.nature.com/news/air-sampling-reveals-high-emissions-from-gas-field-1.9982

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/02/08/421588/high-methane-emissions-measured-over-gas-field-offset-climate-benefits-of-natural-gasquot

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/methane-leaking-in-utah-suggests-higher-national-rate-16316

The proposed BMPs give us no confidence that residents, soil, air, water and climate would be protected sufficiently if fracking were allowed.

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I am a land owner in Garrett County Maryland.  I own approximately 160 acres of working farmland in northern end of the county.
 
I believe the MDE/DNR recommendations are more of a political statement than based on good science, are excessive and unnecessarily cause, gas rights owners in Maryland, extreme barriers to realizing value from our land and minerals that we are granted by the constitution of the United States.  These proposals are, once again, an attempt by those who reside in areas where these natural resources do not exist, to impose their preferences and beliefs on those of us who rightfully own these resources.     It is time that the Maryland defers to those of us who are the land owners where these resources exist, decide what is best for us rather than those who reside in wealthy counties around Baltimore and the District of Columbia.  We are completely capable of deciding what is best for our land and our way of life.

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This comment describes a crucial, though often overlooked, geo-physical process.  As a result, it shifts the question from “WILL overlying freshwater aquifers become contaminated as a consequence of hydrofracking?” to “WHEN and WHERE will these aquifers FIRST become contaminated?”   The follow-up question becomes “Does having about 30 years of an abundant supply of methane gas with its concomitant profits and revenues outweigh the eventual unavoidable loss of freshwater aquifers in Garrett and Allegany Counties in Maryland?”

Hydraulic fracturing (or hydrofracking) is a decades-old technique and has been used for extracting methane gas from tight geological formations such as shale or coal seams.  In order for the trapped gas to be released to the land surface, highly pressurized water and additives are introduced into a wellbore so that the target rock formation becomes fractured.  When the water is subsequently depressurized to let the methane escape into the borehole, solid particles, called proppants, which were introduced along with the water, remain behind to keep the fractures propped open. 

 After reaching a reasonably short distance from the horizontal hydrofracking line or the vertical borehole, the direction of growth of an induced fracture at depth becomes controlled in general by the pre-existing regional stress field.  If hydrofracking is permitted by the State, it is important to determine the principal directions of these in situ regional stresses that hold the surrounding geologic framework together.  This determination can be made from standard small scale hydrofracking methods without introducing proppants.  Knowing these directions, site by site, will help to map in advance the likely subsequent direction of fracture propagation initiated along any specific commercial hydrofracking line where proppants are introduced. 

Rock at the two opposite ends of a horizontal hydrofracking line will move apart, reflecting the cumulative expansion of the intervening fractures.  The skeletal frame of the shale moves identically whether at depth the initial hydraulic pressure is maintained without proppants or an equivalent “effective” grain-to-grain proppant stress is maintained.  Maintaining a constant hydraulic pressure at depth would require perpetually injecting new water along the hydrofrack line; maintaining effective proppant stress does not require new water though this proppant stress has the same geomechanical effect on the surrounding shale.

In order to hydrofrack in the first place, the water pressure had to have been larger than the minimum in situ principal stress within the shale.  Any induced fracture whose interior tensile pressure is maintained at depth, whether by continuing to inject new water (to maintain its interior hydraulic pressure) or by proppant-to-proppant stresses, will continue to expand in the local direction of minimum resistance.  In order to accomplish this feat most easily and efficiently, the fracture’s interior walls migrate upward rather than outward. In principle, such a fracture will gradually increase its length forever.

Pre-existing planes or surfaces of weakness within the overlying shale also influence the direction of upward fracture migration.  The next earthquake could be triggered when the upward migration of a zone of fractures or enhanced porosity intersects the plane of an active fault zone and then follows this plane of weakness preferentially.  This would essentially “lubricate” the opposing faces of the fault and trigger the next earthquake.

MDE and DNR can no longer ignore the very real prospect of contamination through subsurface processes, especially because such contamination is unavoidable. The unleashed upward density flow of methane will follow the upward migration of fractures and porosity enhancement into and through aquifers.  Hydrofracked gas will commence an inexorable journey through the shale towards the overlying atmosphere.

As an international authority on the physics of this geodynamic process, I believe that the only conscionable decision our officials and representatives in Annapolis can make is to ban hydrofracking in Maryland.  On their shoulders rest the continued health of residents in two counties, the well-being of their lives, the sanctity of our State’s environment, the life-giving resource of its streams and groundwater, to say nothing of the world’s atmosphere

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As Frederick native and resident of Baltimore who has lived in Maryland all my life, I am deeply concerned about the potential for fracking to irreparably damage our state.

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I am deeply concerned about the prospect of allowing hydraulic fracturing in Maryland. My reasons follow:

1. It has been definitively linked to earthquakes in Ohio.

2. It uses voluminous amounts of water - at a time when this resource is becoming scarcer.

3. Its "cocktail" of chemicals has not been publicly disclosed. Evidence provided by fracking-area residents is that the chemicals are toxic, are finding their way into residents' bodies and are causing debilitating and tragic health conditions.

4. It releases the potent greenhouse gas methane.

5. The wells and wastewater sites desecrate beautiful natural landscapes and deprive local flora and fauna of habitat.

6. Investment in fracking diverts investment from sustainable energy technologies, such as wind, wave and geo-thermal.

Given such a list of concerns, an approval of fracking in Maryland would constitute en egregious attack on the state's residents' health and future.

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I have just become aware that forced pooling is still a possibility in Maryland. I have attended meetings and tried to keep abreast of the many and complex issues that face us in western Maryland. At a recent meeting, I was greatly relieved when I heard you say forced pooling is not being considered. In fact, I wrote you, complimenting your part in bringing this decision about. I am shaken, now, as I recall reassurances of "transparency." If I understand correctly, at an August Workshop on Governance of Risks of Unconventional Shale Gas Development, the power point slide presentation included the following: "Will efficiencies be reduced unless Maryland adopts forced pooling?" Clearly, the industry and its allies would be the benefactors, not the landowner who does not want his land touched. I was beginning to trust that your agency was working to make a more level playing field. My trust is shaken. Badly shaken. How can you expect landowners, residents, taxpayers to take you at face value? I hope following the example of other states is avoided when the longings of your taxpayers are second fiddle to an industry that benefits at the expense of the very people you are being "transparent" with.

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I am a relatively new resident to Garrett County and moved here because of how beautiful it is.  That it could all be destroyed breaks my heart.

I understand the decision to have a Best Management Practices ready if the moratorium is ever lifted.  In all honesty, I hope it is never lifted.  However, the following are my comments for the BMP.

Setbacks - I am very concerned that the setbacks are not far enough away to protect our water supply, whether it be from a drinking water well or a municipal source.  The BMP report calls for 1,000 foot setbacks from water wells, and 2,000 feet from public water supplies.  Since finding out that contamination can occur when any fracked well is as far away as 3,280 feet. There was another study that found different contaminants associated with fracking within up to 5 miles of gas development.  As it is not certain how far these substances can migrate, setbacks need to be at the greatest distance possible.
Well casing integrity - it seems to me that much more needs to be done to be certain that all water resources near wells are protected.

Emissions - The leakage of methane associated with shale gas production and the "flaring" should be prohibited.  This practice is too much of a hazard and negates any of the "clean energy" promised.  

Tracer Chemicals - It is important that BMP’s require tracer chemicals to be added to hydraulic fracturing fluid so the origin of toxic pollutants accidentally released from shale gas development can be more easily traced.

Water Use - Maryland must revise its permitting regulations to address these water issues, Maryland must require withdrawals be only from large rivers or reservoirs.

Wastewater Storage and Disposal - It is upsetting to think that this could be dumped illegally, however, it has been proven that this happens all the time.  I understand that Maryland will not allow it to be dumped or stored in this state, however, there is danger in transporting it elsewhere.  If those transporting this had tracking and kept logs as well as using tracer chemicals to track illegally dumped water I might feel a bit safer.

Enforcement - I do not understand how this will be enforced.  How often will the wells be monitored? 

To sum up my feelings I believe allowing hydraulic fracking in Maryland would be disastrous to the environment, quality of life and the economy.  It has proven to be an unsafe and unsustainable energy source.

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As a resident of Allegany County, MD, I feel the Marcellus Shale Draft Report on Best Management Practices is not thorough enough and I would like to see a risk analysis done before any drilling is even considered. One area of concern is there was no mention of monitoring air quality, which has been an issue in other areas where drilling is happening due to the compressor stations and leaking methane. A study done by The Colorado School of Health found air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing may contribute to “acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites". (http://attheforefront.ucdenver.edu/?p=2546&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+theforefront+%28%40theForefront%29). I also have serious concerns about your suggestion of "forced pooling" of properties, which I believe violates personal property rights. I lack confidence about oversight and regulation, even if these best practices are put into place.

I am not okay with ANY risk to my health and well-being and believe allowing natural gas drilling in our area will be detrimental to our water, land, and health.

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As a Maryland citizen I would like to submit my response to the draft Best Practices report for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction. I believe that the proposed practices can be improved by the following considerations.

It is clear that there is a large potential for economic gains, which would be shared by the industry, landowners, shareholders, and citizens in general. However, these gains must be weighed against costs and risks. The risks to health and environment are difficult to measure, often hinging on geology, chemistry, and details of compliance, monitoring and inspection.

One difficulty about making an informed assessment is that detailed and complete information on fracking chemicals is not available. Once pumped underground, chemicals cannot be monitored or controlled over time. Wells leak and fail sometimes, and over time are strained by shifting underground strata. It is unsafe and undemocratic that fracking chemicals are exempt from disclosure and public health precautions. These chemicals, like all large-scale environmental releases, may have unforeseen effects over the long term. No truly intelligent decision can be made until this information is recognized as belonging in the public domain.

In addition to the risks of chemicals pumped into the ground, large volumes of water return to the surface with the same chemicals, plus radiotoxic brine. The Report calls for recycling of this water "to the maximum extent practicable". This language is vague and leaves many questions of risk: how is 'practicable' determined? How clean must the 'recycled' water be? What is done with the contaminants that are removed in the water recycling? There are many such unresolved questions, and in most cases, there is a financial incentive to underestimate the long-term costs and complications.

Beyond the chemical risks, it is well known that global temperatures are rising due to overuse of fossil fuels. To protect the global climate from effects of rising ocean temperatures, safe fuels are available. Renewable fuels are currently more expensive, but that is mainly because the long-term costs of extracting and using fossil fuels are underappreciated. The Draft Report Practices rely expensively on mappings and measurements (e.g., of subsurface rock permeability) that are made with a financial incentive to underestimate risk.

Fracking's economic benefits include jobs, but since the gas is finite, the jobs are temporary. Thus the primary economic benefits are in the wealth generated, mainly to landowners and gas companies, and also the economy in general. Weighing the costs and hazards against the value of the fuel and its economic benefits, long-term safety trumps relatively short-term energy and financial gains. The Report provides estimates of some of the risks, but the risks are not really known because they are not scientifically assessible over future decades. I urge you to consider these science based arguments, and to support the long-term health of Maryland and its citizens.

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As a landowner and lifelong resident of Western Maryland, I have concerns drilling Marcellus Shale for natural gas production, and its impact on our land and communities.  These are my comments for the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Best Practices report.

Section IV, Subset B, Transportation Planning: Truck traffic during school bus transportation. I would like to add that there are schools in Western Maryland where truck traffic would use roads adjacent to schools. The amount of dust and particle emissions from the diesel engines would impact the health of school children, especially those on playgrounds.  It is common practice for truck owners to modify their diesel injection systems to generate more power.  However, the result of these modifications is a large increase in black soot from the trucks' tailpipes.  This will need to be regulated if the trucks are to go pass a school. 

Section VI, Subset A, Site Construction and Sediment and Erosion Control:  The draft report calls for an impermeable berm so that the pad can contain at least the volume of 2.7 inches of rainfall within a 24 hour period.  I believe this amount to be insufficient.  As stated in numerous studies on climate change, the mid-Atlantic region is experiencing an increase in heavy downpours.  We have seen numerous storms that resulted in more than 2" of precipitation within a couple hours.  4" of localized rainfall within 24 hours has occurred more than once within the last 5 years in Western Maryland.  Please modify the draft regulations to handle 4" of rainfall within a 24 hour period.

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I am a resident of Garrett County and have been actively researching the impacts of shale gas development on communities.  I support the full comments submitted by CitizenShale, but would like to emphasize a few areas I believe are crucial to review.
 
My strongest feeling about the suggested BMP report is that these BMPs are not based on a Maryland-specific risk analysis. I believe doing a risk analysis similar to the one commissioned by the EU (link to report) is necessary before completing a BMP report.  See especially TABLE ES1, which lists areas to be analyzed.

That said, I will still make comment on what I feel is a premature report:
 
A grave concern is the concept of CGDPs.  I am not sure how this will benefit communities, other than to inform them whether they are sacrifice zones or not. Requiring CGDP would likely increase the pressure by industry to use forced pooling to complete the industry-identified 600 acres ideal for drilling.  Forced pooling of mineral interests, although not the same as real property, appears to be a violation of property rights. It is one thing for public utilities to TAKE land “for the greater good,” but forced pooling of leases is a clear TAKE by private for-profit businesses. Landowners in other states are suing to retain the right not to lease.  Marylanders will certainly do the same.  But the state should protect landowners.  Our only recourse against this practice of taking should not be to sue our neighbors and gas developers.
 
Setbacks recommended in the draft Best Management Practices Report are not enough.  A Duke University Study found that 82% of drinking water wells monitored within a 5 kilometer radius of drill bore were likely to contain stray methane.  Of those, the wells within one kilometer (3280 feet) were 6 times more likely to contain stray methane. (report)   University of Texas Arlington has released a report establishing a 3 kilometer distance of impact between drill pads and drinking water wells.  This study was similar to the Duke study that measured methane concentrations in drinking water.  The Texas study shows significant risk to drinking water wells within 3 kilometers, not of methane contamination, but of metals, including arsenic.  Three kilometers is near the length of most horizontal well-bores. The setbacks should be extended at least to 3300 feet.
 
Drinking water used in and potentially impacted by the fracking process is the last point I will address.  Every frack uses up to 4 million gallons of water.  In the western states where fracking continues, whole towns have run out of water. One frack in Maryland would use about one day’s worth of water for the people living over the shale.  Any spills could contaminate surface and subsurface drinking water supplies.  The National Forest Service will likely ban fracking in the George Washington National Forest, which lies in the Mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.  The reason: There is enough evidence to suggest that the process and the potential for spills poses risks to the drinking water supply for millions of people, including those living in the Washington, DC. (Article)
 
If there is enough evidence to ban fracking in a National Forest, why would we do it anywhere in Maryland, especially in an area that provides drinking water to not only DC, but also Pittsburgh and other surrounding highly populated areas?  This is actually part of the charge of MDE and the MSAC, to decide whether it is safe to frack here.  It seems we finally have enough evidence to say:  As long as the current technology poses such a threat, Maryland will not allow fracking. Technology changes, and companies want the gas.  They will make adjustments, and perhaps then, it will be safe enough.  But for now, without the proper risk analysis, MDE should throw out the idea that there can be Best Management Practices that would make hydraulic fracturing safe.  Put a ban on natural gas development using current HVHF technology.  Save yourself headaches and law suits.

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The following comments are on behalf of the Savage River Watershed Association and in response to the Best Management Practices recommended by the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative's Advisory Commission. Preface to BMP response:

Decision Making Process
First, we are concerned about the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission as it relates specifically to transparency in decision-making process. How are reports developed: is it by vote, by building consensus, are votes public, can there be dissenting reports, and specifically, are all the stakeholders' positions made public? These are concerns we have so that we understand better how decisions and reports are accomplished. We wish to know whether all stakeholders views are represented and where divided opinion exists.

SRWA is concerned that, in some cases, the UMCES-AL Best Management Practices Report and Recommendations are weakened rather than followed or strengthened. Will Commissioners be able to vote on these changes made by MDE?

Enforcement of BMP's
SRWA is extremely concerned with regard to lack of addressing enforcement and penalties relating to BMP's to ensure that our environment, our homes, our backyards are protected and safe. SRWA believes that the lack of aggressively enforced site construction practices pose the greatest threat to the health of local streams and water quality. Pad construction, feeding lines, and access roads will expose vast amounts of acreage to potential erosion. This huge potential sediment transfer control issue could kill aquatic life and destroy fisheries. BMPs to address storm water management and erosion control must be extremely comprehensive and innovative. BMPs should also be more expansive and address short- and long-term (legacy) issues. Second, as we know BMPs drive the creation of regulations, and regulations are only as effective as enforcement and inspection practices. There is much experience by those in fisheries conservation who have witnessed time and again how streams and fisheries were constantly destroyed because of poor enforcement.

SRWA would like to see the following requirement: We want the State to secure and fund an external independent environmental consulting and auditing entity or capability (firm) to perform daily independent inspection of all on-the-ground drilling activities to ensure full compliance of all regulations. This firm will host bi-monthly or monthly public meetings to address current concerns and complaints with local stakeholders. Oversight of this firm will be provided by a small Board of Directors composed of local civic leaders. And lastly, that "drilling fees" be established by MDE with a line-item breakdown of drilling fees and what they include so that it is possible to ensure that adequate funds for inspection and enforcement is possible.

This firm will fill the following roles:

A. insure that the enforcement and inspection function is adequately funded, well managed and staffed with qualified personnel;

B. promote transparency via bi-monthly or monthly public meetings to address issues in a timely manner;

C. protect the enforcement and inspection function from political and energy sector intimidation or influence;

D. perform ongoing auditing and reporting functions to track the effectiveness of regulatory enforcement practices; and

E. provide an external source of objective expertise relating to drilling practices.

We are suggesting this requirement for the following reasons:

1. With current staffing and funding, MDE cannot do an effective job of enforcement.

2. County agency(s) staffing are not up to the challenge of enforcing drilling activities

3. This entity will provide special, objective expertise to make informed decisions.

Lastly, SRWA strongly urges the funding (via a severance tax) of a special conservation fund of $100 million for restoration activities resulting from drilling legacy issues.

The funds collected to address legacy issues are in addition and separate from funds that will be collected to address short-term environmental damages resulting from drilling.

Hydrologic/geologic Studies
Without thorough hydrological/geologic studies done in Garrett and Allegany counties, we believe that risk analysis regarding drinking water impact is impossible.

Since the Governor has indicated that he wishes to develop the "gold standard" for Marcellus Shale gas drilling and exploration, it would appear that in some cases, strengthening, not weakening existing industry BMP's is essential for this goal to be met; e.g., increased standards for well casings and pipelines, given migrations and leaks. In addition, where science is available to assist in determining BMP's, it should be consistent with conclusions developed from that science such as in adequate setbacks from water supplies, and lastly, where science does not exist such as in hydrologic/geologic studies in western Maryland, such science and analysis should be performed in order to develop any form of risk analysis.

Vagueness of some BMP's and its Relation to Risk Analysis/Assessment
On a related matter, SRWA is concerned about vagueness in some of the BMP's and the impact of such vagueness on the Risk Analysis/Assessment component of the entire process. When the Commissioners are evaluating activities performed in the risk assessment process and the activity is following the BMP guidelines, each Commissioner can view the activity quite differently because of the vagueness of some BMP language, and thus the probability and the consequence can also be viewed quite differently by each Commissioner. It is imperative for success of the Risk Assessment/ Analysis component that all Commissioners are seeing each activity in the same manner with the same probability and same consequence.

To this point, the proposed BMP's have language such as "where practicable," "encouraged," and "reasonable use." "Where practicable" is used six times in the proposal, "encouraged" is used three times, and "reasonable use" is used eight times. That is a total of 17 occurrences where common understanding is likely not to occur. Also, monitoring and enforcement are far more difficult when regulations and/or BMP's use such language. How can penalties be instituted, if at all, with such vagueness?

Response to BMP's with recommendations where appropriate:
Setbacks
Regarding setbacks and recently reported studies (e.g., Duke University’s research on methane leakage into drinking water near PA drilling sites), there seems to be sufficient data to warrant a minimum 3300 foot setback from any public or private well or water supply. We strongly recommend this. (Both the Duke and UT-Arlington studies were published after UMCES BMP's report.)

Lack of sufficient BMPs for well casings and pipelines
Regarding industry BMP's for well casings and pipelines, the UMCES report recommends using industry standards. EPA reports at 8.9% well casing failure rate for 2012, and a 7.1% failure rate in 2011 in Pennsylvania.

Given abundance of recent reports of gas line failures and explosions across the country related to natural gas, it is clear that in this regard, industry BMP's are insufficient and Maryland should demand better. Therefore, we recommend that current industry standards be exceeded for pipeline construction and well casings.

Transportation of waste material
There appears to be a serious lack of regulation/enforcement regarding transportation of volatile and dangerous materials (waste water) via trucks as they navigate our rural roads and, in particular, towns and villages. BMP's should include recommendations for truck routes, for example.

Risk Analysis
There are no thorough hydrologic/geologic studies in the two westernmost counties. We understand that a limited number of test wells will be drilled in Garrett County to begin to address this deficit. We would like to see an assessment of how the information from test wells will be used, the time frame for this research, and the models that will be used to extrapolate these data to all potential drilling areas of the westernmost counties (since a thorough study has not been funded in MD). Only until these questions are answered can a risk analysis be contemplated. Without a credible risk analysis, shale gas development should not proceed.

Emissions and Sound
We strongly support a stronger stance be taken regarding emissions and sound. While we commend the Commission's position on following EPA's hazardous emission standards, we take the position that no flaring be permitted and a stronger stance on prohibiting internal combustion engines for compressors and the like.

Given the report recommends that local governments develop their own standards governing noise and given that most of Garrett County has no zoning, controlling noise and controlling traditional zoning elements to protect citizens falls to the State. Clearly, this is a tough issue, but we wish the State to protect us where the county fails. Therefore, we strongly recommend that the BMP's recommend local zoning be adopted in Garrett County so that it can better protect it's citizens in this regard. If the Commission will not recommend that local zoning is integral to best management practices, then would they, at a minimum, provide recommendations for specific zoning elements; e.g., noise.

Industry Accountability Regarding Leakage
Since leakage of gas and chemicals is certainly going to happen, we recommend requiring tracer chemicals designed to establish the source of any leakage of chemicals.

Water Appropriation
Finally, we wish to address water appropriation. Given the massive amounts of water required to perform fracking, we wish to see recommendations limiting water withdrawals to areas where more than an "adequate reserve" is present such as reservoirs, lakes, and large rivers. "Adequate reserve" needs to be operationally defined, and we support the UMCES recommendation that MDE regulations be reviewed, and revised as necessary, regarding water withdrawal.

Savage River Watershed Association Board members have observed trucks illegally withdrawing water from Savage River, a premier brook trout stream, when water levels have been very low. Current water appropriation regulations are insufficient to address this matter even without fracking. We recommend that MDE establish a citizen reporting program for water withdrawals, and funding for such an educational program must be budgeted, as well as additional MDE enforcers.

We thank you for the opportunity to respond to your recommendations and look forward to seeing these issues thoroughly addressed.

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I am a resident of Howard County Maryland.  I have been to Garrett County for cross country skiing and now look forward to taking my grandson there in a few years to learn this sport.  I was introduced to cross country skiing by a friends with 2 boys who spent every winter weekend looking for forecasts of snow and then heading to western Maryland when it looked promising.

From what I have seen of fracking in Pennsylvania and West Virginian and the industrialization that it brings, I can't imagine that visiting Western Maryland would be as attractive.

It seems premature try to finalize these BMP before other impact studies are in on health impacts, climate impacts. Etc.  A thorough risk assessment should be done before we in Maryland can decide whether we can frack without risk to the general public welfare and if so how. 

It seems naive to think that the State can rely to the voluntary cooperation of industry to group sites. 

1.  Re Setbacks - Section IV.  We need the greatest setback possible Studies have shown contamination can be as far as 3,000 ft to 5 miles. 

2.  Well Casing Integrity - Section V (10) and VI F, 1, 2, 3 - We know that well casing fail.  PA reports a 7.2% failure rate.  We know that over 30 years almost all fail in some way.  Given that toxic substances are used to frack and the radioactive substances come up with the fracking water, how can we depend on casing that substantially over time fail?

3.  Methane Emissions -  (Section VI J &L)  Maryland is trying to reduce the State's greenhouse gas emissions.  The BMP's do not require companies to have a zero leakage rate for methane. 

4.  Tracer Chemical  Sections VI D and VII d - "Best practices" should definitely require the use of  tracer chemicals so that we can intelligently continue to do risk assessment and not have to guess if there is contamination where it came from

5.  Water Use - (Sect VI C2, and Appendix F ) 1-F) - the up to 5 million gallons of water needed to frack may impact our water supply.  If a decision is made to frack, water withdrawal should come only from large rivers or reservoirs and ONLY if the State deems supplies plentiful.  If there is a dry spell or water level decrease, the State should intermediately cut off the water supply for fracking until the supply is deemed sufficient.  Constant monitoring should be done. 

6.  Waste water storage and disposal.  Sect VI A E, VI B, and VI K. It is good that there should be no waste disposal in Maryland.  What are the provisions if this is violated  The site should be immediately shut down.  This gets to the issue of sufficient inspectors and enforcement.  It is sad that we are then imposing our waste on other States.  But since the waste is toxic all trucks/vehicles hauling the waste should be well labeled and their routes logged. 

7.  Enforcement.  Sect VII B C D F.  The BMPs are very weak on enforcement.  How many inspectors will there be per well?  What will be done if violations are found?  Will they have the authority to shut down violating sites.  All violations should be posted on public website and the remedies posted and tracked.  Very strict enforcement is needed.  Experience in other States has shown this is not an industry that can regulate itself.  Another commenter pointed out that in Texas they have one regulator for every three fracking sites and have an external contamination rate of only 1 in 1000.  We need to assure that we have sufficient regulators and they the State has and uses enforcement power.   The BMP’s show discuss the risks of inadequate enforcement (insufficient regulators, insufficient funding and insufficient power to shut down errant sites.)   Without enforcement, the regulations and best practices can become meaningless.  

8.  Forced of compulsory Pooling - Citizens of Maryland should be assured that the State will never force landowners who own their mineral rights to allow extraction of the resources (gas) under their land without their consent. Sect VII C.

I believe the comments to date are  submitted are substantive and the BMPs should be redrafted, based on comments received and the final additional studies being done, before they go forward. 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

###

I write to you to share some of my thoughts about the subject of drilling for gas in Garrett County.  To be clear, I am in favor of being allowed to drill for my gas and to take it to market.  As it stands now, my State government is blocking me from selling property that I bought with hard earned dollars.

I am extremely disturbed by this action.  I can still sell the timber from my land if I so choose, or even a big rock , if someone wants to buy it.  But not MY gas.
 
I write some comparisons, that it seems no one wants to discuss.
 
Highlighted  below is an excerpt from the furnished report.
 
Certain people in our state are so concerned about drilling for this gas that it has been, for all practical purposes, stopped / blocked.
 
1. How does the drilling for this gas equate to the construction of all the windmills on our once beautiful mountaintops, with the subsequent damages to same with the site pads, road ways, power line right of ways, etc.?
 
2. How does the drilling for this gas equate to the tens of thousands of tons of salt our government dumps on the highways each year with the ongoing destruction of the water wells, water sources, and beautiful trout streams that absorb all this salt year after year?  Not to mention the destruction of the forests that are "downwind" of these salted highways?  Our State Roads Dept. puts more salt on our roads per mile, per inch of snow, than any other state in the entire USA.  One can very easily learn how our government reacts to this destruction by salt to "cover up "and “hide "the ongoing effects of this salt contamination.
 
3.  Our beautiful trout streams,,,, have many have thought about, and discussed the damage to our trout streams that is coming from the total eradication of all the hemlock trees by the wooly adelgid insect and the hemlock red rust fungus ?  We get no help at all from our government to save these trees, and yet when all hemlock are gone, so will most of our trout.
 
Let's put all this into perspective,,, I want to know why our leaders allow certain proven destructions of the below, and yet block un-proven actions.

###

I have spent hours and at least three sessions reading and taking notes from the document:  Recommended Best Management Practices for Marcellus Gas Development in Maryland.

Water is our most valuable and finite natural resource.  It should be valued and conserved.  Some scientists say that the Earth is at "peak water" right now.  I am not a scientist, however I know we cannot afford to waste water.  The volume of water used to frack one well is estimated to be at least 4 million gallons.  One well may be fracked 10 times.  No water should be withdrawn from our state’s rivers and reservoirs for fracking.  Disposal of waste-water is equally problematic.  Injection wells have caused earthquakes.  Water from this industrial process should not be treated at a local sewage treatment facility which is not equipped to handle these kinds of chemicals. Evaporation and crystallization when combined with other chemicals which may be used/mixed on-site at gas-wells cause ground-level ozone which have serious health consequences on people, animals and plants.

The charts on page 14, Table I, Existing Setback Requirements listing distances from the borehead of a gas-well to structures and to private water-wells are absurd.  I would like to ask the two men who authored this document, Mr. Eshleman and Mr. Elmore - also State of Maryland officials and Garrett and Allegany County officials if they would justify an industrial gas-drilling compound just 500 feet from their well-water and/or their residence?  Which of them considers this safe?  The noise, truck traffic and lights 24/7 are not only for thirty days as industry would like the public to believe.  Some well pads may have more than one well, as many as 6-10, drilled in sequence.  Companies may continue with these wells for years.  Completion may not happen in our life-time.

And what about the devaluation of private property?  Selling a property in close proximity to an area where there is gas-drilling operations is unlikely.  Citizens who have not signed leases and own their surface and mineral rights should not be forced to "pool".  Maryland needs to provide financial compensation to owners who do not wish to lease but however may be forced to pool.  The degradation of their assets must be considered.

The security and social costs to our rural communities if drilling occurs must be considered.  An influx in population creates demand on police, fire and EMS.  These services are paid for by local taxpayers and sometimes the people are volunteers.  They are not trained for blow-outs - nor do they know how to handle accidents dealing with gas-well chemicals.  "A list" will not help them or me if a blow-out occurs on a dead-end road.  And a few days worth of training sponsored by the gas company does not cut it.

I grew up in Garrett County in the 1960's when Texas Eastern came to drill vertical gas-wells.  I remember hearing of the bar-room brawls and fighting in the streets of Friendsville sometimes with involvement of guns.  I can relate an incident which involved my father and brother.  They were called out of bed in the early morning by a neighbor.  His call:  "Come quick.  Someone’s breaking into my house".  Yes, it was a gas-worker.  Studies have shown an increase in crime in areas where gas-drilling is going on.  Just last week in Wheeling WV, a student at Wheeling Jesuit University was killed by 4 gas-workers.  Two men are in custody and two are still on the loose.

Regulations and rules are only as good as the people who INFORCE them.  Industry cannot be left to police itself.  Local officials are not qualified to over-see gas-drilling operations with issues such as air-quality and chemical spills.  There must be standards which ARE INFORCED at every step of the process.  The State of Maryland must have trained professional regulators who have no ties to gas companies.  And please, do not defer to Penn State as mentioned in the document.  Anyone who has been paying attention knows that their studies are heavily funded by industry.

I consider myself very fortunate at present.  I have a good quality of life. I am in good health, own my small beautiful property and have relative quiet and peace.  The thought of being forced to give up any of this is troubling to say the least.  I am tired of thinking of the possibility of gas-wells and trying to come up with a "plan B" of escape should gas-wells become a reality 500 feet from my kitchen window.  I am also resentful that I am forced to learn more and more and more in order to try and protect something which is mine and should not be in jeopardy.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my comments.

###

I am puzzled how you can develop these BMPs with no proper scientific basis.

I think you need to go back to step 1.

###

I hope the Maryland Department of the Environment will:

1. Re-submit these BMPs for public comments after they have completed a health study and risk assessment.

2. Say no to a medical gag rule in Maryland.

3. Create enforceable rules that allow zero methane leakage. Thank you for considering my comments.

I am a concerned resident of Maryland. I want to recommend some improvements to the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland. I believe that the state should not have drafted BMPs before conducting a risk assessment and a health study. This would have allowed us to better understand the threats to our water, air, land and health posed by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, and how to address those threats. It seems egregious that the BMPs would let drilling companies impose a gag rule on doctors and nurses who treat patients exposed to secret chemicals and hazardous materials. The use of trade secret rules and confidentiality agreements work to keep information from regulators, policymakers, health care professionals and the news media, and make it difficult to assess the effects of gas production on public health and the environment. Finally, I am concerned that these BMPs would allow for dangerous increases in methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas that will cause 21 times as much warming as an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period.

###

Enclosed you will find links to two important research papers published about fracking. Here in PA we are suffering from major health, environmental and property loss from the UNCONVENTIONAL Gas drilling that has been taking place in Pa since 2006.  The impacts are large scale negative impacts that can't be reversed and will be problematic for many years and the future generations that will come after us.

I personally have been working with families who have been harmed by the industry which has abandoned any responsibility to help correct the problems they have caused. We have hundreds of families that haven't had safe potable water for over 4 years now. Families that are either purchasing bottled water or relying on contributions from people like myself who do fundraising to help them with the costs.  As you can imagine the cost is great and many can't afford the water and also are suffering with health issues related to drilling.

It has come to my attention that MD is considering whether or not to allow the industry into its boarders.  All I can offer is PLEASE do the research and find out that this industry is not safe, nor can it ever be the way it is being done. Dr. Tony Ingraffa from Cornell University is an expert in the field and I have enclosed the most recent paper he has published on the subject.  He is an expert on the subject as he helped to design the technique of Slick water hydrofracking and is adamant that it is not safe and should be outlawed from use.

There is also expert testimony from Mr. Louis W. Allsdat.  He is a former CEO of Exxon Mobile who warns us that fracking is dangerous and should be stopped before it's too late.  You can read his testimony here: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/17605-former-mobil-vp-warns-of-fracking-and-climate-change

The other resources I am giving you are from Dr. Ingraffa and the list of the harmed.  It is updated on a monthly basis and now has over 1,600 cases of people who have been impacted from the gas extraction being done today.

It is up to us to protect the earth from any further impacts that will jeopardize the drinking water, soil and air quality for generations that will come after us.  Each day there are new reports of the dangers of fracking and problems that are occurring where ever this is being done.  PA, TX, CO, NC, WV and Ohio all have suffered the same negative impacts from this industry.  It is important that you consider all this information before allowing this to happen to the state of MD.  There is enough information out now to know that this is not the answer to our energy needs and will only harm us in the end.  Please consider another moratorium before allowing the gas industry to destroy MD like is continues to do in PA each day they are operating.

Thank you for your time.  I hope that you will research the enclosed links and also do more investigating for your selves.  There is enough out there to know this is a bad idea for any state.
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-012-0401-0
http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/

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These comments are submitted by a group of citizens/property owners of Garrett and Allegany Counties, who seek to encourage productive development of the resources of those counties. We believe that the MDEIDNR Recommended Practices (the "Practices") are problematic and should be reconsidered in the following respects:

I. Incorrect Approach to Best Practices
The Practices as recommended rely primarily upon the environmental science report and focus, almost entirely, on suggestions for the ultimate environmental protections without adequate review and consideration of practices for efficient production of shale gas. This is not the proper focus of a best practices study.

The Practices recommendation was undertaken pursuant to an Executive Order directing a study to include recommendations for best practices for all aspects of natural gas exploration and production in the Marcellus Shale in Maryland. A popular definition of a best practice defines it as the "best way to do something; the most effective or efficient method of achieving an objective or completing a task." [Bing Dictionary]. By focusing primarily on the environmental science report and largely ignoring industry recommendations for the most efficient and effective means of production, the Practices recommendations fail to fulfill the stated purposes.

II. Comprehensive Gas Development Plan
The Practice report recommends a mandatory Comprehensive Gas Development Plan ("CGDP") covering all facilities to be developed in an area over a five (5) year span. Although the environmental study suggested voluntary plans, the Practices require a mandatory plan, thereby adding an additional, time consuming and expensive planning requirement to review locations of all contemplated facilities intended by a prospective driller who may not yet even have obtained the leases, options, rights-of-way and other property rights. Besides the huge preparation difficulties, this requirement also lacks defined standards of review and allows approval/disapproval virtually at the discretion of the "State" (presumably meaning MDE).

In addition, the process of plan reviews is to include a complex process of State review, local government review, stakeholder comments and public comments following a public meeting. Then, the approval/disapproval decision would probably be appealable to a court in a de novo proceeding.

Although there are some benefits to such a plan in coordination and siting, these can be accomplished by a regulation in regard to pooling and siting of facilities, without the addition of an entire pre-development level of planning reviews, hearings and potential litigation.

III. The Two Year Pre-Development Study
In Section VII, the Practices recommendations describe a minimum of two (2) years of predevelopment data collected and reported according to state development guidelines. The indication is that this study must follow the Plan approval and must precede application for a specific well. Further, no such requirement in any other jurisdiction is identified.

No justification is identified for the imposition of this lengthy and expensive data collection and reporting requirement. The effect is to add an additional two (2) years on top of the potential two to four year period required to obtain an approved Comprehensive Plan before application for a specific drilling permit. Because an eventual drilling permit would be subject a review/appeal process, there is the likelihood that the recommended Practices would involve a five to seven year span before drilling could occur. Such Practices, in effect, would prolong the de facto moratorium on shale gas drilling in Maryland.

IV. Other Excessive Requirements
MDE/DNR are recommending a number of other requirements (in addition to the two requirements identified in Parts II and III above) which significantly exceed the requirements of adjoining jurisdictions where gas is currently being produced. A few of these additional requirements are outlined below:

A. Existing Requirements.
Maryland has already adopted (although not necessarily as a result of this study) some additional requirements, such as:
i. Financial Insurance Requirements (including performance bond and environmental liability insurance as modified by SB 854 of the 2013 Session including Closure/Reclamation Cost estimates, performance bond and environmental liability insurance) that exceed those of adjoining jurisdictions.
ii. Maryland has adopted a zone of presumptive liability for effects upon water sources that extends 2,500 ft. B.

B.  Additional Recommendations
In addition, the Practices recommendations include many more restrictions that exceed those of adjoining jurisdictions. Some of them are:
i. The recommendation of a required closed-loop drilling system to occur on zero-discharge pad sites. There is no mention of such a requirement in any adjoining jurisdiction. In fact, there are some indications that other jurisdictions allow off-site impoundment and storage with reasonable lining and other precautions.
ii. A recommendation to require on-site management of flowback and produced water. Other jurisdictions are reported as allowing off-site treatment at treatment facilities and to allow use of produced water at additional off-site drilling locations. The Maryland recommendations appear to preclude pretreatment off-site, treatment at treatment plants and also to discourage transport of such water for use at other sites. The result is the proposed Maryland Practices offer no solution to the major concerns about handling of flowback and produced water.
iii. The recommended Practices preclude the use of any pits or ponds outside the drill pad and that all fluids other than fresh water are kept in closed tanks. This is contrary to practices in adjoining jurisdictions.
iv. The recommended practices include mandatory chemical content disclosures which do not allow an exception for propriety trade secrets in the manner allowed in other jurisdictions.

V. Effect of Proposed Excessive Requirements
The developable Marcellus Shale area of Garrett and western Allegany Counties is only a tiny fraction (estimated to be 1% or less) of the large areas that are presently being drilled and developed in the nearby states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. The very difficult and time consuming additional requirements now proposed for Maryland in the draft Practices are, in important respects, not required in these nearby areas. Ordinary business judgment suggests that it is highly unlikely that prospective drillers will undertake the large additional burdens necessary to enter Maryland to explore the relatively tiny area of the Maryland shale gas play.

Therefore, there is a major risk that the numerous additional requirements suggested in the draft Practices will have the effect of extending a de facto moratorium on shale gas development in Maryland. We strongly encourage rethinking and revision of the proposed Practices, to reduce the burden of additional requirements wherever possible while retaining reasonable protections for the environment.

 ###

As a citizen of Maryland, I am taking the opportunity to comment on the draft "best management practices" for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

From reading reports in the news media and information from the Governor's office, I understood that an assessment of whether hydraulic fracturing should be allowed in Maryland was to be made.  The draft "best practices" does not determine WHETHER it is safe for the earth, animals, water, air and people of Maryland to be exposed to hydraulic fracturing.  It tells how hydraulic fracturing should be done.  I believe that the state should not have drafted BMPs before conducting a risk assessment and a health study.  To draft "best management practices" makes a decision that fracking will be allowed in this state.  Not, as I stated above, WHETHER fracking should be allowed.  We must first understand the threats to our water, air, land and health posed by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, and how to address those threats before we decide to DO it - actually frack.  

Particularly ominous amongst these "best practices" is the gag rule on health care providers who treat patients exposed to secret chemicals and hazardous materials.  The use of trade secret rules and confidentiality agreements work to keep information from regulators, policymakers, other health care professionals and the news media, and make it difficult to assess the effects of gas production on public health and the environment.

The beauty and perfection of our earth and the world she provides us to live deserve better.  The animals, plants, people, minerals, air and water of our mother earth deserve better.  You deserve better. 

Follow the original thoughtful call of the Governor and people of Maryland.  Assess the risks to life and health of the fracking process.  First. 

If the people of Maryland and our representatives determine that fracking is safe, then and only then, should we develop the rules for doing it.

###

Anyone who had a hand in drafting or approving these so-called "Best Management Practices" is either stupid or just plain evil.

Don't allow unnamed and uncontrolled chemicals to be injected into our water table, and DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT TRYING TO GAG OUR DOCTORS!

###

Section II – Overview
A. What “Best Practices” are Not

The term “Best Practices” conveys a sense of security, safety and of well-being, and this is the intent of this effort, however this does not mean that all possible ill effects associated with fracking can be avoided or eliminated by the recommendations of this report. Worldwide, fracking brings with it a series of thoroughly documented, adverse effects that cannot all be mitigated even by the most thorough and careful planning.
 
Earthquakes: Fracking by its very nature brings an increased incidence of earthquakes, even in areas of the world where earthquakes had been nonexistent.  Fracking drills a series of deep holes in the earth’s crust and in so doing creates areas of weakness.  Frequent earthquakes result in many areas where extensive fracking has taken place.  Recently fracking was discontinued in the United Kingdom because of earthquake occurrences. Best practices cannot prevent this.
 
Methane gas emission: Fracking opens up pockets of trapped natural gas buried deeply beneath the surface. Great volumes of methane gas are also trapped deep within the earth, and this methane, too, is released by fracking.  Inevitably fracking wells develop leaks and the methane gas ends up in local aquifers, wellheads and even kitchen sinks. [Current reports indicate that 5% of fracking wells fail initially and that nearly half of all fracking wells fail within 30 years.] Methane is highly flammable and tapwater containing methane gas is readily ignited.  The benefits, if any of fracking derived natural gas over oil and coal mentioned in the section on Marcellus Shale are more than offset when one takes into account the large amounts of methane gas released into the atmosphere or by fracking.  In addition, there are huge quantities of methane gas, noisily burned off at the wellheads, day and night, that create bright flares that are actually visible from space satellites and completely destroy the local tranquility. [“Gaslands 2” vividly documents all these adverse effects].  In addition, methane gas is the most potent of all the greenhouse gases.  As a result of fracking’s high incidence of methane gas release into the atmosphere, fracking-produced natural gas is by far the worst offender of all fossil fuels, regarding global warming and climate change.

Pollutants: There are two classes of pollutants associated with fracking.  Both cause severe problems that “best practices” do not truly mitigate.

  • Man-made pollutants. These are the secret, proprietary chemicals that comprise the “fracking fluid” that the federal government has exempted from the clean water, drinking water and clean air acts enforced by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  "Best Practices then permit the use of these unknown substances.  Transparency is thus excluded from best practices.  Furthermore, these man-made pollutants, from most accounts cannot be rendered nontoxic, nor can the water be cleansed from them.  Current “best practices” in many locations, including Pennsylvania, include storing them in underground man-made sites, in surface ponds, or pumping them to the far depths of the earth, in untreated form, in the undocumented belief that they will never return to the surface.  All these are forms of “Russian Roulette,” and are highly undeserving of being included as “best practices.”  In places where these highly toxic substances are removed from the “frack-water” their disposal is a severe, and unresolvable problem
  • Buried Pollutants: The second class of pollutants are substances that are buried in the earth and come to the surface with the fracking-released gases or fluids. They include toxic chemical salts, salts of boron, cadmium, arsenic and a variety of heavy metals, including radioactive ones.  These salts cannot be disposed of by local wastewater treatment plants,  nor can they be safely consigned to regional landfills.  The EPA has successfully filed a number of suits against firms that have attempted these ways of disposing of frack-induced undesirable salts. These attempted solutions will not work over the long run.

Handling, storage and transportation of these pollutants has resulted in another set of problems caused by factors such as: accidental spills at handling facilities, leakage from trucks and railroad tank cars, spillage due to human error, worn out equipment, wrecks, etc.  Furthermore, neither underground nor surface storage facilities are fully foolproof, accident-proof, or earthquake proof.  One way or another, an unacceptable quantity of these chemicals will eventually end up in the environment, “best practices” notwithstanding.

Fracking is by its very nature a mixed bag at best: it is good for some and horrible for others.  It will cause irreparable harm to citizens in many locales of our state, for the economic benefit of investors big business interests, and others. It will result in short term employment for many and long-term blight and ruin for others.  Law suits are costly and uncertain propositions at best and only come after irreparable damage has occurred.  They pit average citizens against wealthy economic interests.  Even best practices cannot change these components of the fracking process

Best Practices,” then are not a panacea for all that can potentially go wrong with the fracking process.  They are, in reality, our best attempts at mitigating adverse effects that cannot be fully or even adequately mitigated. Fracking will still destroy the tranquility of those regions where it is permitted: with brilliant methane flares day and night, with water-well pollution by methane and other toxic contaminants, such as man made fracking fluids, and heavy metal and radioactive salts from deep within the earth, with extreme traffic congestion due to the constant supply lines of trucks, and with depletion and/or pollution of the local supply of fresh water to meet the constant demands of the fracking industry.

###

There are no regulations that can make fracking safe. Fracking is an inherently dangerous threat to our water, our air, our communities, and our climate. Banning fracking in Maryland is the only responsible course of action.

###

The inclusion of a gag rule would detrimental to the well-being of patients and impede public health research. The state has a responsibility to protect the health of the public and for our state government to even consider imposing such a rule is unconscionable.

###

Thank you for your work in drafting the Best Management Practices report.  My name is _________ and I live in _________. I am a citizen concerned about fracking in the state of Maryland. The following are my comments to the report.

  • Comprehensive Gas Development Planning will create more intensive “sacrifice zones.”
  • The state must improve the 7.2% well casing failure rate reported in PA.
  • The BMPs should demand gas companies meet a zero percent methane leakage rate, as well as prohibit diesel generators.
  • The BMPs should follow UMCES – AL’s strong recommendations for adequate seismic survey.
  • The BMPs should require the use of a tracer chemical added to fracking fluids.
  • The BMPs should provide additional provisions regarding water withdrawal.
  • The BMPs should provide additional provisions regarding water withdrawal.
  • Placarding and GPS tracking/logs should be required for all waste hauling vehicles because of increased truck traffic carrying toxic fracking waste.
  • The BMPs do not provide structure for oversight from a state agency on placement of MSGD infrastructure
  • The BMPs lack a clear system for inspections and enforcement of regulations. 
  • The state should forbid forced pooling AS A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE.

 Thank you for considering these comments.

###

These are wonderful times! Imagine - we are being given the opportunity to carefully consider the beginning of an energy industry in our state. Our leaders and citizens are trying to get it right from the beginning instead of moping up the destruction and pollution after the fact.

Let's not mess it up! We can no longer afford environmental mistakes, We only have one planet! Let's not assume that since a pipe didn't break that it can't. Let's not assume that there will be plenty of water for drilling and drinking. Let's not assume that rural roads can handle family cars and heavy trucks. Let's not assume that fracking pads will be so numerous that we will visually accommodate them without noticing the scars that they will leave on our landscape.

We have less destructive energy sources to choose from - an endless supply of sun and wind.  Let's use these gifts from nature instead of drilling for a limited amount of energy.

###

I, along with many other Maryland citizens, am deeply concerned about hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Maryland. As you well know, there is no evidence confirming that fracking can be executed without jeopardizing the health of our citizens and our natural resources.
 
The intention of the Best Management Practices (BMPs) should be to protect human and environmental health. However, rigorous research is required to provide a scientific basis for these practices.  That research, to this date, has not been done in Maryland.  Values used throughout the BMP document have been taken from the regulations of other states that currently frack.  Those states, however, did not have scientific data to back up their decisions either.   In those same states, incidences of many types of illnesses skyrocketed after fracking began.  Hence, it seems that the Maryland BMPs at this time can not accomplish the goals for which they were written.
 
Most of my concerns revolve around the setback requirements.  Eshleman and Elmore themselves write, “How much protection (if any) these setbacks can provide can clearly be debated; many setbacks do not seem to be based on solid scientific reasoning or empirical data.” (p.1-11). There is no guarantee that these setback requirements are in fact sufficient to prevent cancer, neural damage, and a long list of other illnesses.
 
Also, among the setback requirements, there seem to be inconsistencies. There is  a 2000 foot setback is established for public groundwater wells, but only a 1000 foot setback for private groundwater wells. (p.17)   Both types of wells provide drinking water to our citizens.  Then, on page 21, gas well applicants are required to notify drinking well owners within 2500 feet of the drilling site.  One can assume from this requirement that the danger extends at least to 2500 feet.  The setback requirements for all wells, then, should also be 2500 feet.
 
Furthermore, despite the lack of research, the BMPs already allow for exceptions to certain setback rules. A 1000 foot setback is required from a well to the boundary of a property.(p.14)  However, due to “site constraints”, it is possible for a company to have this requirement waived.  If setbacks are considered a minimally safe distance, and if the company cannot drill a well with that safety constraint, then the company should not be allowed to drill at all.
 
Another concern is item 10 on page 19:  “For good cause shown and with the consent of the landowner protected by the setback, MDE may approve exceptions to the setback requirements.”  The landowner is an adult and perhaps has the right to agree, despite the known health hazards.  However, if that landowner has children, the children also will be exposed to fracking toxins.  Those children will run the risk of developing painful, debilitating diseases through no fault of their own.  The BMPs should not allow for any waivers at this time.  If the setback distances themselves have not been proven safe, then exceptions to them certainly should not be made.
 
Along with the unknown safety of the setbacks is the unknown safety of the fracking fluid. Currently, corporations who plan to frack on our land are not required to publicly disclose “trade secret” fracking fluid ingredients.  Given the severity of the symptoms seen in other states, timely medical attention will be a great concern for Maryland residents.  OSHA standards stipulate that in an emergency, the confidential information should be provided immediately to physicians and emergency responders.  In the BMPs, please specify where these professionals can immediately access this information.  Please prove that medical intervention will not be delayed due to this extra step.
 
Disturbingly, in their report, Eshleman and Elmore encourage forced pooling  to maximize the amount of gas obtained in an operation.(1-9)  Currently, Maryland law protects its citizens by giving single family homeowners the mineral rights to their land as well.  Modest homeowners should not be bullied into giving over their land rights to wealthy corporations. Citizens should not be forced off of their own land, nor forced to sacrifice their health.  In the BMPs, please make it explicitly clear that forced pooling will not be allowed.
 
Finally, all permits should have a requirement that if more stringent regulations are passed than the ones at the time of issue, then the new regulations must be followed.   There should be no exceptions to this requirement.  If companies can not abide by the stricter regulations, then they need to safely shut down their operations until they are able to do so. Companies should be warned by MDE as new legislation is being considered, so that the companies are able to abide by the  rules as soon as they are passed.
 
The potential for poisoning our air and water puts our citizens at grave risk. None of our citizens should develop cancer nor brain damage because the health risks were not investigated sufficiently.  Until evidence can confirm that fracking will not endanger the lives of anyone in our state, legalizing it should not even be considered. The BMPs should be finalized only after the data confirm that the BMPs will prevent all fracking related illnesses and maintain Maryland’s ecological well being.

###

I hear that you're contemplating on whether shale gas production can be carried out in Maryland without "unacceptable risks of adverse impacts to public health, ..." etc.
 
Hello! -- there are no "acceptable risks".  The oil and gas industry has known about the shale reserves for decades -- the reason that they haven't gone after them until now is that they WEREN'T WORTH GOING AFTER -- there were much more promising reserves half a century ago.  The only reasons we're going after them now is HIGH ENERGY PRICES -- and it's ALL WE'VE GOT LEFT.
 
What makes you think that shale gas is low-cost energy?  Do you think that the fossil fuel industry has saved the best stuff for last?  NO -- like any extractive industry, they've gone after the BEST STUFF FIRST.  What's left is the dregs -- the low-grade, inaccessible, high-refractory reserves -- we are having to sift through more and more stuff we don't want to get at the stuff we do want.  There is an endgame to this -- at a certain point, we consume as much or more energy to obtain the energy we need than it yields.  Do you think that natural gas is a "green" energy source??  Not from shale wells -- the total life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas wells is as bad as coal.  J. David Hughes, a veteran Canadian geoscientist, produced a comprehensive report on the viability of unconventional fuel sources, including shale oil and gas, earlier this year:
http://www.postcarbon.org/reports/DBD-report-FINAL.pdf
 
Unlike conventional gas wells, shale wells have eye-popping decline rates -- 50 percent or more in just the first year alone.  Shale "revolution"?  Hah -- more like shale "treadmill" -- more than one commenter has compared this with a "race with the Red Queen" -- from Alice in the Looking Glass -- one has to run faster, just to keep in the same place -- to keep production from declining.

Do you think Wall Street has kept its sticky fingers out of the shale business?  Not on your tintype, Madam Librarian -- oil and gas financing has been the fastest-growing part of investment banking.  Those rich IPO / M&A fees have sure jacked up the debt that the shale drillers have had to carry -- it's no more or less than a giant Wall-Street financed Ponzi scheme:
http://shalebubble.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/SWS-report-FINAL.pdf
 
The shale "revolution" is not going to last long.  The economics of the shale industry are so shaky that it would be criminally stupid to risk more environmental damage by allowing this to continue for even a few more years.  Get realistic.

 

###

As a physician and long-time citizen of Maryland, I want to comment on the draft "best management practices" for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

I believe that the state should not have drafted BMPs before conducting a risk assessment and a health study. This would have allowed us to better understand the threats to our water, air, land and health posed by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, and how to address those threats.

I am also surprised that the BMPs would let drilling companies impose a gag rule on doctors and nurses who treat patients exposed to secret chemicals and hazardous materials.  The use of trade secret rules and confidentiality agreements work to keep information from regulators, policymakers, health care professionals and the news media, and make it difficult to assess the effects of gas production on public health and the environment.

I hope that in response to these and other comments, the Maryland Department of the Environment will:

1.      Re-submit these BMPs for public comments after they have completed a health study and risk assessment.

2.      Say no to a medical gag rule in Maryland.

###

I have a home in Garret County with a well for my water. I believe that there are enough fracking wells now that a study can be made of the impact on ground water. With no oversight on the different chemicals used I am worried that after a period of time new problems will develop. The gas is not going anywhere, waiting for few years will not be a cause a change in the Marcellus Shale, but rushing into drilling could cause a problem that cannot be corrected.

###

We have seen the ravages of this drilling in Pennsylvania. It cannot be made safe with present technology nor "best practices" in using present technology. Please see my PowerPoint presentation regarding the need for an immediate halt to drilling in Pennsylvania, and please do not get started in Maryland.

http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/StephenCleghorn-1652270-the-case-for-moratorium-50-min-clickable-v4/

###

Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community ["MCRC"] is a Frederick county group formed in response to a proposal by Dominion Transmission Inc. to build and operate a natural gas compressor station at the gateway to the town of Myersville. 

Statement:
As residents of the State of Maryland already facing negative impact due to infrastructure build out related to growth in the natural gas industry, MCRC respectfully requests that the State address the indirect and cumulative impacts of shale gas development and complete a thorough environmental risk assessment prior to the permitting of shale gas development. We disagree that there is an industry 'best practice' or an ability to formulate a regulatory framework for such given the lack of scientifically viable studies. While at this time only the counties of Allegheny and Garret County are contemplated for shale gas development, the related infrastructure build out will affect the entire region and state both directly and indirectly. Negative impacts must be considered as they affect the whole and should not be considered just locally or regionally. Both long and short terms effects must be examined. The severity of the impacts should also be considered, including, but not limited to public health and safety. When the degree of effects on the human environment is uncertain, it is incumbent upon the State to act judiciously and to recognize that any actions may establish a precedent for future actions. It is not reasonable to attempt to avoid the significance of effects by segmenting actions.

With respect to specific statements or recommendation in the Draft for Public Comment, we note the following:

Section II

A. Marcellus Shale

With respect to so-called industry best practices, we would cite the Report to Congressional Requesters GAO-12-732 United States Government Accountability Office which states:

“The risks identified in the studies and publications we reviewed cannot, at present, be quantified, and the magnitude of potential adverse affects or likelihood of occurrence cannot be determined for several reasons. First, it is difficult to predict how many or where shale oil and gas wells may be constructed. Second, the extent to which operators use effective best management practices to mitigate risk may vary. Third, based on the studies we reviewed, there are relatively few studies that are based on comparing predevelopment conditions to post-development conditions — making it difficult to detect or attribute adverse conditions to shale oil and gas development. In addition, changes to the federal, state, and local regulatory environments and the effectiveness of implementing and enforcing regulations will affect operators’ future activities and, therefore, the level of risk associated with future development of oil and gas resources. Moreover, risks of adverse events, such as spills or accidents, may vary according to business practices which, in turn, may vary across oil and gas companies, making it difficult to distinguish between risks associated with the process to develop shale oil and gas from risks that are specific to particular business practices. To obtain additional perspectives on issues related to environmental and public health risks, we interviewed federal officials from DOE’s National Energy Technical Laboratory, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); state regulatory officials from Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas tribal officials from the Osage Nation; shale oil and gas operators; representatives from environmental and public health organizations; and other knowledgeable parties with experience related to shale oil and gas development, such as researchers from the Colorado School of Mines, the University of Texas, Oklahoma University, and Stanford University. Appendix I provides additional information on our scope and methodology”

Even given the resources and expertise available to the GAO, they were unable to conclude that "fracking" best practices exist and that they may properly be applied to the industry as a whole.

Furthermore, we respectfully disagree with the conclusion in this Draft that “The exploration for and production of natural gas could boost economic development in Maryland, particularly in Garrett and Allegheny Counties”. There is a lack of detailed, comprehensive and long term cost benefit analysis as noted by energywatch’s analysis of drastic diminishing returns on drilling [http://www.energywatchgroup.org/fileadmin/global/pdf/EWG-update2013_long_18_03_2013.pdf]

“The gas flow of shale gas wells has a typical production characteristic which shows peak production with an initial production rate in the first days followed by a fast decline rate in the range of 5 to 10 per cent per month. Typical numbers depend on the permeability of the rocks, gas pressure, the pore volume of the rocks and the total organic matter. But a general trend has been learned from the various producing gas shales in the USA: The higher the initial production rate, the steeper is the decline in the following months.

Figure 51 shows a typical idealized aggregated production profile for a natural gas play which would result if each well has an initial production rate of 50 million scf (1.4 million m³/month) and a monthly decline rate of 7 per cent per month. A further assumption is that each month 50 new wells start production. The growth rate of the aggregate production, being very high in the first year, soon flattens as new wells have to compensate more and more the decline of elder wells. After about 5 years (60 months) fifty new wells per month are required in order to keep the production flat

Figure 51: Simulation of shale development with 50 new wells per month


Figure 51: Simulation of shale development with 50 new wells per month

“Figure 56 shows the scenario projections for the shale gas production in each federal state. Production in Texas is peaking, followed by a slight decline which in coming years will accelerate. Further production increases are expected to come from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. This production growth might offset the decline in Texas and other states for a few years.”

Figure 56: Scenario calculation for shale gas development in USA until 2030.

Figure 56: Scenario calculation for shale gas development in USA until 2030 

 “These projections are based on the analysis of the decline rates of the large shales and account for remaining reserves. For instance, cumulative production 2011 – 2050 amounts to 2,600 billion m³ while US Shale gas reserves are 2,700 billion m³. Almost 93 percent of the remaining reserves are located in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.”

According to David Hughes, Canadian geoscientist and unconventional natural gas expert in Drill, Baby, Drill: Can Unconventional Fuels Usher in a New Era of Energy Abundance?

Hughes documents that production is in steep decline (far from the 30- to 40-year span that industry promises). He also scoured completion reports in the Barnett and Haynesville plays to confirm the same trend; in the largest, the Haynesville, total production is off 52% from Year 1. Together, these three plays account for two-thirds of the unconventional gas that promoters claim is sufficient to "power America for the 21st century." Hughes' research also casts a long shadow on theories that shale gas could ever be realistically considered a "bridge fuel." He writes: "Projections by pundits and some government agencies that these technologies can provide endless growth heralding a new era of 'energy independence,' in which the U.S. will become a substantial net exporter of energy, are entirely unwarranted based on the fundamentals."

Additionally, the Draft does not properly identify the impacts, costs and required efforts to properly manage the long term cumulative effects of fracking. According to Modern Natural Gas Development and Harm to Health: The Need for Proactive Public Health Policies by Madelon L. Finkel,1 Jake Hays,2 and Adam Law3 [Hindawi Publishing Corporation ISRN Public Health Volume 2013, Article ID 408658]:

“The health impacts related to unconventional natural gas development may not be evident for years, as medical conditions with long latency periods will present over time. While the potential long-term, cumulative effects will not be known for years, we argue that it would be prudent to begin to track and monitor trends in the incidence and prevalence of diseases that already have been shown to be influenced by environmental agents. Meanwhile, the natural gas industry needs to address the risks to human and animal health and take steps to limit, preferably to eliminate, the exposure pathways We need far greater transparency and full chemical disclosure There needs to be an end to discharging effluent into rivers, streams, and groundwater. There needs to be much more attention paid to curtailing or preferably eliminating spills and leaks of radioactive wastewater. There needs to be an end to the disposal of radioactive sludge from drilling sites in landfills. There needs to be a safer way to develop this resource to limit the exposure to silica, which can cause silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. Banning the practice of burning off the initial flow of natural gas (flaring) needs to be mandated sooner than 2015, the date when EPA ruling goes into effect. And, perhaps most importantly, there needs to be a well-designed epidemiologic study conducted to empirically assess health status among those living proximate to active development compared to those living in areas where development is not occurring.”

The Draft also asserts: "When burned to generate electricity, natural gas produces lower greenhouse gas emissions than oil and coal, which could help to reduce the impact of energy usage as we transition to more renewable energy sources"

We contend that while natural gas may burn more efficiently than oil or coal, when considering the entire lifecycle of natural gas, significant issues of concern arise.
According to the EPA: Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities. While Methane's lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide, it is more efficient at trapping radiation. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of methane on climate change is over 20 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.

U.S. Methane Emissions, By Source

 U.S. Methane Emissions, By Source

Note: All emission estimates from the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2011. [http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html]

Further, a study to be published in Geophysical Research Letters found that Methane emissions from natural gas production are not well quantified and have the potential to offset the climate benefits of natural gas over other fossil fuels.

An extensive review of publicly available studies done by Climate Central found a "pervasive lack of measurements makes it nearly impossible to know with confidence what the average methane leak rate is for the U.S. as a whole. More measurements, more reliable data, and better understanding of industry practices are needed." They noted large difference among estimates of leakage from the natural gas supply system from less than 1 percent to as high as 17 percent.

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/limiting-methane-leaks-critical-to-gas-climate-benefits-16020

Development outside the Marcellus Shale

While the report is entitled Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Part II Best Practices (Draft for Public Comment), a review of industry literature indicates an interest in developing other shale formations, such as the Utica. According to the Dominion IR Reference Book October 2012, they are "well-positioned" in the Marcellus and Utica Shale.

Gas Transmission and Distribution Graph


On page 60 of that document, Dominion defines the Utica as a "potentially prolific shale gas play underlying the Marcellus formation" and there is an "opportunity to gather, process, and transport Utica Production." As technology evolves, other shale plays may open to development.

According to the US Geological Survey, "Using a geology-based assessment method, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated a mean undiscovered natural gas resource of 3,860 billion cubic feet and a mean undiscovered natural gas liquids resource of 135 million barrels in continuous accumulations within five of the East Coast Mesozoic basins…"

 Map of Eastern United States

 

Thus, the recommendations in this manual must be considered on a broader spectrum and not limited to scope Western Maryland and the Marcellus Shale.

Section III - Comprehensive Gas Development Plans

The report recommends mandatory use of CGDPs, in effect creating areas that highly concentrate the risks. While the intent to minimize overall disturbance is laudable, creating areas of high disturbance and risk must be carefully considered as it relates not only to the environment but to stakeholders.

Additionally, while the State may be able to regulate the siting of these pads, the State must consider the implication of ancillary facilities and infrastructure that are outside of its current abilities to regulate but which will pose potentially negative long-term impacts to the environment, including, but not limited to, gathering lines, compressor stations and interstate pipelines.

We do agree that industrial areas be considered as preferential locations for such usage.

B. Planning Principles

Item 2 – Comply with local restrictions, setbacks, and other environmental requirements of State and local law and regulations.

Item 10 d) – Identification of all federal, state and local permits needed for the activities.

Very few if any local regulations are written which contemplate fracking and related infrastructure. The local planning and zoning bodies may not have the expertise to properly evaluate and implement local zoning related to a developing industry and the complex issues that it encompasses. Moreover, those local regulations may be preempted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [FERC] and Natural Gas Act [NGA]. Myersville is case in point; DTI has taken the town council as well as MDE to court, leveraging the FERC Certificate to preempt state and local zoning. The State must take the lead to properly protect the citizens of Maryland.

C. Procedure and Approval Process

Item 6 – identification of stakeholders

The Natural Gas Industry's best practice is to limit and restrict the number of stakeholders such as lack of notification to the various historic preservation organizations. DTI does not list as following stakeholders in its proposed gas compressor station in Myersville.

  • Frederick County Division of Planning
  • Frederick County Historic Preservation Commission
  • Civil War Preservation Trust
  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  • South Mountain State Park
  • Central Maryland Heritage League
  • South Mountain Historical Society
  • The Friends of South Mountain State Battlefield
  • Middletown Valley Historical Society


DTI only contacted the State Historic Preservation Office to perform the Section 106 analysis. This report does not define the best practice of how to properly identify all related stakeholders and the repercussion of not properly identifying all appropriate stakeholders.

Item 8 – alternative analysis

The Natural Gas Industry’s best practice is to ignore viable alternatives and select the best financial option as reflected in DTIs’ arbitrary and limited analysis of the alternatives presented by the citizens in Myersville. The alternatives provided by others are waived off without a proper long term and comprehensive cost/benefit analysis.

D. Benefits of a Comprehensive Gas Development Plan

The report states that by developing CGDPs, they can fast track permit approvals, reduce need for public hearings, and reduce public use conflict and improve good will. As a community that has been at the brunt of an expedited review by FERC for natural gas infrastructure, we strongly disagree with the report's conclusions in this regard. Rather than improving 'good will', communities and individuals feel sacrificed. Limiting individuals' ability to participate in the process, reducing the amount of time they have to comment, and appearing to aid the industry by 'fast-tracking' permits will likely alienate and disenfranchise individuals who would be most impacted by this infrastructure.

Section IV - Location Restrictions and Setbacks

With all due respect, the setback requirements are without adequate basis. They attempt to apply standard measurements when local geological formations must be carefully considered. Site specific formations must be considered when contemplating setbacks.

One of the major industry players, Dominion, stated before FERC that "while aware of current research on hydraulic fracturing, it does not know of any proven model or technology that can be rigorously applied to predict accurately the location and extent of encroachment of a horizontally completed, multi-staged hydraulically fractured well like those in the Marcellus Shale." Dominion went on to state that "these horizontal laterals may occasionally deviate from the intended well path trajectory…Modeling of a hydraulic fracture is difficult due to the nonhomogenous nature of the geologic formations and the lack of site specific, geomechanical datasets related to in-situ stresses, which must be incorporated into the fracture design for each horizontal lateral so that fracture half-lengths may be calculated."

In later testimony to FERC, Dominion asserted: "Microseismic monitoring is far from an exact science, as explained in the Case Study entitled “Uncertainties in Passive Seismic Monitoring” dated June 2009…"

The Federal Government, through FERC, avowed that reasoning and stated:

"Dominion states that, while aware of current research on hydraulic fracturing, it does not know of any proven model or technology that can be rigorously applied to predict accurately the location and extent of encroachment of a horizontally completed, multi-staged hydraulically fractured well like those in the Marcellus Shale."

While the above-cited case is in reference to a storage pool, it does not negate the assertion that there is no proven model that can predict the extent of encroachment of a fractured well and that site specific geology must be considered. [FERC e-library, Docket No. cp12-59]

Additionally, the recent study entitled Increased Stray Gas Abundance in a Subset of Drinking Water Wells near Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, indicated that the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing ['fracking'] are controversial. Their analysis indicated that methane was detected in 82% of drinking water samples, with average concentrations six times higher for homes less than 1 km from natural gas wells; ethane was 23 times higher in homes less than 1 km from gas wells; and propane was detected in 10 water wells, all within approximately 1 km distance .

In Garret County, a significant number of households rely on groundwater for their drinking water. Given the potential for drinking water contamination and the industry's own inability to 'accurately predict encroachment', the setbacks proposed in the Draft are inadequate.

Dr. Michel Boufadel, a Temple University engineer, hydrogeologist and expert on oil spills; Paul Rubin, a geologist who has provided expert testimony for legal actions calling for a moratorium on gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin; and other experts have asserted that the naturally fractured shale is not, as the industry claims, an “impermeable layer.”
http://protectingourwaters.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/new-study-frack-fluids-can-migrate-to-aquifers-within-years/

Additionally, MCRC believes that all companies performing any monitoring or assessment should be approved by the State to ensure that no conflict of interest exists which could call into question the veracity of the results.

Section V – Plan for Each Well

Item 22 – Emergency Response

There is no detailed ‘best practice’ regarding safety planning. The Natural Gas Industry best practice is to clear the area, call 911 and watch it burn. That is the de facto safety plan as noted here by INGAA. http://www.ingaa.org/Topics/Safety/17071.aspx

First Responders Suspected Natural Gas Emergency Checklist

Section VI - Engineering Design and Environmental Controls and Standards

4. Pipelines:

The Report correctly notes that the State and federal government share responsibility for gas pipelines. The Report also notes that the Maryland Public Service Commission has not established any standards for the location, materials, construction or testing of gathering lines and that those issue should be addressed by the PSC. These issues must be addressed before permitting is approved in the State of Maryland.

According to the Transcript: Pipeline Integrity Regulation & Investment Conference Call dated 8/26/2013, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ["PHMSA"] lacks the ability to adequately monitor the pipelines currently under its jurisdiction and that, as of the call date, they were "behind probably 50 inspections this year…" The analyst further concluded that PHMSA lacks the not only the number of auditors but they also "don’t have enough auditors to ask all the questions or to ask the right questions, so the big gap in the system right now is lack of auditing capability." Therefore, while Maryland may share the responsibility of pipeline oversight, it is clear that oversight is lacking. To expand the number of pipelines by authorizing increased production via well permitting while the regulatory system is already struggling under current conditions would only increase the likelihood of accidents or failures.

While no industry is without accidents, it is incumbent that Maryland strives to protect its citizenry and environment. MCRC is concerned about the number of accidents resulting in property damages, injury or death related to the natural gas industry. Every effort must be made to reduce the following statistics:

 PHSMA Graph 1

 

PHSMA Graph 2


Further illustrative of this point, a substantial amount of legal compliance information from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding Dominion’s two compressor stations located near Greene Mill Preserve was analyzed by Ms. Amy Hutchens of Leesburg, VA., relating to FERC Docket #PF12-16. With regard to those facilities alone, Dominion received multiple Letters of Warning. For example:

October 2011: A Letter of Warning was issued to Dominion for failure to conduct a 3rd quarter cylinder gas audit of the nitrous oxide Continuous Emission Monitoring System in violation of its permit

January 2012: Dominion files an Excess Emission Report (EER) stating that its Continuous Emissions Monitoring System equipment had 21 hours of downtime in Q4 of 2011 due to “unknown causes”

April 2012: Dominion filed an Excess Emission Report (EER) due to the extended downtime of its Continuous Emission Monitoring System because its “UPS” (uninterrupted power system) failed

June 2012: the Continuous Emissions Monitoring System was down again due to a calibration malfunction of a faulty regulator

January-June 2012 Dominion reports 901 hours of downtime of its Continuous Emissions Monitoring System, stating that of the 901 hours of downtime, 879 were due to “unknown causes.” The Continuous Emissions Monitoring System was down 44.5% percent of the time during this time period.

July 2012: Dominion is declared “out of compliance” with its state permit according to 9 VAC 5-50-40, for failing to maintain its Continuous Emission Monitoring System for nitrous oxide

August 2012: A Letter of Warning was issued to Dominion for unacceptable test results that exceeded mid-level test for nitrous oxide.

While the above-noted information deals with federal regulation and oversight of natural gas facilities, it is clear that the industry is failing to meet those standards. And, again, while the State seeks to develop CGDPs to minimize impact, approval of interstate pipelines and compressor stations would fall under federal jurisdiction and would not be subject to the same standards for mitigating impact. It is not unreasonable to believe that while Maryland seeks to prevent as much natural disturbance as possible, pipelines, compressor stations, metering stations and additional infrastructure could run through State parklands, disturb highly ecologically valuable waterways, scenic waters, fragment forest and disrupt farmland. Although FERC does consider the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] when certify projects under the NGA, those disturbances are often approved as long as the applicant seeks to 'mitigate' those disturbances. All of the State's efforts to minimize impact could potentially be fruitless. When approving CGDPs, the State should consider possible infrastructure related to, but not covered under, the State permitting process

CNN also reported on the industry's inability to properly report violations on a state level.
“For Pennsylvanians with natural gas wells on their land, chances are they won't know if a safety violation occurs on their property. That's because the state agency charged with regulating the wells -- the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) -- does not have to notify landowners if a violation is discovered. Even if landowners inquire about safety violations, DEP records are often too technical for the average person and incomplete.

While some landowners would like more transparency around safety issues, as a group they are not pushing for stronger regulations. Landowners, who are paid royalties by the companies that drill on their property, generally want the drilling to proceed.

In February, CNNMoney spoke with four families in Lycoming County, Pa., about violations issued against natural gas wells on or near their property. The families have a total of 26 natural gas wells among them. They've received royalties from the wells, ranging from the low hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few years.

Yet none said they had ever been notified by the DEP or any of the well operators that wells near their homes had been cited for what DEP's website said were 62 safety violations over four years.
• "We had no idea that there were any violations," said Dan Bower, who lives next door to his mother, Jane, and her five wells.
• "We should have been contacted or something," echoed Neil Barto, another well owner.

DEP says that in cases in which violations pose risk to human health, they "certainly notify landowners." The violations range from simple things such as improper signage to serious infractions such as subpar cementing -- which according to DEP can allow gas to seep out of a well and in some cases "has the potential to cause a fire or explosion." While the violations are posted online, the digital records are short on specifics -- most importantly whether a violation poses a health risk.

A time consuming process: If landowners want to inquire about all violations on their property, DEP says they should do an in-person file review of the state regulator's documents relating to each well.”

[http://money.cnn.com/2012/05/01/news/economy/fracking-violations/index.htm]


C. Water

We highly recommend that the State consider the findings of the Pacific Institute and, specifically the study on water-related risks of fracking released in 2012.
Some of the most significant environmental concerns associated with fracking are related to impacts on water. In 2012, the Pacific Institute released a major study on these water-related risks; including growing competition for limited water resources; the production of large volumes of contaminated wastewater; spills and leaks; and the risks of groundwater contamination from the drilling and fracking process or from surface seepage of improperly handled wastewater. "The Pacific Institute analysis concluded that a lack of credible and comprehensive data and information makes it much more difficult to identify or clearly assess the key water-related risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and to develop sound policies to minimize those risks... Only by comprehensive and careful independent testing and monitoring is it possible to assess the full environmental and public health risks of fracking and identify strategies to minimize these risks."

http://www.pacinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/full_report35.pdf

 Map of Competition for Water in US Shale Energy Development

"This map, produced at www.ceres.org, shows that nearly half of all U.S. shale gas and oil wells are being developed in regions of the U.S. with high to extremely high water stress. The research is based on well data from FracFocus.org."

The report lacks any substantive analysis regarding potential risks of fracking and geologic faults. The potential environmental impacts and the resulting safety response are not defined. In fact, according to an article in Reuters Study raises new concern about earthquakes and fracking fluids Thu, Jul 11, 2013, by Sharon Begley:

“Powerful earthquakes thousands of miles (km) away can trigger swarms of minor quakes near wastewater-injection wells like those used in oil and gas recovery, scientists reported on Thursday, sometimes followed months later by quakes big enough to destroy buildings. The discovery, published in the journal Science by one of the world's leading seismology labs, threatens to make hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which involves injecting fluid deep underground, even more controversial. It comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducts a study of the effects of fracking, particularly the disposal of wastewater, which could form the basis of new regulations on oil and gas drilling.

Geologists have known for 50 years that injecting fluid underground can increase pressure on seismic faults and make them more likely to slip. The result is an "induced" quake. A recent surge in U.S. oil and gas production - much of it using vast amounts of water to crack open rocks and release natural gas, as in fracking, or to bring up oil and gas from standard wells - has been linked to an increase in small to moderate induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado. Now seismologists at Columbia University say they have identified three quakes - in Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas - that were triggered at injection-well sites by major earthquakes a long distance away. "The fluids (in wastewater injection wells) are driving the faults to their tipping point," said Nicholas van der Elst of Columbia's Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, who led the study. It was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey.
http://www.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=USBRE96A0TZ20130711

Seismic events can release the fracking fluids that are intended to be contained.

According to Shale gas development impacts on surface water quality in Pennsylvania by Sheila M. Olmstead1, Lucija A. Muehlenbachs, Jhih-Shyang Shih, Ziyan Chu, and Alan J. Krupnick Resources for the Future, Washington, DC 20036 Edited by Maureen L. Cropper, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, and approved January 8, 2013 (received for review August 9, 2012):

“Concern has been raised in the scientific literature about the environmental implications of extracting natural gas from deep shale formations, and published studies suggest that shale gas development may affect local groundwater quality. The potential for surface water quality degradation has been discussed in prior work, although non-empirical analysis of this issue has been published. The potential for large-scale surface water quality degradation has affected regulatory approaches to shale gas development in some US states, despite the dearth of evidence. This paper conducts a large-scale examination of the extent to which shale gas development activities affect surface water quality. Focusing on the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, we estimate the effect of shale gas wells and the release of treated shale gas waste by permitted treatment facilities on observed downstream concentrations of chloride (Cl−) and total suspended solids (TSS), controlling for other factors. Results suggest that (i) the treatment of shale gas waste by treatment plants in a watershed raises downstream Cl− concentrations but not TSS concentrations, and (ii) the presence of shale gas wells in a watershed raises downstream TSS concentrations but not Cl− concentrations. These results can inform future voluntary measures taken by shale gas operators and policy approaches taken by regulators to protect surface water quality as the scale of this economically important activity increases.”

F. Casing and Cement

Mark Zoback, a Stanford University geophysicist, who served on a U.S. Energy Department committee that studied shale production, stated: "There are three keys—and those are well construction, well construction and well construction."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304537904577277814040731688.html

Companies must run test on every well to ensure adequate cementing and inspections to ensure the compliance must be paramount if drilling is permitted.

J. Air Emissions

According to a report issued by the Environment Integrity Project, accidents and other non-routine events at Texas oil and gas facilities, refineries and petrochemical plants released almost 100,000 tons of pollution from 2009-2011. The so-called “emission event” pollutants are in addition to the emissions released year-round during “normal operations,” and are usually not included in the data the government uses to establish regulations or evaluate public health impacts. The EIP found that Natural gas operations accounted for more than 85 percent of total sulfur dioxide and nearly 80 percent of the VOCs released during these episodes. EIP Director Eric Schaeffer said: “Too many of these ‘accidents’ are the norm at some natural gas and chemical plants.
"http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/news_reports/07_18_2012.php
It is also incumbent upon MDE to consider long term health impacts. According to the Health Survey Results of Current and Former DISH/Clark, Texas Residents of Dec. 2009:

"The human health impacts reported during the survey were compared to the health impacts associated with the toxic air emission chemicals detected in the ambient air of DISH in August 2009, in excess of TCEQ Short-term and Long-term Effects Screening Levels. The medical conditions reported by DISH community members in the Health Survey correspond to the health conditions associated with the toxic air pollutants present in the ambient air of DISH during August 2009 in excess of the TCEQ Short-term and Long-term Effects Screening Levels."

Recommendations from this study included a "continuous monitoring network" in order to define the negative human health impacts, address appropriate medical intervention and treatment and identify the specific sources of the chemical emissions.

[http://www.earthworksaction.org/library/detail/health_survey_results_of_current_and_former_dish_clark_texas_residents/#.UioqSMasiSo]

There is no mention of use of Tier 3 monitoring program to ensure proper controls are in place. From the Good Practice Guidance and Uncertainty Management in National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Fugitive Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Activities 103 FUGITIVE EMISSIONS FROM OIL AND NATURAL GAS ACTIVITIES page 1:

“Fugitive emissions from oil and gas operations are a source of direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions in many countries. Unfortunately, these emissions are difficult to quantify with a high degree of accuracy and there remains substantial uncertainty in the values available for some of the major oil and gas producing countries (e.g., Russia1 and members of OPEC2). This is partly due to the types of sources being considered. Furthermore, the oil and gas industry is very large, diverse and complex making it difficult to ensure complete and accurate results. The key emission assessment issues are: (a) use of simple production-based emission factors is susceptible to excessive errors; (b) use of rigorous bottom-up approaches requires expert knowledge to apply and relies on detailed data which may be difficult and costly to obtain; and (c) measurement programmes are time consuming and very costly to perform. Nevertheless, the industry has a high profile and is very advanced technically which should facilitate the supply of high-quality data, and it is good practice to involve technical representatives from the industry in the development of the inventory.

The Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (IPCC Guidelines) provide a three-tier approach for assessing fugitive emissions from oil and gas activities. These approaches range from the use of simple production-based emission factors and high-level production statistics (i.e., Tier-1) to the use of rigorous estimation techniques involving highly disaggregated activity and data sources (i.e., Tier-3), and could include measurement and monitoring programmes. The intent is that countries with significant oil and gas industries would use the more rigorous or refined approaches, and countries with smaller industries and limited resources would use the simplest approach. However, the IPCC Guidelines lack definition and direction in conducting the refined approaches, and the factors available for the simplified approach are in need of further refinement and updating. In addition to that, the established IPCC reporting format contains some deficiencies and should include requirements to provide some general activity summaries and indicators to help put the emission results in proper perspective. Accordingly, this paper provides specific recommendations for improvements of the IPCC methodology for oil and gas systems, and generally defines good practice in developing these inventories (including a discussion of key issues, and specific limitations and barriers). Furthermore, it identifies relevant new emission factors and methodological advancements made since the last update of the IPCC Guidelines.

We note there is a complete lack of comprehensive cost/benefit analysis regarding fugitive emissions. According to America Pays for Gas Leaks Natural Gas Pipeline Leaks Cost Consumers Billions a report prepared for Sen. Edward J. Markey Released: August 1, 2013:

“American consumers are paying billions of dollars for natural gas that never reaches their homes, but instead leaks from aging distribution pipelines, contributing to climate change, threatening public health, and sometimes causing explosions. This staff report, which was prepared at the request of Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), 1 draws on data from a variety of sources to assess the impact of leaks and other “lost and unaccounted for” natural gas, using Massachusetts as a case study.

Gas distribution companies in 2011 reported releasing 69 billion cubic feet of natural gas to the atmosphere, almost enough to meet the state of Maine’s gas needs for a year and equal to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of about six million automobiles. Nonetheless, last year these companies replaced just 3 percent of their distribution mains made of cast iron or bare steel, which leak 18 times more gas than plastic pipes and 57 times more gas than protected steel. Gas companies have little incentive to replace these leaky pipes, which span about 91,000 miles across 46 states, because they are able to pass along the cost of lost gas to consumers. Nationally, consumers paid at least $20 billion from 2000-2011 for gas that was unaccounted for and never used, according to analysis performed for this report.

Natural gas has been touted as a cleaner alternative to coal for producing electricity, but its environmental benefits cannot be fully realized so long as distribution pipelines are leaking such enormous quantities of gas, which is primarily comprised of methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Americans also remain at risk from gas explosions and other safety hazards caused by leaky natural gas pipelines.”

The Draft is lacking in the required use of ‘Reduced Emissions Completions’ industry practice. On July 28, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a suite of regulatory requirements designed to reduce air emissions from the oil and natural gas industry (Federal Register, Vol. 76, No. 163, August 23, 2011, pp. 52738 - 52843). The EPA has proposed new standards for several processes associated with oil and gas production that have not previously been subject to federal regulation. Among these processes are well completions at new hydraulically fractured gas wells and at existing gas wells that are “re-fractured.” For these wells, EPA that emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) would be minimized through the use of “reduced emissions completions” or RECs, which simultaneously reduce both VOC and methane emissions. When gas cannot be collected during well completion operations, emissions would be reduced through pit flaring, unless it is a safety hazard. EPA’s proposed rule imposes REC requirements on most unconventional gas wells, but requests comment on concerns that limited availability of REC equipment could adversely impact drilling and U.S. natural gas supplies necessitating a phase-in period to avoid disruptions. EPA estimates that only 3,000 to 4,000 of the 25,000 new and modified fractured gas wells completed each year currently employ RECs.

A recent Health Alert issued by the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project noted that their air pollution model indicates emissions from a well site would likely reach an area within about 360 yards of it.

They further state that there "is inadequate information about emissions from shale gas activities generally; and there is even less known about the effects of shale gas activity on children. Because there is so little known we encourage you to be vigilant about your children and their possible exposures. People near drill sites that are active have reported respiratory problems (particularly for those with asthma), dizziness, headaches, nausea and other gastro-intestinal problems. Skin conditions are also frequently reported."

N. Noise

Maryland noise statutes appear to be limited regarding low frequency noise. However, there is data to indicate that low frequency noise may be associated with natural gas infrastructure and specifically compressor stations. Noise can cause permanent medical conditions such as hypertension and heart disease, hearing impairment, communication problems, sleep disturbance, cognitive effects such as memory problems, reduced performance, behavioral symptoms, and more. Low-frequency noise [LFN] can also cause Vibroacoustic disease, leading to cardiovascular symptoms and decreased cognitive skills. We believe it is incumbent upon Maryland to ensure that adequate protections are in place to protect against LFN.

Typical noise mitigation measures for gas supply and storage infrastructure include acoustic cladding for buildings, the use of sound attenuators on ventilation systems, acoustic lagging on pipework, multi-stage control valves, gas turbine exhaust silencers, acoustic enclosures on pumps, low speed cooler fans and the use of electric rather than gas powered compressors.

Q. Site Security

The Natural Gas Industry does not have adequate security procedures.

According to Testimony from Amu Hutchens noted in FERC Document number 20121026-4001 FERC Docket PF12-16 scoping meeting held at Creighton Corner Elementary 23171 Minerva Drive Ashburn, VA on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 –Pages 35 thru 40:

  • On March 14th of 2012 an alarm activated. Two subjects were seen on video surveillance running across a yard near the main building. The call came in at 8:46 p.m., and according to Loudoun County Sheriff Office documents, Dominion personnel were not onsite until 10:07 p.m. Dominion declined to have the Loudoun County Sheriff Office accompany them doing a walk-through.
  • On August 6, 2012, a cinder block-size package made of clay with black tape and marked 'C4' was found attached to a tank. According to the police report, this was 1000 gallons of antifreeze. The bomb squad was notified; Watson Road was shut down, and Dominion purged its lines of 1200 pounds of gas into the air. The hazmat team recommended evacuation of all persons within a half-mile radius, which is nearly 90 percent of our neighborhood. This incident was forwarded for investigation to the Criminal Investigations Division. The FOIA response that I received from the Department of Environmental Quality did not include any of this information on that incident.

The industry, and gas compressors in particular, is vulnerable to terrorist attack. The following excerpts: “As Homeland Security Today reported, the bomb was found by Enerfin engineers under the pipeline where compressed natural gas transmission pipelines like this one are above ground as they enter and exit what are called compressor stations. Industry authorities told Homeland Security Today that had the bomb detonated and ruptured the pipeline, not only would it likely have been a potentially “enormous explosion,” but it could have disrupted the distribution of natural gas throughout eastern Oklahoma where Enerfin Resources operates its natural gas pipeline distribution system. Counterterrorism officials said these facilities are “inadequately” secured and pose a “viable” target for terrorism, as this incident “clearly represents,” as one of the authorities said.” [http://www.hstoday.us/channels/dhs/single-article-page/ied-at-oklahoma-natural-gas-pumping-station-highlighted-vulnerability/71accc0593d23d4659e6625b894dda71.html]

Section VII – Monitoring, Recordkeeping, and Reporting

The Draft does not properly identify ‘best practices' given the GAO UNCONVENTIONAL OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT Key Environmental and Public Health Requirements dated Sept ’12:

“Federal and state agencies reported several challenges in regulating oil and gas development from unconventional reservoirs. EPA officials reported that conducting inspection and enforcement activities and having limited legal authorities are challenges. For example, conducting inspection and enforcement activities is challenging due to limited information, such as data on groundwater quality prior to drilling. EPA officials also said that the exclusion of exploration and production waste from hazardous waste regulations under RCRA significantly limits EPA’s role in regulating these wastes. In addition, BLM and state officials reported that hiring and retaining staff and educating the public are challenges. For example, officials from several states and BLM said that retaining employees is difficult because qualified staff are frequently offered more money for private sector positions within the oil and gas industry.”

GAO Highlights


Section 1X – Modifications to the Permitting Procedures

Maryland should leverage the best practices from other states deeply involved in fracking.

COLORADO
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) requires operators to complete and post a chemical disclosure registry disclosing the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations within 60 days of the conclusion of a hydraulic fracturing treatment, and never more than 120 days after the start of such a hydraulic fracturing treatment. If the specific identity or concentration of a chemical is claimed to be a trade secret it need not be disclosed, but this must be indicated on the disclosure form, and at least the chemical family or other similar descriptor must be included. However, the protected information must be provided to the COGCC if the director requests it by letter because it is necessary to respond to a spill or a complaint. Such information will only be made available to necessary parties, and will not be considered publically available. (COGS Rule 205A). Chemical disclosures are available at FracFocus, but may not be available for wells drilled before April 1, 2012 when disclosure became required.

As was discussed in the Federal Regulatory Section, the EPA is proposing to require green well completions. Colorado already requires green well completions (COGCC Rule 805).

Colorado requires continuous monitoring and recording of the pressure in the bradenhead annulus and in the annulus between the intermediate casing and the production casing to ensure that fracking fluids are confined to the targeted formations (COGCC Rule 341). If elevated pressures are observed, which may indicate that fluid is leaking from the well, operators must notify the COGCC.

Colorado also requires baseline and post-completion surface water sampling if stimulation activities occur in a Surface Water Supply Area (COGCC Rule 317B).
Additional rules, applicable to hydraulic fracturing, can be found at this COGCC website and additional information about hydraulic fracturing in Colorado generally can be found at this COGCC website.

The State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER), is a non-profit, multi-stake holder organization that assists states in documenting their environmental oil and gas development regulations, and comparing their regulatory programs against a set of national guidelines. A STRONGER review panel, which consisted of one industry representative, one state regulator, and one member of the environmental community, recently conducted a review of Colorado’s rules governing the hydraulic fracturing process. STRONGER issued a report, including recommended improvements to the COGCC rules.

MONTANA
The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (MBOGC) adopted new rules governing hydraulic fracturing, which became effective on August 26, 2011. Operators must generally obtain approval from the MBOGC before fracking occurs and submit a report of the actual work performed (MBOGC Rule 36.22.1010). In addition, operators must disclose the composition of the fracking fluids (if a trade secret exemption is not applicable) either to the MBOGC or through the FracFocus website (discussed below) or a similar website (MBOGC Rule 36.22.1015). Finally, the MBOGC mandates specific construction and testing requirements for wells that will be fracked (MBOGC Rule 36.22.1106).

NEW MEXICO
The New Mexico Oil Conservation Division requires operators to complete and post a chemical disclosure registry disclosing the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations within 45 days of the conclusion of a hydraulic fracturing treatment. Operators must disclose the total volume of fluid pumped, the maximum ingredient concentration in each additive, and the maximum ingredient concentration in the hydraulic fracturing fluid. However, if the specific identity or concentration of a chemical is claimed to be a trade secret, the division does not require the reporting or disclosure of the chemical. The rule can be found in the New Mexico Administrative Code 19.15.16.19.B.

Operators must notify the New Mexico Oil Conservation District (NMOCD) if fracking has damaged the well casing, casing seat, producing formation, or injection interval (19 N.M.A.C. 15.16.16). The operator must either repair the damage or plug and abandon the well. New Mexico regulates the construction of pits, closed-loop systems, below-grade tanks, and sumps. (19 N.M.A.C. 15.17). These regulations were developed in response to above-ground contamination concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing. For additional information, see our summary of New Mexico Oil and Gas Regulations.

WYOMING
In Wyoming, Chapter 3 § 45 is specific to hydraulic fracturing. An approved application for a permit to drill is required before fracking can occur and casing integrity testing may be required (WOGCC Chapter 3 § 45(a)). The operator must provide the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) with a detailed description of the well stimulation design (WOGCC Chapter 3 § 45(e)) and the geologic formation (WOGCC Chapter 3 § 45(b)). During stimulation, the pressure in the bradenhead annulus and in the annulus between the intermediate casing the production casing must be continuously monitored (WOGCC Chapter 3 § 45(i)). If elevated pressures are observed, which may indicate that fluid is leaking from the well, the operator must notify the WOGCC.

The WOGCC requires disclosure of the types and amounts of chemicals used in fracking operations. Operators must submit data to the WOGCC prior to stimulation (WOGCC Chapter 3 § 45(d)); the WOGCC catalogs the data while maintaining the confidentiality of any proprietary information (WOGCC Chapter 3 § 45(f)). However, according to a memorandum issued by the WOGCC, § 45(f) will generally not afford confidentiality protection for well drilling, completion, or stimulation (2010 Memorandum).

The WOGCC also restricts the use of diesel and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in hydraulic fracturing (WOGCC Chapter 3 § 45(g)). Finally, the WOGCC requires a post-stimulation report, which must include information about the fracking conducted, including the amount of fluids used and several well parameters. (WOGCC Chapter 3 § 45(h)). The operator must also disclose whether fracking fluids are disposed or reused (WOGCC Chapter 3 § 45(j)).

Recommendation

MCRC recommends that Maryland adopt the general principles from the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, Inc. of Luzerne County

1. Natural gas companies need to follow the Precautionary Principle and bear the burden of proof that this activity is safe and will not contaminate our air, water and soil, as it has in other areas of the country. If through mandated environmental impact reports they cannot do this, we ask our state policy makers to ban any future permitting and exploration.

The Precautionary Principle states: "When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm.“ The burden of proof that the activity is safe rests with the industry proposing the activity.

2.  If the natural gas companies are serious about applying best practices in their public relations campaigns then we expect them to agree to the most stringent safety measures when it comes to protecting the public. This means not opposing rigid TDS standards for wastewater disposal, strict well casing requirements, using 100% recycling of all waste water and state of the art filtering of all solid waste before landfill disposal. This also means state of the art filtering and cleaning of gas in processing facilities and compressor stations.

3. We demand that all well pads, processing facilities, and compressor stations are located away from any urban or suburban population centers and high value watershed areas. In this respect we ask our state legislators, through independent studies and analysis led by conservation and environmental land management groups, to develop safe drilling corridors in Pennsylvania. This way inevitable accidents will be kept away from critical water source supplies.

4. The people of Pennsylvania demand sovereignty with regard to property management and ownership of their land and there will be no efforts to force pool acreage for gas drilling and development.

5. Zoning and community sovereignty rights remain preeminent and the Commonwealth of PA will respect the inherent rights of the people to decide what they are willing to allow and disallow in local townships and cities.

6. Before any further drilling or permitting of wells in the Marcellus shale in PA will take place, baseline environmental impact studies need to be performed to evaluate our current water quality in source water intake areas, current water discharges into streams and rivers and our current air quality around drilling activities in the state.

7. Fines for violations, spills, accidents and contamination of ground or water supplies need to be re-evaluated and made substantial to act as a deterrent rather than the cost of doing business for these companies. Well plugging bond amounts need to be raised to make it more expensive to abandon a well than pay the fine for walking away; the current scenario for abandoned wells in PA.

8. All Federal environmental law exemptions need to be removed immediately including the: Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act , Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, compensation, and Liability Act and the Toxic Release Inventory under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The PA. Oil & Gas Act needs to be amended to allow local municipalities to uphold Article 1 Section #2 and #27 of our PA state constitution. Full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracturing, including concentrations is needed.

9. Companies that do not follow these guidelines or have serious or repetitive violations should be banned from any further drilling in PA.

10.  We demand our state legislature develop a clean, sustainable alternative energy policy and begin immediate steps to institute development of alternative energy supplies that do not rely on fossil fuels. We ask for establishment of economic incentives for research, development, manufacturing and purchasing of these alternative energy resources so that PA can be the leader in energy independence immediately.

CONCLUSION

MCRC appreciates the work of the MDE, DNR and the Advisory Commission. We recognize that the State is faced with conflicting points of view regarding this issue. Given the lack of conclusive studies, we urge the State to move forward cautiously. Foremost, we would recommend that a complete and thorough Risk Assessment be completed. We often hear the Industry state that if regulations are, in their opinion, too onerous, they will be disinclined to develop the Marcellus Shale in Western Maryland. Given current economic conditions, that may indeed be the case. However, we remind the State that this resource is 'not going anywhere'. As methodology improves and safety can be ensured, the State may reconsider regulations. Additionally, while current market conditions may not make Maryland an attractive place to 'frack' under the proposed regulations, there is every indication that the Federal Government will approve several export terminals. There are currently plans to convert the Cove Point Terminal into an export facility. As the industry contemplates exporting shale gas overseas and market demand increases, the industry will perhaps be more willing to assent to a set of regulations which not only benefits itself but the health, wellbeing and safety of those most immediately impacted by shale gas development.

Thank you for your time and the opportunity to comment.

 

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I am appalled that policies related to fracking cannot wait to be developed until after O'Malley's Commission/Study is complete.  I think that we are just beginning to learn more about the potential serious harm that can be done to the landscape, our water supply, and our health.  Haste makes waste, so why the rush.  Please listen to people concerned about quality of life!

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As a Garrett County resident, landowner and part of a family-owned business that provides hospitality to tourists, it sickens me to think that this beautiful countryside may be ruined by the process of extracting gas from the Marcellus Shale. Best Management Practices – the title sounds hopeful, but I have read the report numerous times, and it never makes me feel better. Additional horrendous consequences of drilling in the Marcellus Shale in other states are just now coming to light. Maryland’s efforts to lessen undesirable consequences do not come close to eliminating unacceptable risks for us who live and work here. Some major concerns:
III (A), (6) – Does this include landowners on adjoining properties, who will also be adversely affected by noise, lights, air pollution? (7) "Comment on the plan" gives no hope that comments will stop any activity, regardless of how harmful to the residents. (12) Additional wells on a pad would still have greater social and environmental impact and could create intolerable levels of negative impact on those who live in the "sacrifice zones."

IV (A) There should be no waivers, and current setbacks are not sufficient. The opinion, in a prior comment, that setbacks from drinking water wells should be set at 3,300 feet, is based on a study of contamination documented by Duke University researchers in June, 2013. I reiterate that opinion Protect our health and life with greater setbacks (for boreholes and compressor stations) than current/proposed setbacks from occupied buildings and groundwater wells.

V. (9) and VI (F) (1, 2, 3) I understand that Pennsylvania reports a 7.2 % failure rate on well casings within the first year that a well is drilled. If Maryland accepts the industry standard and is willing to accept this rate of failure, it is clear that there is blatant disregard for protecting the aquifers in the drilling area as well the people who live there.

VI (A) (1) "Spills . . . cleaned up as soon as practicable." Too vague –allowing time for spills to spread and contaminate further. (2) ". . . recommends that they should only be used . . ." It should be a requirement. Even then, there is the major problem of insufficient studies of impact of additional trucking and pipelines.

(C) , (2) Another major problem that is becoming evident is the loss of water supply where the tremendous amount of water is withdrawn for use in the fracking and gas removal process. An article published as recently as August 11, 2013 in The Guardian, "A Texan tragedy . . .," is a news item about a town that lost its water supply due to drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale.
 
(D) How can the Departments know whether risks are too great without knowing what chemicals will be used? Requiring complete disclosure is the answer. ". . . the Departments encourage well operators to disclose the identity. . ." Again, a suggestion with "no teeth" in it. In the last sentence of (H), change "should use" to "will be required to use. . .."

Also, in Section VI (H), seismic surveys for only the first well on a pad are mandated. Seismic monitoring with additional wells should also be required. The recent study by Won-Young Kim, a researcher at Columbia University, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, reports that 167 earthquakes in Ohio were triggered by a single fracking for a waste-water well. There is no way knowing the devastation that could be caused in the mountains of western Maryland by the fracking process.

(N) Making the industry responsible to monitor and report excess noise levels may not produce accurate reporting.
VI (D) and VII (D) A drilling company should be required to add tracer chemicals to hydraulic fracturing fluids to aid in identifying spills and deposits on surface and groundwater. If Maryland is concerned about protecting the individuals and the environment, this would lend greater possibility of discovering dangerous levels before irreparable damage is done.

VII (B) (C ), (D), (F) Monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting – but the entire section is very weak on enforcing regulations. If Maryland makes regulations but there is no money or power to enforce them, we will not have safe drilling with acceptable risks.

VIII.(C) Forced Pooling is NOT acceptable. The state is saying the consideration is premature, but at a recent meeting attendees were led to believe that forced pooling was not an option for Maryland. A Letter to the Editor in the Cumberland Times-News on September 6, 2013 (a letter apparently also sent to state and local officials) refers to a state study group in North Carolina which "recommended last week that the state legislature enact forced pooling. . .." Regardless of other states’ consideration or endorsement of forced pooling, it would be shameful for Maryland to follow suit. Instead, Maryland should be a leader in doing what is ethical. In forced pooling, clearly the power of the industry trumps the rights of the individual landowner and the community..

APPENDIX E states that "The development of a Marcellus shale gas industry in western Maryland has the potential to affect visitor’s experiences, alter the recreational and aesthetic landscape of the region, negatively affect longstanding research and resource management sites and change the economic impact of park visitation in the future." It is important to preserve that environment. Many people come to western Maryland for the same activities and environment outside the state parks. We can no more afford to allow unsafe drilling outside the parks than in them. Where is the justice in thinking only of what immediately affects the state’s coffers and ignoring the possible negative impact on the tourist industry, wildlife, and natural beauty outside the parks? And where is the justice in ignoring the possible negative effects on the health and life of those whose homes are in the area where drilling is done, whose very lives – not just a weekend – would be jeopardized by unsafe drilling practices?

It is interesting to note a feature by Darryl Fears, published September 7 in the Washington Post, with the headline "U.S. Forest Service set to decide on fracking in George Washington National Forest." The article states that ". . . the proposed ban [on fracking in the George Washington National Forest] is backed by two agencies that provide drinking water to 4.5 million customers from the Potomac . . .." Specific concerns are addressed in the article, which closes with this food for thought:  "Water contaminated in the forest could easily wind up in the Chesapeake Bay, said Mark Bennett, director of the USGS water science center for Virginia and West Virginia. // Because that’s where it’s headed."  Scary thought, isn’t it, for those who want to protect the Bay? The Bay is worth protecting. So is the Potomac River. So are the waterways and wells of western Maryland. So are the scenic beauty and the quiet country atmosphere. Our population may not number 4.5 million, but where quality of life, health, and life itself are at stake, we cannot afford to have "Best Management Practices" that do not come close to giving adequate protection.

While it is admirable that Maryland chooses to improve standards of gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale, too many risks are not adequately addressed in the Draft BMP Report.  Maryland should first be doing a thorough Risk Analysis to determine whether or not to proceed with guidelines for drilling.  If we don't know what the risks are, how can we develop regulations to lessen them?

###

As I see it, we have a situation where we could be "poisoning the well." In the old west this was a capital offence as it had the potential of ruining lives and killing settlers - and those who might pass by.  This is not a joke, and while I fully understand the economic potential of the natural gas, there are, frankly, too many reports of people who at best can no longer stay in their homes because of fracking-based contaminated water. Maryland as a hold out state from fracking would ultimately be a far more valuable locale than neighboring states who have lost their water resources. In fact, if anything, there are real questions whether we shouldn't be suing our neighboring states (particularly PA) due to their fracked waterways, particularly the Susquehanna River, which run into Maryland. After all, the Susquehanna is a back up water source for the city of Baltimore. How much fracked gas and waste product is reaching the Susquehanna? I don't know. Neither do you. But the river traverses the entire state of Pennsylvania. And that's a problem. In fact, that's potentially a health disaster. As I see it, it's just waiting to happen.

###

Nearly three and half years ago five Garrett county residents sat around a table and tried to get a better understanding of what NGD (natural gas development) means. We were unable to get answers from the County Commissioners (past) and turned to our local legislators; again nothing. We began having discussions with other state legislators and the issue was brought forward for open and frank discussions on what this means to Maryland and Garrett County specifically. Citizen Shale was born out of those dark days.

Maryland has had a defacto Moratorium since the Governor issued his executive order in June of 2011 establishing the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative. In the last three years there have been more than 50 bills presented to the General Assembly on Natural Gas Development; Citizen Shale has been present at nearly every turn. We now have several bills that have become law and offer protections to all resident (opponents and proponents alike); a step in the right direction.
Citizen Shale like many had a very steep learning curve and had to do it while continuing with our lives. This is why we had to play catch up at every turn to be able to respond to an ever changing process; not so for MDE and DNR, they know the game and the rules very well.

When conversations began arising nearly 12 months ago about a RA (Risk Assessment), we had to learn why a RA should be done prior to development of BMPs. Our efforts are now beginning to bear fruit, as recently announced by MDE and DNR.

MDE and DNR require degrees for employment within their agencies and many college graduates are aware of risks in all forms of business. How do we develop a plan to navigate the choppy waters? We identify the risks and then build a boat.

The EPA was established in 1970 under President Nixon. Since that time many regulatory issues have been mandated to the states. Reviewing EPA - Risk Assessment, basic information; (http://epa.gov/riskassessment/basicinformation.htm#arisk) “What is risk? While there are many definitions of the word risk, EPA considers risk to be the chance of harmful effects to human health or to ecological systems resulting from exposure to an environmental stressor.”

“A stressor is any physical, chemical, or biological entity that can induce an adverse response. Stressors may adversely affect specific natural resources or entire ecosystems, including plants and animals, as well as the environment with which they interact.”

MDE and DNR have identified many stressors in their BMPs, which would classify as risk management, but have failed to address many risks within the BMPs.

EPA uses risk assessment to characterize the nature and magnitude of health risks to humans (e.g., residents, workers, recreational visitors) and ecological receptors (e.g., birds, fish, wildlife) from chemical contaminants and other stressors, which may be present in the environment.  Risk managers use this information to help them decide how to protect humans and the environment from stressors or contaminants.

When reviewing how we determine if the risk management was affective there has to be a way to determine if cumulative impacts are occurring. What is a cumulative impact? (http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/policies/nepa/cumulative.pdf) “The combined, incremental effects of human activity, referred to as cumulative impacts, pose a serious threat to the environment. While they may be insignificant by themselves, cumulative impacts accumulate over time, from one or more sources, and can result in the degradation of important resources.”

In Maryland, we have placed the cart in front of the horse when reviewing the Departments BMPs. Many of the stressors are known and some have been assumed, but without a comprehensive risk assessment, Maryland will create impacts due to data gaps in the BMPs which would have been identified.

According to MDE, funding is not available for a comprehensive risk assessment. It would appear that funding is also the cause for a lack of work plan and scope for the studies to date, and studies to be completed. The group completing the economic study, RESI, has also complained about funding for the study they are compiling. MDE received $1million from the Governor for their portion of the studies. To date MDE has identified $300K for studies, and every reason not to do comprehensive Risk Assessment.

It would be better, now that the development of regulations has been indefinitely suspended, to place the BMPs on hold. Spend and/or acquire the funding to do a comprehensive Risk Assessment. Identify any data gaps in the BMPs, issue requests for studies to complete those missing components, complete all of the other studies and then inform the BMPs from those studies.

As one that was here in the beginning, I applaud the efforts to date, but feel that they are falling short of the mark of a Gold Standard.

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The Maryland Motor Truck Association (MMTA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Part II - Best Practices report dated August 2013.

Maryland Motor Truck Association is a non-profit trade association that has represented the trucking industry since 1935. In service to its nearly 1,000 members, MMTA is com mitted to supporting and advocating for a safe, efficient and profitable trucking industry across all sectors and industry types, regardless of size, domicile or type of operation.

Within the report there are several comments on the timing of transportation activities and, more specifically, heavy-duty trucking. While we agree that planning for an increase in truck traffic should be accounted for, the report's recommendations fail to recognize that most of the truck traffic generated from Marcellus Shale drilling is short-term, typically occurring over a few months during site preparation of the well (e.g., hauling pipe, water, etc.). Once a well is established, truck traffic significantly decreases as gas is transported via pipeline.

Many of the recommendations included are unrealistic. For example, encouraging "maximum movement of heavy equipment by rail to protect road systems and prevent accidents" is idealistic. While rail is a viable long-haul transportation option, the last miles traveled in the geographic region will ultimately be made on a truck. The requirement that "all trucks, tankers and dump trucks transporting liquid or solid wastes be fitted with GPS tracking systems" is virtually impossible in an industry that is deregulated, highly fragmented, and uses a large number of independent contractors to meet short-term transportation needs.

MMTA is also concerned about the length of time required to go through the approval process and obtain a drilling permit. The American Petroleum Institute estimates that, given the recommended processes, a well operator will have to dedicate four years of resources and expense before obtaining any information on the viability of production from the Marcellus formations in Maryland. Given the choice of proceeding through Maryland's cumbersome processes or dedicating resources elsewhere, well operators will almost certainly choose to operate in other states, further decreasing Maryland's economic competitiveness in this arena. A more realistic time frame should be considered.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments.

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As a healthcare advocate with twenty years experience, I feel compelled to speak out against fracking, the process in which chemicals and other agents are used in the production of natural gas, and comment on the Draft Marcellus Shale Drilling Initiative Study: Part II Best Practices.

I am deeply troubled by the serious health and environmental risks that hydraulic fracturing brings, and implore the Maryland Department of Environment to conduct a full impact analysis examining the threats that fracking poses to human health and environmental protection, fulfilling Governor O’Malley’s 2011 Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Executive Order (E.O. 01.01.2011.11).

One serious problem with the BMPs is the effect that their lack of transparency would have on public health for Maryland residents, due to gag rules and confidentiality agreements that leave watchdog organizations, health care professionals, the media and lawmakers out of the loop on exposure data.

To protect the integrity of transparency in Maryland and allow for a true look at the impact fracking has on our health, we must disclose the chemicals used in fracking which are currently exempted under OSHA trade secret rules, prohibit exploitive non-disclosure agreements between drillers and landowners that silence the truth about the dangers of fracking, establish an efficient process for health professionals to receive the information needed for rapid and effective treatment of affected patients. We must also block the leak of methane from fracking wells at any time, construction to production, to prevent dangerous methane flaring.

I appreciate Governor O’Malley and the MDE’s effort on this topic, and hope that feedback on the Draft Marcellus Shale Drilling Initiative Study Best Practices will be weighed with gravity. It is my hope that once the impact analysis is complete Marylanders can move forward into a healthier, more sustainable future free of the devastating human health and environmental consequences of fracking.

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I’m opposed to any step toward fracking in Maryland at this time. The evidence is stacking up in neighboring states that fracking causes long-term harm to water resources, air quality, health, rural infrastructure and local economies, in addition to worsening climate change.

If, after thorough and careful study of Maryland-specific risks, it becomes relevant to discuss “Best Management Practices” for fracking in Maryland, any such recommendations must:

1. Protect the climate: Require gas companies to meet a zero percent leakage rate for methane throughout the fracking process. In light of the Governor’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, it is contradictory to allow one of the biggest climate polluting industries in the US to go unregulated in Maryland.

2. Protect our water, health, and safety:

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National Audubon Society, a non-profit organization with over one million members and supporters, appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Best Practices document issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). As a conservation organization with a mission to protect wildlife and habitats, Audubon has an interest in actions and decisions to minimize adverse ecological impacts from all types of development, including those associated with the shale gas industry. We are especially concerned with the loss and degradation of high value habitats, greenhouse gas impacts, and water use, and so have addressed our comments to those issues.

Planning Principles Responsible development of shale gas minimizes environmental and community impacts throughout the exploration, extraction, and distribution process. It is important that all types of facilities and operations be sited so as to maintain the integrity of habitats and minimize impacts to wildlife; this includes avoiding and minimizing the fragmentation of intact core habitat areas. 

National Audubon strongly endorses the Planning Principles set forth by MDE and MDNR, e.g., to minimize surface disturbance via clustered wellpad siting, to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse impacts, especially in intact forests and high value watersheds, to give preference to locating gas industry infrastructure on previously disturbed sites, and, overall, to minimize the cumulative impacts of gas development. These principles provide a proper framework for BMP development in the context of the charge in Executive Order 01.01.2011.11 to determine whether and how shale gas development in Maryland might be accomplished without unacceptable adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment and natural resources. 

Comprehensive Gas Development Plans National Audubon also commends and strongly supports the requirement for comprehensive gas development plans (CGDPs) to address siting issues at the landscape‐ or watershed‐scale. The CGDP approach addresses environmental impacts at a regulatory scale appropriate to the state’s policy objectives; the alternative, piecemeal permitting, is inadequate for minimizing adverse landscape impacts. Further, comprehensive gas development planning is a necessary tool for minimizing habitat losses and fragmentation, two of Audubon’s top priorities for better practices in the gas industry. In light of these considerations, we find it essential to establish the type of comprehensive, systematic approach outlined in Section III of the BMPs document. 

Greenhouse gas emissions National Audubon supports effective action to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to reduce climate change impacts over the coming century. The proposed Maryland BMP provision for green completions at wellheads is an important and achievable provision that will greatly contribute to reducing GHG footprint of gas production activities in the state. Uncontrolled emissions at drill sites coupled with the potency of methane as an atmospheric warming agent offset much of the downstream carbon benefit of using natural gas as an alternative to other fossil fuels. Requiring green completions will provide important near‐term reductions in GHG associated with gas development in Maryland. 

Water use and storage National Audubon also supports the proposed prohibition on open impoundments for the storage of flowback and produced waters as a necessary safeguard. Open impoundments create unnecessary risks of wildlife exposure to chemical‐laden fluids and environmental damages from impoundment spills. MDE and MDNR have laid out an appropriate approach, allowing open impoundments to be used only for fresh water storage. Audubon further supports the proposed guideline for recycling 90% of flowback and produced waters in subsequent drilling activities and for the policy preference for on-site re-use. 

Comments of Audubon Maryland-DC These comments also incorporate by reference the comments submitted on September 9 by Audubon Maryland‐DC regarding process transparency, comment period duration, and avoidance of drilling impacts to Youghiogheny Valley, Dan’s Mountain, and Green Ridge Important Bird Areas. Ecologically sensitive areas and irreplaceable habitats should be protected from the adverse impacts of all aspects of gas and oil development and supply, including drilling, pipelines, associated infrastructure and sand mining; the high value habitats in Important Bird Areas should be protected from industry activities. 

We appreciate the opportunity to comment at this time and urge MDE and MDNR to fully consider the comments of National Audubon Society and our state office when finalizing the BMPS for the state.

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Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft report of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study. We are supportive of the Governor's Advisory Commission and its task to provide recommendations on the safe drilling of Marcellus Shale in Western Maryland; fore, we believe the production of clean energy such as this will be beneficial to the economic development of Western Maryland.

The Maryland Chamber applauds the Commission for their efforts in developing the proposed recommendations in the study; however, we believe that some of the proposed mandates and testing requirements including the CGDP are some of the most stringent regulations in the Country but are also very costly and time consuming, while offering minimal environmental protection. Approximately 1% of Marcellus Shale lies in Maryland, these proposed stringent regulations and their associated cost and time consuming nature plus other fees will likely further reduce any interest in shale gas production in the State.

These recommendations would require a great deal of upfront reporting and years of testing before any drilling may occur and is reliant upon state protocols and plans that have yet to be established; nor assessed for practicality in real time applications. These, yet to be established, protocols and extensive pre-drilling requirements will most likely push back production for at least 5 more years. During a time, when we as a state and as a country, are seeking ways to expand upon economic development opportunities and diversity through job and industry growth, we believe that these recommendations will hurt that effort in Maryland. Therefore, we urge the commission to seek a shorter and more realistic timeframes to be considered for the CGDP and allow the exploration for shale gas to be done earlier in the process to provide for more accurate and detailed information for the approval of the a final CGDP.

Please remember that we are competing against other states for this economic activity while protecting our natural resources. Thank you for the chance to submit these comments and if we can provide further information, please let us know.

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I would like to thank the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission for allowing these comments. I would also thank Citizen Shale for its guide to this process.
 
From the original UMCES-AL report:

“We believe that it is inevitable that there will be negative impacts from [Marcellus shale gas development] in western Maryland …and that a significant portion of these “costs” will be borne by local communities.”
This finding alone should be evidence that Marcellus Shale Gas Development is not a risk or cost that the state or county should be prepared to pay.

Other areas of concern are:

Setbacks: The logic evades me; commission a study, pay for it, then disregard the findings. The setback distances, almost unilaterally have been halved when they should have been doubled or tripled according to the latest research findings.
 
CGDP concept: Seems to mandate concentration of operations into so-called sacrifice zones. Who would designate said zones and how would the property owners be compensated.
 
Well casing integrity: The proposed BMPs adopt current industry standards, which allows for a failure rate of over 7% the first year that grows to almost 50% after 10 years. This shows that we do not have the technology yet to make MSGD an acceptable risk.
 
Emissions: The above stats show that currently, zero leakage; which should be required but is not under the proposed BMPs, is impossible. What kind of successful business model involves wasteful disposal of a marketable commodity? Methane has been shown to be a recoverable fuel source. Why vent or flare this known greenhouse gas and have to use dirtier diesel powered generators to provide necessary power at drill and ancillary sites?
 
Seismic mapping: The draft BMPs only require a single survey per site. This is woefully inadequate. As work progresses and wells are repeatedly fracked additional surveys should be required to monitor subterranean conditions and prevent nasty surprises. Once again the UMCES-AL recommendations are being ignored.
 
Tracer chemicals: If the companies refuse to list their proprietary chemicals then the State should mandate tracers to track the migration of and source of contaminants.
 
Water use and wastewater storage and disposal: Two sides of the same coin. Yet again the findings of UMCES-AL have been put aside by the BMPs. If the current regulations are stringent enough then why would the study recommend that they be tightened? Wells require 4 to 5 million gallons of fresh water to frack, multiply that by 1000 wells and that by the 2 or 3 times a well will need to be refracked in it's lifetime and you have up to 20 billion gallons of hopelessly polluted water that need to be disposed of. Piped or trucked out, some kind of permitting and tracking of this waste is called for.
 
Infrastructure: This comes in two parts. First, new construction of pipelines with the attendant compressor stations. While there is Federal regulation in this area no State agency exists to oversee the siting, construction and operation of these assets. Second, the effect of the increased heavy vehicle traffic on our roads. Do we demand the companies profiting from MSGD be financially responsible or go the way of Texas and just let our roads revert to gravel?
 
Enforcement: Once again there is no State agency to oversee the enforcement of any regulation in any of the aforementioned sections. Are the fines going to be a deterrent or merely a slap on the wrist as happens too often on the Federal level?
 
Compulsory pooling: In no case should the State of Maryland abrogate the rights of property owners or the will of communities in favor of corporate interests or remake the state environmental protection apparatus into a "customer (corporate) service" organization as North Carolina has done.
 
In closing I would like to encourage the commission members to remember that relying on the good will and moral compasses of the corporations involved to protect our environment and quality of life is ludicrous. History has shown that only the full weight of regulation, law and public opinion will force them to do what is right. Further, there is no need for the state to protect corporate profits; taxes, fees and regulations are part of the cost of doing business and they have rooms full of lawyers to avoid, subvert and angle around anything the state can envision to force them into.

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Thank you for the opportunity to submit my citizen comments in regards to the Maryland’s Draft Best Management Practices Report in regards to potential fracking in western Maryland. As a consumer of natural gas and a Maryland citizen I believe our state’s eventual fracking regulations should reflect my beliefs and points-of-view.

I live in Baltimore, Maryland and I publish science and “green” news in various publications, including my own green newsletter www.greenlaurel.com. My husband and I have three children, and believe our energy choices we choose today will greatly impact our family’s well being.

Fracking has been a topic I’m highly interested in because of fracking’s relatively unregulated nationwide market launch and the negative issues that have occurred for locals who live near fracking and our collective environment. In the past year I have interviewed and written and produced a movie about several families who lived in close proximity to fracking well sites, namely the Hagy family in West Virginia
(YouTube Hagy fracking lawsuit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et9UM17C7eY).

I have studied the process extensively and while I find areas of Maryland’s regulations smart in certain areas, namely technical aspects and the CGSD, in my opinion, there are 6 areas (outlined below) that are lacking detail or omitted altogether and I request MDE / DNR to redraft and clearly outlines Maryland’s policies regarding:

1. Citizen-focused reporting & restitution: report needs exact state agency points-of contacts, processes, open damage claim reporting and detailed restitution when issues arise. Section VII.

2. 24-Hour well pad video surveillance: I suggest Maryland require 24 hour video surveillance of all well pads to allow remote monitoring and inspection and provide verifiable data in the event of issues. This is even more important if Maryland maintains a 24 hour response time to issues.

3. Fines: The BMPs do not mention fines or punishments when regulations are broken and local citizens incur damages. These may be in another regulation?

4. Set-back distances too low. The set-back distances are too small given recent research about methane migration and contamination to residential ground water supplies.

5. Open-ended set-back waivers: The open-ended set-back waiver leaves open the exact door that so many states, specifically West Virginia with only 200 feet, that has been left open where large, industrial HVHF well pads and processes are within a stone’s throw of family’s homes, churches, schools and public areas. Set-backs should be black & white to keep industrial zoning separate from residential and community zoning regardless of what one party thinks it appropriate. Well pads become permanent features for generations.

6. Response time: The 24-hour emergency response by drillers is irresponsible and inadequate and all drillers should have methods in place locally to fix issues within a 4-hour timeframe.

DETAIL FOR EACH POINT ABOVE:
CITIZEN REPORTING AND DAMAGE CLAIM PROCESS (Section VII C):
In my opinion, one of the biggest issues in today’s current US fracking is there is NO official reporting as type what type of citizen, water, health, property and livestock issues have arisen. Sadly, the only damage claim report is the List of the Harmed produced by Pennsylvania's Alliance for Clean Water and Air which attempts to report what all state and federal governments have failed to report: issues associated with HVHF. As of 9/10/13, there are 1,664 entries on this list.

Draft BMPs focus on technical rules and the environment omit any specifics from the citizen perspective who may live close to the potential HVHF gas wells. Section VII appears to written as place holder and has no details. List of the Harmed: http://
pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/list-of-the-harmed48.pdf

From reporting of issues and types, to any expected restitution, water testing pre and post, and points of contact within Maryland state agencies, there is nothing in the draft BMPs that give any indication of how, why, when and where a Marylander would engage with the state when potential issues arise.  Also, the types of factors reported would obviously be gas production and well pad stats and violations but should also tabulate publicly citizen complaints alleging water well and water way contamination, health issues and what types, land damage claims, air quality claims and livestock issues. In addition, final BMPs should clearly state which state agency would handle the reporting, where citizens would call for information to lodge complaints and what type of public reporting is available, who and how would test water wells before and after drilling and what type of water tests are required. As most leases signed by private landowners are predatory in nature as they contain no mention of restitution, potential harm, and require parties to bypass the legal system in the event of harm. What types of restitution should citizens expect if their property and or health is negatively impacted, or are locals expected to work with the oil & gas firm directly?

2. 24-hour video surveillance: (Section VI Q and Section VII C, D, E) The greatest point-of contention between the oil & gas industry and locals and communities is the lack of any verifiable data as to what actually happened at a site spill, fracking pond overflow, illegal flaring, incorrect use of chemicals, or well pad fire to name a few issues.

As our country relies more on video surveillance in both public and private domains, well pads should utilize video surveillance to not only look back at past activity but afford inspections teams easy and cost effective remote method to monitor key drilling and fracking functions. It is both cost effective, indisputable and technologically feasible. Lastly, it can aid health professionals tend to well pad worked who may have been exposed to chemicals since most OSHA rules do not pertain to oil & gas operations.

3. Fines and punitive measures: I find no specifics within the draft regulations of fines, punitive measures and processes in the event of issues caused by oil & gas companies. I also can’t find any specifics as to inspection teams, what type and how many and where would they be located? If the fines are too low and there aren’t enough inspectors, what is the point of any regulation? Oil & gas should not be relied on to self-report issues and damages. No section cited, can’t find the detail.

4. Set-back distance (section IV A) is too low and should be 3,000 feet from any water source, well, school, public space or building. Multiple studies are finding methane migration and chemical contamination well within 1 kilometer, or 3,000 feet. The 300 foot set-back from water ways like rivers is a deal-breaker.

Also, the Environmental Working Groups extensive study found that the horizontal fractures can extend over 2,000 feet and fracture older gas wells that may not be identified and sealed and then create a perfect path for chemical and methane migration into aquifers and environments. EWG report: http://static.ewg.org/reports/2011/fracking/
cracks_in_the_facade.pdf

In addition, there are many examples where oil & gas has placed loud, polluting industrial well pads within hundreds of feet to homes and schools. In my opinion, situating well pads within a few hundred feet is reprehensible to defile and permanently ruin the environment for any family and public entity.
Below is the poster child set-back calamity that clearly shows a lack of any judgment by governmental bodies and oil and gas firms for previously situated properties and communities.

In 2005 Stacie and Casey Griffith built the home below located on Plum Run in Marion County, West Virginia. The fracking & drilling started shortly thereafter. The photo below was taken May 2012 just before the natural gas driller began hydraulic fracturing two of the five horizontal wells drilled on the site. The family moved to a hotel for a week during the fracking.

 

Home in Plum Run in Marion County, West Virginia

Photo copyright August 2012, WV-SORO. www.wvsoro.org. Please visit wnsoro.org and view the larger picture and you’ll note the kid’s playset is about 300 feet from two large fracking open ponds.

 

5. The current set-back waivers leaves open to anyone’s interpretation anything they deem about set-backs. (Section IV A) Set-back distances should be regarded as sacred and non-negotiable as future Marylanders and current locals will suffer at choices made by parties who gain the financial benefits. If a specific leased land has only one option to place a well pad and it’s within the 3,000 set-back that I suggest, then that land isn’t viable for HVHF drilling in my opinion.

6. 24-hour response time should be 4 hours or less (Section VI): Given the 12,000+ HVHF wells in Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, all oil & gas firm drilling in Maryland should have a professional and expert team on-site fixing any issue that arise within 4 hours, not the 24 hours mentioned.

The Tioga County, PA fracking spill by Chesapeake Energy on April 19th, 2011 is an excellent example of how a fracking firm spent over 13 hours to send their emergency team from Texas and stop the 18,000 gallons of chemical discharge flow into the Tioga creek. At this point in the market cycle, fracking firms should have expert emergency response close by and Maryland should have high expectations of fixing the problem and high fines and punishments for repeated technical mishaps. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/27/fracking-spillresponse-pa_n_854465.html

In closing, thank you again for the opportunity to provide my comments to the proposed regulations. While your BMP opening stated that Maryland has not yet made the choice to allow HVHF, it’s hard to believe that when the state has laid out such detailed, technical and focused fracking regulations. In the end, if our state chooses to allow HVHF in beautiful western Maryland, our family thinks we will have sold our atmosphere, land and soul out to global energy firms who gain short term profits while Maryland citizens and our environment foots the bill and gets left with the negative drilling consequences. I want to publicly state that our family thinks HVHF in Maryland is a short term play that just keeps our focus on short term cash while taking our eye off the long term sustainability ball. And by allowing Liquified Natural Gas to be exported from our state, we enable an energy policy that will eventually lead to an over-heated, unpredictable and possibly unlivable world.

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1
Recommendations to Mitigate the Climate Impacts of Natural Gas Drilling in Maryland

Thank you very much for offering us this opportunity to provide public comment on the May 28, 2013 report titled Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study – Part II: Best Practices.

There is great concern about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on the global climate. That is because natural gas is 80 to 98 percent methane, which is approximately 72 times as potent a greenhouse gas (GHG) as carbon dioxide. Current estimates vary about the quantities of methane leaked into the atmosphere during the natural gas fuel cycle, but some estimate range from 1.4 to 7.9 percent of the total produced gas. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado – Boulder recently measured leakage rates between 6 and 12 percent at fracked gas fields in Uintah County, Utah. ["CIRES and NOAA Scientists Observe Significant Methane Leaks in a Utah Natural Gas Field." University of Colorado Boulder. N.p., 5 Aug. 2013. Web.] A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the methane leakage rate would have to be kept below 1 percent in order to ensure that natural gas has an immediate climate benefit over all other fossil fuels. [Alvarez, Ramon A., Stephen W. Pacala, James J. Winebrake, William L. Chameides, and Steven P. Hamburg. "Greater Focus Needed on Methane Leakage from Natural Gas Infrastructure." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2012): n. pag. Web.]

The Draft Best Management Practices (BMP) report from Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offers several ideas and recommendations to reduce leakage from natural gas fracking systems. The report’s language, however, is too vague and leaves too much latitude for companies to avoid serious greenhouse gas regulations. In order to achieve real “best practices” the state should require drilling permittees to meet the maximum emissions abatement potential based on technologies that exist today. At a time when carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than at any other time in human history and Maryland has committed to one of the strongest greenhouse gas reduction goals in the country, all avoidable methane leakage from the natural gas fuel cycle should be prevented.

The maximum emissions abatement potential – to be achieved through a combination of offsets and EPA-certified prevention measures – would allow natural gas producers to reduce their carbon footprint, realize higher revenues immediately, and earn higher net profits in a year or less.

To achieve maximum emissions abatement potential, the following recommendations should be expanded or added to the state’s BMP plan

  1. The Venting of methane must be explicitly prohibited. Venting is the uncontrolled release of gas into the atmosphere and it is the single largest potential source of upstream GHG emissions.
  2. The BMPs recommend that all operators in Maryland voluntarily participate in EPA’s Natural Gas STAR Program. The Natural Gas STAR Program is a voluntary partnership launched in 1993 that encourages oil and natural gas companies - both domestically and abroad - to adopt proven, cost-effective technologies and practices that improve operational efficiency and reduce methane emissions. Maryland’s Natural Gas STAR Program BMP should be strengthened to make participation in the program mandatory. Furthermore, the minimum state standards should require that permittees work with EPA STAR Program staff to implement an identified set of widely available control technologies that can both immediately reduce emissions and increase gas system profitability. Permittees should also be encouraged to work with EPA STAR Program staff to implement additional control measures to further reduce emissions below the levels that would be achieved by these proposed minimum state standards.
  3. Inevitably, even if all leakage prevention measures are implemented, small amounts of leakage will persist along the fuel chain. Permittees should be required to work with EPA STAR Program staff to estimate their annual greenhouse gas emissions after the adoption of cost-effective abatement control measures, and include that estimate in their permit application. In order to ensure that natural gas production and processing does not contribute to climate change, permittees should then include a plan for investing in carbon offsets to offset their estimated annual leakage.
  4. In cases of extreme pollution concentrations, U.S. EPA and MDE sometimes require offset ratios, whereby certain facilities have to offset more pollution than they emitted. In order to account for methane leakage that will occur after shale gas enters the transmission line, MDE should consider requiring permittees to offset leakage at a ratio greater than 1:1.
  5. The BMPs recommend that a methane leak detection and repair (LDAR) program must be established from wellhead to transmission line. This is a strong recommendation and it is vital that it is implemented strongly. Maryland’s leak detection and repair BMP should be strengthened by requiring that the programs conform to EPA’s Natural Gas STAR Program guidelines and EPA’s best practice guidelines for leakage detection and repair programs.

It is important to note that all of these recommendations are supported by existing gas regulations in Maryland, the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, and recent actions taken by the Maryland Attorney General to further regulate natural gas methane emissions.

Explicitly Prohibit Venting

The BMPs go into detail about flaring, but do not ever mention venting specifically. It should be explicit that venting is prohibited and that flaring will only be allowed in a few narrow circumstances. The following recommendation would safeguard Maryland against dangerous venting:

Venting of methane shall not be permitted at any stage throughout the natural system.

Require Permittees to Join the EPA Natural Gas STAR Program and meet Maximum Greenhouse Gas Emissions Abatement Potential based on Technologies that Exist Today

There is a long tradition of states requiring strong environmental and public health protections before the federal government. When it comes to regulating shale gas, Wyoming and Colorado were the first states to require drilling companies to conduct green completions. Those regulations were later proposed by U.S. EPA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for natural gas well sites. The recently proposed federal NSPS rule only covers volatile organic compounds (VOCs) however. Those regulations would have the incidental benefit of reducing some methane emissions, but they do not go far enough, and they would still allow the vast majority of methane leakage to remain uncontrolled. [Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, Eric T., George Jepsen, Connecticut Attorney General, Josheph R. Biden, Delaware Attorney Genera, II, Douglas F. Gansler, Maryland Attorney General, Martha Coakley, Massachusetts Attorney General, Peter Kilmartin, Rhode Island Attorney General, and William H. Sorrell, Vermont Attorney General. "Clean Air Act Notice of Intent to Sue for Failure to Determine Whether Standards of Performance Are Appropriate for Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Operations, and to Establish Such Standards and Related Guidelines for New and Existing Sources." Letter to Lisa P. Jackson. 11 Dec. 2012.]  Maryland should now lead the nation by mitigating dangerous upstream methane emissions by requiring permittees to achieve the maximum emissions abatement potential based on technologies that exist today.

In order to achieve that abatement potential, it should be a requirement for permittees to join the EPA Natural Gas STAR Program. Natural gas companies and the State of Maryland could work collaboratively with their EPA partners to design a plan to achieve the maximum emissions abatement potential.

The Natural Resources Defense Council [Natural Resources Defense Council. Leaking Profits: The U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Can Reduce Pollution, Conserve Resources, and Make Money by Preventing Methane Waste. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2012.] and the World Resources Institute [World Resources Institute. Clearing the Air: Reducing Upstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Natural Gas Systems. Working paper. N.p.: n.p., 2013.] estimate that the following EPA STAR-certified measures could reduce natural gas leakage to 0.4 percent. The minimum state standards should require that permittees adopt these ten technologies and practices.

  1. Green Completions to capture oil and gas well emissions.
    • Payback time: 0.17 – 1.0 year
    • Profit per well (after payback): $2,180 - $75,620
  2. Plunger Lift Systems or other well deliquification methods to mitigate gas well emissions.
    • Payback time: 0.09 - 0.13 year
    • Profit per well (after payback): $7,050 - $100,400
  3. Tri-Ethylene Glycol (TEG) Dehydrator Emission Controls to capture emissions from dehydrators.
    • Payback time: 0.09 years
    • Profit per well (after payback): $135,560
  4. Desiccant Dehydrators to capture emissions from dehydrators (when the gas flow rate is less than 5 MMcfd and have temperature and pressure limitations).
    • Payback time: 2.67 years
    • Profit per well (after payback): $2,800
  5. Dry Seal Systems to reduce emissions from centrifugal compressor seals
    • Payback time: 0.38 – 1.15 years
    • Profit per well (after payback): $77,620 - $473,870
  6. Improved Compressor Maintenance to reduce emissions from reciprocating compressors.
    • Payback time: 0.34 – 4.81 years
    • Profit per well (after payback): - $2,460 - $12,170
  7. Low-Bleed or No-Bleed Pneumatic Controllers used to reduce emissions from control devices.
    • Payback time: 0.09 – 0.5 years
    • Profit per well (after payback): $510 - $1,880
  8. Pipeline Maintenance and Repair to reduce emissions from pipelines.
    • Payback time: 0.7 – 2.0 years
    • Profit per well (after payback): -$39,870 - $53,800
  9. Vapor Recovery Units used to reduce emissions from storage tanks.
    • Payback time: 0.3 – 3.28 years
    • Profit per well (after payback): $6,970 - $336,990
  10. Leak Monitoring and Repair to control fugitive emissions from valves, flanges, seals, connections and other equipment.
    • Payback time: likely small
    • Profit per well (after payback): likely positive

Since the inception of the EPA Natural Gas STAR program, domestic natural gas producers have eliminated over 1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of methane emissions by implementing approximately 150 cost-effective technologies and practices. ["Natural Gas STAR Program Accomplishments." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 24 July 2013. Web.] According to the EPA, most of these top ten technologies and practices have payback periods of less than one year. That is because they allow companies to capture and sell gas that would otherwise be leaked into the atmosphere. After that rapid payback period, each one of these recommendations would generate additional profits for the company.

By adopting, at a minimum, these ten identified cost-effective technologies and practices, drilling companies could significantly reduce their leakage rate. Through cooperation with MDE, DNR, and EPA STAR Program staff, permittees could likely identify other cost-effective measures to further reduce methane leakage. Using EPA STAR Program measures, there is every reason to expect that gas developers could submit a permit application that outlines a cost-effective approach to achieve the maximum greenhouse gas emissions abatement potential based on technologies that exist today.

For more information on these top ten leakage prevention measures, refer to attachment A.

Require Permittees to Disclose their Estimated Annual Methane Leakage and Provide a Plan to Offset those Emissions

Inevitably, even if all leakage prevention measures are implemented, small amounts of leakage will persist along the fuel chain. Over many years EPA has used air emissions data to develop emissions factors for the oil & gas industry that can be used to determine the emissions profile of a proposed shale gas well. That emissions profile can then be overlaid with different abatement technologies and practices, which lowers the emissions estimate.

Permittees should be required to work with EPA STAR Program staff to estimate their annual greenhouse gas emissions after the adoption of cost-effective abatement control measures, and include that estimate in their permit application. Then, in order to ensure that natural gas production and processing does not contribute to climate change, permittees should develop a plan for investing in carbon offsets to offset their estimated annual leakage.

Carbon offsets represent a project-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction or carbon sequestration achieved outside of the natural gas sector. Allowing permittees to offset their estimated GHG emissions through emissions reductions and carbon sequestration outside the natural gas sector would give companies the flexibility to reduce their effective emissions rate to nothing. Offsets also create significant environmental and economic co-benefits for offset project sponsors (such as landfill operators or farmers).

Through its participation in the regional greenhouse gas initiative (RGGI), Maryland has already agreed to a comprehensive set of standards for valid carbon offset projects. That definition should be the starting point for defining and regulating valid leakage offsets to provide a flexible mechanism for effectively mitigating the climate impact of shale development. Eligible RGGI offsets include: (i) Landfill methane capture and destruction; (ii) Reduction in emissions of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6); (iii) Sequestration of carbon due to reforestation, improved forest management, or avoided conversion; (iv) Reduction or avoidance of CO2 emissions from natural gas, oil, or propane end-use combustion due to end-use energy efficiency; and (v) Avoided methane emissions from agricultural manure management operations.

The state has long realized the benefits of market-based offset mechanisms. In October 2011, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the Ecosystem Services Working Group Final Report. [Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Ecosystem Services Working Group Final Report. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2011.] One of the top recommendations of that report was that “wherever practicable, use the marketplace as a mechanism for offsetting adverse impacts to ecosystem services.” The report goes on to say that “ecosystem markets can offer a more cost-effective means of mitigating development impacts while reducing government expenditures on regulatory programs.”

An important point to note, though, is that DNR’s interim report found that “existing eligible offset project types in RGGI were written with requirements which do not encourage participation for Maryland projects.” Maryland’s state agencies should evaluate options for best utilizing any offsets that are required from shale development so that Maryland-based environmental and economic benefits are realized, and develop a plan for that.

For more information on RGGI’s regulatory offset provisions, refer to attachment B.

Carbon Offset Ratios

Methane emissions do not end when natural gas enters the transmission line. A team from Cornell University estimates that the leakage rate for transmission, storage, and transportation of gas ranges between 1.4% and 3.6%. [Howarth, Robert W., Renee Santoro, and Anthony Ingraffea. "Methane and the Greenhouse-gas Footprint of Natural Gas from Shale Formations: A Letter." Climate Change 106 (2011): 679-90. ] The World Resources Institute reported that the transmission stage accounts for approximately 25-30% of the upstream emissions associated with natural gas production.5 The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which has a database listing more than 1,400 gas companies, lists 72 companies reporting unaccounted for gas rates of 10 percent or higher, and 275 companies with rates between 3 and 9.9 percent.[Ogburn, Stephanie P. "Scientists, Industry, Regulators Struggle with the Suspect Math of Natural Gas Leaks." Climate Wire 1 Aug. 2013.]
 
In order to account for methane leakage that will occur after shale gas enters the transmission line, MDE should consider requiring permittees to offset leakage at a ratio greater than 1:1. Higher offset ratios are used in New Source Review in cases of extreme pollution concentrations. Given the high concentration of carbon that has already accumulated in the earth’s atmosphere and the urgency of Maryland’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, high offset ratios for leakages during shale production and processing would ensure net climate benefits from gas relative to other fossil fuels.

Leakage Detection and Repair

The BMPs recommend that a methane leak detection and repair (LDAR) program must be established from wellhead to transmission line. This is a strong recommendation and it is vital that it is implemented strongly. It is therefore critical that permittees join EPA’s Natural Gas STAR Program and work with EPA staff to develop a rigorous program to monitor, measure, and repair methane leaks. Furthermore, gas companies should be required to implement the model leakage detection and repair model program rules as described in EPA’s “Leak Detection and Repair: A Best Practices Guide” [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Leak Detection and Repair: A Best Practices Guide. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2007.] 

Enrollment in the STAR Program and adoption of recommended strategies and best practices should be mandatory. The elements of implementing EPA’s best practices for a LDAR program include:

  1. Written LDAR Program
  2. Training
  3. LDAR Audits
  4. Contractor Accountability
  5. Internal Leak Definition for Valves and Pumps
  6. More Frequent Monitoring
  7. Repairing Leaking Components
  8. Delay of Repair Compliance Assurance
  9. Electronic Monitoring and Storage of LDAR Data
  10. QA/QC of LDAR Data
  11. Calibration/Calibration Drift Assessment
  12. Records Maintenance

For more information on LDAR best practices, refer to attachment C.

Cost Effectiveness

It is still too soon to tell how long the useful production life of Marcellus shale gas wells will be, but estimates range from several years to several decades. Fortunately, the top ten leakage prevention strategies outlined above remain cost-effective under almost any useful production lifetime assumptions. According to the EPA, nine out of these ten strategies outlined above have payback periods of less than one year. After paying back the initial investment, many of these measures would yield annual profits of over $100,000 per well.

Offsets, on the other hand, would be a cost to developers. Unlike leakage prevention measures, offsets would not yield saleable gas so each purchased offset would result in incrementally less revenue for gas developers. So while increased gas revenue would be the carrot encouraging maximum leakage abatement, the requirement to develop an offset plan would be the stick.

But the incremental costs associated with offsets should not be overstated. CCAN’s initial analysis indicates that in order to offset a leakage rate as high as 0.4 percent, developers would need to invest roughly 0.6 percent of their annual revenue. That investment would of course decrease if developers reduce their leakage rate below 0.4 percent.

Basis for stronger recommendations

Establishing strong methane reduction requirements would complement Maryland’s broader policy objectives. Below are examples of how all of these recommendations are supported by existing gas regulations in Maryland, the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, and recent actions taken by the Maryland Attorney General to further regulate natural gas methane emissions.

COMAR 26.19.01.09J

“MDE may not issue a drilling and operating permit if drilling or operations would result in physical and preventable loss of oil and gas….”

Maryland regulations already state that a drilling and operating permit cannot be issued if the practice "would result in physical and preventable loss of oil and gas through inefficient or careless operating practices." This regulation provides a legal basis for all of the above recommendations. If gas is lost at any stage along the natural gas cycle where an EPA Natural Gas STAR Program measure exists that could have prevented that loss, then the loss could be considered preventable. Requiring permittees to meet the maximum emissions abatement potential based on technologies that exist today prior to the issuance of any drilling or operations permits would enforce COMAR 26.19.01.09J.

Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan

Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act (GGRA) Plan calls it “critically important that Maryland and the federal government implement standards to keep the methane leakage rate as low as possible.”

The GGRA Plan recognizes that keeping the methane leakage rate low is a key strategy in meeting Maryland’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. Requiring permittees to meet the maximum emissions abatement potential is the strongest regulatory means of keeping the leakage rate as low as possible.

Clean Air Act Notice of Intention to Sue

The EPA adopted NSPS rules for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but did not issue final rules for methane. They decided instead to "continue to evaluate the appropriateness of regulating methane with an eye toward taking additional steps if appropriate." In response to their failure to act, Maryland joined New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Vermont in notifying EPA of their intention to sue in December 2012. The states contend that while, the VOC emission controls will “have the incidental benefit of also reducing annual methane emissions by about 19 million metric tons CO2e, the vast majority of methane emissions from this sector will remain uncontrolled.”

Maryland decided to join six other states in suing EPA over their decision not to regulate methane under the NSPS. This shows that the proposed federal standards are incomplete and that further actions are necessary to reduce methane leakage. This is a clear rationale for adopting the above recommendations.

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These comments were submitted by the Youghiogheny River Watershed Association on June 17, 2013, on an earlier draft of the Best Practices Report, and were incorporated by reference in later comments which follow.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the "Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study, Part II, Best Practices, August 2013".

It is extremely important that "Part II, Best Practices" serve as the basis for developing Maryland's public policy on Marcellus gas drilling in our state.

Please accept these comments as constructive contributions to the development of the "Part II, Best Practices" Study:

1. In support of the Governor's expressed desire to have Maryland be the "gold standard" for Marcellus gas development in the United States, "Part II, Best Practices" should be re-written and re-formatted to clearly include and state the goals and main policy thrusts of Marcellus development in Maryland as seen by the Advisory•Commission. While Part II focuses on best practices, the document itself does not give the various stakeholders and interests a clear and concise statement of the direction the Advisory Commission is recommending.

2. The report appears limited to the best practices identified by the contractor, UMES-AL, and does not take a "systems" view of the full breadth of Marcellus gas development. There are other and additional best management practices that were not identified and are not included, many of which other Maryland state government Departments (e.g. , Business and Economic Development, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Maryland Occupational Safety and Health, Maryland Department of Transportation, among others) are responsible, and for which Allegany and Garrett County governments would be responsible.

3. Throughout Part II, Best Practices, there are various references to "the Departments", "UMCES", "MDE", "DNR". It is not clear who is accepting or making recommendations on best practices, and therefore it is not clear which practices the Advisory Commission is recommending for adoption. .

4. By developing a new section, "Goals and Policy Direction" in the first part of the report, all interested and affected parties, including the industry, can see and understand Maryland's approach and become informed about the purpose and intended uses of the recommended best practices.

5. The UMCES-AL Report provided a valuable inventory and catalog of best practices, and that report should be included as an available appendix.
 This Advisory Commission report should focus on the best practices the Advisory Commission is actually recommending to the Departments. The inclusion of the UMESAL references (e.g. , I-A, I-C , 5-A, etc) under each subsection is confusing and does not clarify which recommendations have been accepted, modified or rejected. This report should clearly identify which best practices are being recommended by the Advisory Commission to Maryland state and local governments.

The UMCES-AL identified best practices should be presented as a summary matrix, without all the explanatory or descriptive narratives, with the matrix identifying which practices have been accepted, rejected or modified.

6. Because there are best management practices beyond those limited ones identified in the UMES-AL Report, this report has been narrowed in scope. Additional practices should be included, and all best practices being recommended by the Advisory Commission should be shown in a matrix to clarify what the expectations are for agencies or departments in addition to MDE and DNR, including expectations of local governments.

7. The development of a "Comprehensive Gas Development Plan" (CGDP) is a major and significant recommendation as a best management practice and is proposed as a prerequirement for a gas-drilling permit.

 The purpose of the CGDP should be described in much greater detail, and the purpose and relationship of the CGDP to the drilling permit application is confusing and should be clarified. Submission and acceptance of a CGDP should not amount to a preapproval of a gas-drilling permit.

8. The report explicitly encourages companies to collaborate and coordinate their CGDP's. This requirement is naive, does not encourage competition, and does not establish a level- playing field among companies, interest sectors, regulators and the public interest.

 Much of the costs associated with the CGDP have been shifted to the industry, with much of the information required likely being proprietary to the industry and therefore likely not available to the public.

 While cost-shifting to the industry is understandable in a time of fiscal constraints, there is a need to ensure data and information is objective, reliable, and is not solely owned and controlled by the gas and oil interests, especially when the industries are encouraged to collaborate in development of the CGDP. .

9. There are several references in Part II, Best Practices to future activities of MDE and DNR. These references do not belong in best management practice recommendations if they are most appropriately to be in a Departmental work plan. Conversely, there are references to the "tool kit" without any specificity.

 Any "tool kits" should be developed and available for public and industry comments as part of the discussion of best management practices.

10. One purpose of Part II, Best Practices is to state in plain language the recommended practices being considered by the Advisory Commission, so as to educate and inform the public and interested and affected parties what the Maryland "gold standard" actually means.

 Care should be taken to assure the "plain language" statements can be mirrored in "regulatory language" to minimize surprises as the recommendations move from recommendations to regulations.

11. The report appears to rely on the existing MDE water appropriation permitting process and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission water appropriation methodology to determine if sufficient ground and surface capacity exists in Allegany and Garrett Counties.

First, there are significant differences between water availability in the Appalachian basin than the remainder of Maryland and there may need to be changes in the Maryland water appropriations process to more adequately establish a set of best management practice for Appalachian Maryland prior to allowing Marcellus gas drilling.

Second, the SRBC methodology mayor may not be applicable to Appalachian Maryland, however there is no discussion, information, or analysis in the report supporting the use of the SRBC methodology, other than a request for comments.

Third, there is no discussion on the advisability of requiring or allowing water withdrawals from Garrett County 's public water supply systems as a means of regulating water withdrawals, providing a needed source of revenues to local public water systems, and to protect existing water supplies , if those systems are able to provide water.

With a climate similar to Upstate New York, and with approximately two-thirds of Garrett County surface water flowing to the Mississippi River Basin, an analysis of both availability and maintenance of surface arid ground water quality must be considered by the Advisory Commission in proposing best practices.

The report is largely silent on the need for baseline water quality monitoring such as that being accomplished by DNR and the several watershed associations. Baseline and continuing water quality monitoring are best management practices and must be discussed by the Advisory Commission and included in the report, especially with the advantages of technological water monitoring as a set of best management practices.

It is suggested to the Advisory Commission that an analysis be conducted and completed on the applicability of the SRBC methodology prior to the release of the report. Studies by DNR and other entities, such as the Greater Cumberland Committee water capacity report, should be considered by the Advisory Commission.

12. The report is silent on information and studies that have already been completed by the private sector in preparation for Marcellus gas drilling, such as seismic testing that has been completed in most affected areas of Garrett County. This information has never been discussed at Advisory Commission meetings and is not -referenced in this report.

 At a minimum, this proprietary information should be discussed by the Advisory Commission, should be referenced in the report, and a recommendation be made as to the availability of this information as a best management practice in Maryland.

13. The report disposes of local land use requirements by the simplistic statement that "Zoning is a local matter over which the State has no control ". It is not the purview of the Advisory Commission to impose zoning on jurisdictions that have chosen to not have county-wide zoning, such as Garrett County, however the net effect of this approach is to create potential inequities across Garrett County with every municipality and only one watershed (DCL) having zoning and the balance of the county left without safeguards.

The Advisory Commission should discuss these potential inequities, and recommend that Garrett County be given enabling legislation to enact oil and gas land use regulations in the absence of county-wide land use regulation as a best practice.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the current draft "Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study, Part II, Best Practices, August 2013". It is our hope that all these comments are reviewed and included in any document prior to any release for public comment.

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On behalf of the Youghiogheny River Watershed Association, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to comment on “Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Part II Best Practices (Draft for Public Comment)”.

These comments are made separately and in addition to our earlier comments submitted on June 17, 2013. [immediately above]

Also, these comments are made with the assumption that Marcellus gas drilling will occur at some time in the future and therefore examines the contents of the Study in that context.

  1. We reiterate our recommendation that this “Study Part II” include a new section that outlines and states the goals and policy direction for Marcellus gas development in Maryland. By clearly stating the direction Maryland is taking, all stakeholders (the industry, landowners, local government, interested and concerned parties, and statewide parties) can see and understand the purposes and intended uses of the best practices.
  2. The report is based on the recommendations of the contractor, UMES-AL, and therefore does not take a “systems” view of the full breadth of Marcellus gas development. First, this report should identify additional best management practices that are recommended for other state and local government departments and agencies so their activities can be coordinated and responsive to the overall thrust of the Safe Drilling Initiative. Second, the report appears to have selectively identified BMP’s for the industry, but does not clearly identify the BMP’s that should be adopted by state agencies. It is important that BMP’s be recommended and adopted by state departments as well as the drilling industry as the Marcellus is developed.
  3. The report continues to use the proposed “Comprehensive Gas Development Plan” (“GCDP”) as a major focus of Marcellus gas development in Maryland. While this instrument seems a valid approach, we believe the GCDP as proposed has significant limitations, and suggest the following improvements:
    • Data sources and time frames that are proposed by prospective gas drilling interests should be required to analyze their data against baseline and other information that has been independently collected and confirmed by Maryland, especially MDE and DNR. To rely only on data and information collected by, and the property of, drilling companies may compromise an objective review of CGDPs and may degrade the ability of regulators to make decisions on the basis of area-wide considerations.
    • We suggest MDE identify and collect data and other geologic, hydro-geologic, and land-use data and information during, and in preparation for, the two-year planning requirement of the CGCP.
    • There is an exceptional need to ensure data and information is objective, reliable and not solely owned and controlled by the gas and oil interests, especially since these industries are encouraged to collaborate in development of their respective CGDPs.
    • Submission and acceptance of a CGDP should not, as currently proposed, amount to a pre-approval of a gas-drilling permit. The term “shall” should be revised to “may” approve actual drilling permits.
  4. We reiterate our concern about the existing Maryland water appropriation permitting system as it applies to Marcellus gas drilling development in Western Maryland, especially in the Youghiogheny River Watershed, and especially with the potential for massive water withdrawals from rivers and streams in this watershed. Specifically, the study continues to rely on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission water appropriation methodology to determine if sufficient ground and water surface capacity exists in Allegany and Garrett Counties. There are significant differences between water availability in the Appalachian basin than the remainder of Maryland, and there may need to be changes in the Maryland appropriations process to more adequately establish a set of best management practices for Appalachian Maryland prior to allowing withdrawals for Marcellus gas drilling. Changes include but are not limited to permitting, reporting and monitoring by MDE personnel.
  5. Setback requirements for the several categories appear to somewhat arbitrary and not based in topographic realities. Each proposed setback should be reviewed and analyzed against protections for environment; public health, welfare and safety; defense of Garrett County’s tourism and outdoor / adventure industries; and for protection of property values of contiguous and nearby properties to Marcellus gas operations. Further, considerations of setback requirements should be expanded to include the gas delivery system (gathering lines, etc). Further, while we recognize Garrett County does not currently have county-wide zoning, the study recommends exceptions “for good cause shown and with the consent of the landowner protected by the setback, MDE may approve exceptions to the setback requirements.” Setback provisions, and exceptions, should be developed for contiguous and adjacent properties to protect those landowners.
  6. We recommend the addition of a requirement for tracer / marker substances as a best management practice for both pre-drilling activities and to any hydraulic fracturing liquids for both ground and surface water monitoring. The study currently suggests testing for radioactivity, but the BMP should be expanded to include tracing for other chemicals as well, and provide for long-term monitoring and reporting of appearances of fracking fluids in both ground and surface waters.
  7. The study is notably deficient in identifying best management practices regarding ground water. Recent publications from such organizations as the U.S. Geological Survey indicate the age of waters being delivered to streams moving through the ground water system has a range of up to 50 years, with a median age of 10 years, but with a mean of 15-20 years. Some of this data relates to nitrogen appearance resulting from agricultural practices, but these studies and reports can help identify proxies, parameters and substances for pollution of groundwater systems, recharge of ground water resources, and time period studies. These studies have obvious application to developing best management practices for potential Marcellus gas drilling pollution, ground water and surface water monitoring, length of time for required monitoring and reporting, and liability issues post –drilling where underground fracturing and seepage are a natural consequence.

    The significance and requirement for additional work by the Safe Drilling Commission and identification of best management practices cannot be overstated in a county where much of the population relies on wells for their water supply, where the public water supply can be damaged by intense hydraulic fracturing using chemical mixtures, and an area where outdoor and water-related activities are a primary driver of the local economy. Some examples of sources for further information are:
    http://www.mdcoastalbays.org/content/docs/sanford_.pdf
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2004/5189/
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/circ1139/htdocs/natural_processes_of_ground.htm
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/circ1316/html/circ1316chap4.html
  8. As a state government, best management practices should include development of maps showing where Marcellus gas development is and is not to be allowed. Such maps should be developed as a part of the report, and include identification of areas where drilling and ancillary operations will not be permitted, including wetlands, flood plains, steep slopes, rivers and streams, lakes, outcroppings, and local topographic features.
  9. The study proffers no Marcellus gas drilling on slopes greater than 15%, but does not describe the rationale or sources for the 15%. Because of the topography and climate of Appalachian Maryland, specifically Garrett County, consideration and an analysis of using a range of 10% - 15% with attendant restrictions should be developed as a best management practice. By using a range at the lower boundary of 10% - 15%, protections of assets and resources down-slope can be better achieved.
  10. The study is silent on the use of 21st Century sensors and monitoring capabilities, to include remote sensing and reporting, and does not adequately identify state and local inspections and availability of inspectors pre-, during, and post-drilling operations. Both personnel and remote sensing technologies should be included as best management practices in order to help meet “gold standard” practices.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this report and to make substantive comments on the draft study.

The Youghiogheny River Watershed Association again offers our assistance as Maryland develops its response to the potential for Marcellus gas drilling in our state.

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The Marcellus Shale Subcommittee of the State Water Quality Advisory Committee (SWQAC) has reviewed the draft report titled, Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study, Part II Best Practices. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) should be commended on preparing this well-written and thoughtful document. It is evident that much of the report relies on the thorough technical analysis performed by UMCES-AL. We support the cautionary approach taken by MDE for assuring that environmental risk is adequately assessed before allowing the proposed drilling activities to proceed. The SQWAC has provided the following comments for your consideration:

We support the recommendation for a Comprehensive Gas Development Plan (CGDP) to be prepared by the gas industry that plans for a development area prior to considering each individual well (Section III). Such an approach makes sense for maximizing efficiency and minimizing potential impacts to water quality of source and receiving waters. SWQAC also concurs with MDE’s view that the CGDP should be mandatory in Maryland and its preparation is a prerequisite to an application for a well permit. The report indicates that an approved CGDP will remain in effect for 10 years. We recommend a provision for renewal be added to the report language. If there is currently no provision that requires geological mapping to cover the potential existence of fault lines, it is SWQAC’s recommendation that such a provision be included.

The report (Page 10) indicates that the State will develop a Shale Gas Development Toolbox, which will provide comprehensive data to be included in the applicant’s CGDP and environmental assessment reports. The State should provide sufficient funding to ensure that the appropriate planning datasets are included in the Toolbox to make it a meaningful resource for the applicants. Otherwise, the Toolbox should not be included as a potential aid to applicants in this report.

We are in support of the recommendations provided by UMCES-AL with the adjustments made by MDE and DNR for setbacks from aquatic habitats, groundwater wells, and conservation areas. It is also encouraging that additional sediment and erosion control measures as well as water withdrawal, reuse, and storage recommendations have been incorporated into the report that are specific to shale gas development.

There is concern that there is insufficient disclosure of chemicals used as additives. On page 28 the report indicates that each chemical in the additive must be provided to MDE separately, if not included in the Safety Data Sheets. While disclosure is encouraged and must be provided to MDE, the public may not have this information unless exposed to the chemical. The report also mentions risk and unacceptable risk, but should define what it considers an unacceptable risk.

As indicated in the report, the application for an individual well permit will also require additional detailed information that will need to be well specific. There are several references in the report to practices that depend on knowledge of the depth of the deepest freshwater aquifer [Section VI.E.4, p. 30: “All intervals drilled prior to reaching the depth 100 feet below the deepest known stratum bearing fresh water, or the deepest known workable coal, whichever is deeper, shall be drilled with air, fresh water, a freshwater based drilling fluid, or a combination of the above.”  Section VI.F.2, p.33: “The casing and cement provide zonal isolation between the well and all other subsurface formations. The surface casing shall be run and permanently cemented to a depth at least 100 feet below the deepest known stratum bearing fresh water, or the deepest known workable coal, whichever is deeper.”]  However, currently available data indicate that the depth to the base of fresh-water aquifers in Garrett County varies greatly, from 400 ft to more than 1,000 ft below land surface, and it is not possible to predict with any confidence a depth to the base of fresh ground water at any given location. Therefore, we strongly recommend that this depth should be determined at each drill site.

The best way to determine the depth to base of fresh water is to drill a pilot hole and run a suite of geophysical logs (including but not limited to electrical resistivity, porosity, and spontaneous potential logs) that can be used in conjunction with other well data to accurately characterize the subsurface fluids. In order to determine the base of the deepest fresh-water aquifer at each site, it is recommended that a vertical pilot hole be drilled and evaluated at each drilling site and that appropriate geophysical logs be run in the hole. This determination is best made in a small-diameter hole to minimize effects of drilling fluids on the measurements. If a separate pilot hole is not drilled, then at a minimum, the BMPs should specify that geophysical logging must include all zones from the bottom of the well to the ground surface (to ensure that logging covers the relatively shallow portions of the hole, not just the gas-bearing sections).

On page 38, the report states that the use of injection wells would be very limited with respect to disposal because of siting considerations. Rather than deferring on the issue, MDE should consider eliminating Class II injection wells as a wastewater disposal option.

Other Minor Draft Document Comments:

Section I-Organization of the Report – first paragraph 7th line with the sentence beginning: “In order to facilitate the incorporation the recommendations….it appears as if the word “of” is missing between the words “incorporation” and “the”

On page 12, item 1, should it read “existing rights of way” as opposed to “right of ways”? And 1b. the last word “inks” should probably be changed to “links”?

On page 12, number 2, can we add an “L” to cover geologic fault areas?

On page 12, item 2f, should “setback” be changed to “setbacks”?

On page 25, paragraph 6, second line – should be “multiple wells” and not “multiples wells”?

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

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I believe this report fails to address all of the potential risks of fracking. The risks of fracking are poorly understood.

As fracking has occurred in neighboring states, concerns about harm to water, air quality, health, and local economies have increased.

Until these risks are thoroughly studied, any attempts to set regulations for fracking are premature.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.  

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As a resident of Delaware who lives near Maryland and beach goer, I urge you to reject the deeply flawed fracking "best management practices" plan that supports the natural gas industry's aims and would pave the way for fracking in Maryland.

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  1. Shale gas development in Garrett County is not consistent with its primary industries of tourism and second-homes, second-homes owned primarily by those who come to Garrett County to enjoy the outdoors for its natural, pristine beauty from its State Parks to the Wild & Scenic Youghiogheny River, designated as such by the State of Maryland in 1976.  Moreover, the state has invested millions upon millions to boost the tourism industry - over $24M in government funds alone were put toward the Adventure Sports Center International at Deep Creek Lake in recent years. Gas development will ruin a way of life that has existed in Garrett County for hundreds of years that hold a mere fraction of the country's natural gas resources.
  2. MDE is considering the forced pooling of un-leased lands into Comprehensive Gas Development Plans (CGDPs) and is a violation of property rights - see http://www.dcbureau.org/201309058976/natural-resources-news-service/showdown-in-the-ohio-valley-war-veterans-prepare-to-fight-fracking.html
  3. Proposed setbacks between drinking water supplies and well pads is not adequate. Recent and relevant scientific studies point to at least 1KM (3300 feet) for adequate ground water safety precaution
  4. Current standards for cement casings inside well bores may not be adequate. The industry has admitted to its failings with its materials currently in use.
  5. MDE will not allow fracking waste to be disposed of in underground injection wells, which reportedly caused earthquakes - see http://blog.enn.com/?p=3496.  Problems with waste disposal have been reported throughout the Marcellus, see http://www.observer-reporter.com/article/20130708/NEWS02/130709434#.Ui-jAH80Vgd
  6. Emissions from unconventional gas development is higher than from conventional, includes both methane leakage and use of diesel generators and trucks during the process.  Scientists agree that emissions needs to be curbed.- see http://insights.wri.org/news/2013/04/capturing-fugitives-reducing-methane-emissions-natural-gas
  7. Water use in the fracking process, 1-5 million gallons per frack: Drinking water supplies in regions where fracking has been going on longest have begun to dwindle and even disappear. (article) National Forest Service may ban fracking near DC water supply, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/us-forest-service-set-to-decide-on-fracking-in-george-washington-national-forest/2013/09/07/cb7228aa-1644-11e3-a2ec-b47e45e6f8ef_story.html

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The report presented to the public for comment is currently inadequate for evaluation due to the lack of risk analyses related to the many environmental and health impacts connected with newly developed high pressure, horizontal hydrologic fracking.  This deficiency must be corrected and the report should be resubmitted for public comment.

As an example, the setbacks presented for the protection of scenic and wild rivers, special conservation areas, is determined without consideration of methane migration via rock fractures well outside the limits collected from other states and offered as "Best Practices".  The suggestion that setbacks may be expanded on a case by case basis merely suggests that the issue has not been seriously considered.

The plan to dispose of waste water, and all the unnamed chemicals associated with return water, outside of Maryland appears to protect us.  I can only hope that Marylanders are not responsible for dumping waste water in areas that might affect other publics in other less protective states.   We need to be responsible for whatever we cause or allow to be caused.  More importantly, the majority of 'waste water' remains underground and the poorly understood technology for rock fracturing leaves us vulnerable to polluting our aquifers.

There is a lack of commitment to require the CGDP.  This must be mandatory without any exceptions. The CGDP must be similar to a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) which takes cumulative impacts and viewsheds into account, rather than a form of abbreviated Environmental Assessment.

A Best Practice must be developed to ensure that all aspects of operation over the life of the operation are bonded for any and all failures or accidents. 

The Report does not address best practices to consider the identification/awareness of unplanned introduction of methane or fracking cocktails, of chemicals and other materials, into the aquifers.  The report does not address in any way if such introduction into the aquifers could ever be alleviated.

Without a prior assessment of environmental, health and safety risks, this report is similar to scientists collating all the paints colors available in stores and suggesting the best colors to use to paint  a large house without knowing the functions, activities or uses planned for the rooms, hallways, frescoes, ceilings, wainscoting or baseboards.  Plan to reevaluate this report after a serious risk analyses have been completed.

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I am writing to you today on the behalf of the Garrett County Farm Bureau.  We are concerned about the proposed regulations for the production of shale gas in Maryland, and I would like to discuss this issue with you.  As you are aware, many of our members are in the unique position of balancing the environmental protection of the property that they own with producing the gas from beneath it.  While none of us pretend to be experts on industrial regulation, we do think we have had some experience with finding this balance in the past with regard to our natural resources.  From our perspective, we think it is entirely reasonable that the production of our gas is regulated to the same standard as any other industry in Maryland.  We agree with Chairman Vanko that the truly unique part of this process is the hydraulic fracturing and are not opposed to specific regulations related to water quality; for example, the 2500 foot presumption of liability, which is law, or the 2-year testing requirement, which is proposed, as long as these processes are done in a timely manner and are not designed to add an undue length of time to the permitting procedure.

The area with which we fundamentally disagree is the proposed requirement for a Comprehensive Gas Development Plan (CGDP).  While this type of plan is reasonable on extremely large acreages like the Pennsylvania state lands, no one in our organization can visualize how such a thing would work when a thousand landowners may be involved and there are no proven reserves here to encourage a company to engage in such a process.  At the very least, the industry needs to be permitted to drill enough wells under temporary restrictions to prove the reserve before they are required to jump such a hurdle. 

We consider the CGDP requirement to be above and beyond the standard set for any other industries in Maryland and maintain that it will impair the economic viability of the gas play.  Therefore, we would like the department to withdraw or completely revise the regulations regarding the CGDP. We also feel that it should be voluntary, not mandatory, with incentives to encourage companies to comply.

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 As a concerned citizen, I want to thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft best management practices for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.

I believe that the state should not have drafted BMPs before conducting a risk assessment and a health study.

I am also surprised that the BMPs would let drilling companies impose a gag rule on doctors and nurses who treat patients exposed to secret chemicals and hazardous materials.  The use of trade secret rules and confidentiality agreements work to keep information from regulators, policymakers, health care professionals and the news media, and make it difficult to assess the effects of gas production on public health and the environment.

Finally, I am concerned that these BMPs would allow for dangerous increases in methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas that will cause 21 times as much warming as an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period. 

I hope that in response to these and other comments, the Maryland Department of the Environment will:

  1. Re-submit these BMPs for public comments after they have completed a health study and risk assessment.
  2. Say no to a medical gag rule in Maryland.
  3.  Create enforceable rules that allow zero methane leakage.

Thank you for considering my comments.

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 In June of 2011, Governor O’Malley signed an Executive Order that set in motion a process to evaluate the potential for exploration and development and production of natural gas in Maryland.  .  As part of that order, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resource (DNR) were required to develop three reports while taking into consideration the advice of an Advisory Commission.   The first report on funding and liability was due and presented in December 2011.  The second report, on Best Practices (BPs), is the subject of these comments which are due on September 10, 2013 with the final report due in December 2013.  A third report on all remaining aspects and studies required in the Executive Order is due in August 2014.

The current report addresses Best Practices for Marcellus Shale Gas Development (MSGD) and the modern development of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF) which is a critical component of the current process to develop the natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation which lies more than 5000 feet below the surface in Western Maryland.  The draft report is incomplete in many areas due to the lack of standards and yet to be completed guidelines as well as major deficiencies in the BPs themselves as outlined below.

The Mid-Atlantic Council of Trout Unlimited has the following significant comments on the draft Best Practices (BPs) Report for natural gas exploration and production in Western Maryland presented by the Departments.   The BPs were developed by the Departments after a review was conducted for the Departments by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science-Appalachian Laboratory (UMCES-AL) of more than six comprehensive sources of BPs.

Significant areas of concern to the MAC in the draft BPs follow.

Risk Analysis –

One of the most significant statements in the Governor’s Executive Order is –

“C. Purpose. The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative will assist State policymakers and regulators in determining whether and how gas production from the Marcellus shale in Maryland can be accomplished without unacceptable risks (emphasis added) of adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment and natural resources.”

In order to determine whether unacceptable risks of adverse impacts might occur, a risk analysis (RA) must evaluate the risks, determine their severity and probability of occurrence, determine how to mitigate those that are considered unacceptably high, confirm through a communication process whether those mitigations are acceptable to the public and make a final decision as to whether the impacts with mitigations are unacceptable or acceptable.  There are many risks to be determined and considered for the complex process of natural gas exploration and development and that each must be subjected to a RA process. 

The departments have not done a risk analysis on any of the large number of risks that the BPs address and as such it is unknown whether the BPs adequately address the many risks posed by natural gas development in Western Maryland.  The MAC believes that the current draft BPs must be considered incomplete until an acceptable risk analysis process has been developed by the Departments and the BPs have been reevaluated.  There are significant areas that the current BPs do not adequately address including the impacts to public health and safety and the economic impacts to the region and it culture.  In addition, the BPs do not address specific BPs for accompanying infrastructure such as gathering pipelines, gas processing units, and compressor stations.   Without inclusion of risk analysis for these important infrastructure components the draft document offered for review must also be considered inadequate and incomplete.  MAC urges that the document be rejected at this time and be resubmitted when the BPs based on adequate risk analysis have been developed.

Setbacks and Protections –

Setbacks are distances in the BP Report from the well bore or well pad and as mentioned in the setback table from the disturbed area to water supplies or other important natural resources that need to be protected from contamination,  damage, view, or other object in need of separation .   Setbacks in the BP report (pp. 14-19) vary from 300 feet to 2000 feet.  The most egregious recommended setbacks to MAC are 300 feet for - All cultural and historical sites, state, and federal parks, trails, wildlife management areas, scenic and wild rivers, and scenic byways and 600 feet for - Special conservation areas (e.g., irreplaceable natural areas, wildlands).  MAC finds that the initial distances for state parks, scenic and wild rivers and for special conservation areas (e.g., irreplaceable natural areas, wildlands) are grossly inadequate and require reevaluation after a formal risk analysis has been completed. We note that the departments say that the setback - “may be expanded on a case by case basis, after DNR conducts a participatory GIS workshop; apply not just to drill pad locations but to all permanent surface infrastructure”.  

This latter statement is encouraging since MAC intends to participate in the first GIS workshop on the Savage River State Forest and will insist that its unique and irreplaceable natural areas including unparalleled and unique habitat for Eastern brook trout in the Southern Appalachian Mountains are protected.   In addition, we also find that nowhere in the BP draft report is the Maryland Code for the Environment, 14-108, mentioned or the significant provisions in the law that clearly point to denial of a permit in the special natural areas of the state.  MAC believes that the Departments must use existing statute provisions to protect special and unique areas.         

Recent studies by Duke University researchers have verified by isotopic fingerprint methodology that methane gas migrates upwards through fractures from in the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania water wells located within one kilometer of natural gas wells and contaminates water wells and aquifers.   The Departments must to review and significantly enlarge their setback requirements.  More importantly, MAC strongly supports programs to require the development and continual evaluation of baseline data on methane in water wells and aquifers in Western Maryland including the isotopic fingerprint of the methane.  MAC believes that the need to pretest water well and aquifer samples within a kilometer of leased mineral rights for a number of elements along with isotopic fingerprinted methane must be made a requirement of MSGD and to continue periodically over the life of the well.

An additional concern is that gas migration from the Marcellus formation may be followed by brine containing liquids in the future that contain any number of elements and radioactive isotopes to further contaminate water wells and aquifers.   These concerns along with the potential for ground water contamination from spills or other conditions where chemicals from fracking mixtures may be involved indicate that the Departments need to review their setback requirements and equally important and to develop baseline data on various chemical parameters as well as methane in water wells and aquifers in Western Maryland.  MAC believes that there is a strong need to pretest water well and aquifer samples within a kilometer of leased mineral rights for a number of elements along with isotopic fingerprinted methane.

CGDP Concept –

The draft BP report has a significant focus on the use of Comprehensive Gas Development Plans (CGDP).  This is an approach to well pad siting and planning where multiple pads with their multiple wells and their associated infrastructure are developed in groups so that common routes and development can be synchronized to minimize surface alterations and thus reduce encroachment and other possible damage through an advanced planning activity which precedes permitting of individual wells.  The departments propose to make this a mandatory requirement.  However, as problems are noted below, without a risk analysis of these issues, the usefulness of the approach cannot be evaluated.  It should also be kept in mind that the CGDP as presented by the Departments is a conceptual outline and has not come under broad scrutiny by the public, the industry, and elected government representatives.

In the report, much is made of this approach for expected positive impacts on the environment and public health. However, it is unclear whether the State can mandate such an approach, but if so, whether judicial or regulatory waivers of the approach will be a frequent path toward the approval of drilling permits.  A significant impact of the loss of such an approach is that many BP recommendations and considerations in the current document are directly coupled to the CGDP and nothing is stated about how many or whether critical aspects identified in the CGDP BP concepts  will be applied to single well permits,  if the CGDP process is obviated. 

For example, mention is made “Avoid surface development beyond 2% of the watershed area in high value watersheds. “ There is no should or must associated with the stated threshold.  MAC believes that a 2% surface development on the Savage River watershed would have a huge impact not only to the environment and streams that brook trout inhabit but also to the natural setting and recreational experience that the watershed provides.

In another example  found at (B)(9) “Adhere to Departmental siting policies (to be developed) to guide pipeline planning and direct where hydraulic directional drilling and additional specific best management practices are necessary for protecting sensitive aquatic resources when streams must be crossed.” is questionable since the policy has not been developed. Likewise policy for siting and BPs for developing and operation of gas processing units, and compressor stations is of no less importance and is also pivotal to the overall safety and impacts that accrue to the complete scale of MSGD.  MAC believes that the adequacy of a yet to be enunciated policy is inadequate and unfortunate since these areas can and will have great impact and cannot be commented upon. 

In yet another example the Departments’ CGDP (B) (10) (b) states “Sequence of well drilling over the lifetime of the plan that places priority on locating the first well pads in areas removed from sensitive natural resource values.”   MAC questions whether well pads containing sensitive natural resource values will become less sensitive or have lower value in the future or to what extent should or must, can or will be exercised by the Departments.

Environmental Assessment (EA) is addressed under the CGDP Toolbox heading (C), (3), “The applicant’s preliminary Environmental Assessment shall be based on the data in the Toolbox, supplemented with other information as needed, including a rapid field assessment for unmapped streams, wetlands and other sensitive areas.” Environmental assessment is also addressed in Section V, (1), “Completing the Environmental Assessment: This effort includes all environmental assessment baseline monitoring and site characterization required as a prerequisite for issuing individual well permits. These are activities that would be initiated after the CGDP has been approved and require site-specific, field scale assessment and monitoring.”

When examined together it appears that a complete EA may be not required under each section and each is therefore lacking in some elements.  What is clear is that Maryland currently has woefully incomplete EA requirements (one and a half pages) which the Departments acknowledge, while NY State is contemplating a twenty page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its gas impact requirements.  We also note that DNR requires an EIS for all drilling on lands where the state owns the mineral rights.  An enhanced EA and EIS requirement MSGD is necessary.

In yet another important area, the CGDP process elicits a public review process.  However, the Departments state at (C), 5, “The public review and approval process will be initiated upon request of the applicant following receipt of agency comments.”  Public review of a CGDP must also be mandatory and not at the request of an applicant. In addition, the applicant’s comments should address the public comments and the Departments should address both public and applicant comments.

In CGDP section III, as well as in section V and section VII of the report, mention is made of pre-development surface water baseline data.  There are incomplete concepts developed in these sections although a 2 year time frame is mentioned at several places.  No specific requirements are given for surface water testing parameters, whether there will be baseline monitoring of air quality, and what living species and habitat will be monitored. 

Although there has been discussion of pre, during, and post drilling testing of adjacent water wells during Advisory Commission meetings, no mention of or requirements have been made in the draft BP report.  An ancillary note is that a bill was passed in the 2012 legislature involving Presumptive Impact Areas for liability of water well contamination within 2500 feet of a drilled gas well within one year of the drilling activity.  However the question arises, how can a property owner adjacent to a well determine whether his water is contaminated unless he becomes ill or has some other means to trigger a claim.  It would appear prudent to support the statute with a requirement for water well testing within a 2500 foot radius of the well. 

Because the CGDP process may lead to a greater concentration of development of industrial activity in an area than may arise otherwise, the importance of a severance tax or other funding mechanism to offset significant mitigation needs to be reexamined.   If more than one industry operator is working in the same area, the problem becomes more complex in assigning responsibility for a problem and could lead significant delays while trying to establish responsibility.  However, this can be a problem even without a CGDP depending on proximity of operators to a problem area.  In many instances lack of hydrology data will significantly complicate the problem.  For this problem, one solution would be for the industry to develop the hydrology data for the areas in which they have lease holdings.  Another solution would be for aquifer data development at each well site as suggested by USGS when responding to the revised draft SGEIS published by New York State.  The use of tracers that are unique to each operator is yet another potential solution to assigning contamination responsibility.  However, the technical aspects of this latter solution are still in the development stage.   In any case, MAC believes that liability of water well contamination within 2500 feet of a drilled gas well must be incorporated into the permitting process and the time period extended beyond one year of the drilling activity to ensure water quality and public health are protected.  A process must be developed to deal with and assign responsibility for unexpected problems especially if more than one industry operator is working in the same area.

Another point of concern in the CGDP, mention is made that a reward to completing a CGDP would be to fast track wetland and waterway permit approvals.  There are already procedures in place for these approval processes and to somehow infer or imply that the accepted procedures might be shortened or otherwise changed casts a cloud over the process.  MAC insists that the intent and thoroughness of the original processes must not be circumvented by the CGDP process.

The CGDP section mentions a Shale Gas Development Toolbox, but does not indicate what all is in it.  A Geographic Information System (GIS) tool is mentioned, a suggestion that environmental assessment or partial assessment data as well as other planning data will be available to aid the planners with document preparation. Little else is given or specific comments which leaves few comments other than those made earlier on the need for updated EA requirements and hydrology data. MAC again is concerned that the lack of critical information for a CGDP demonstrates the incompleteness and unacceptability of the BP Report.

The CGDP section mentions mitigation in several places but fails to mention or recognize that mitigation is an integral part of the risk analysis process in which activities that have high risk are addressed by risk management alternatives to address mitigation as well as alternatives that will lower a risk.  MAC believes that the Departments must not circumvent details for critical planning, siting, and environmental assessment needed for the large landscape level development plans.

Well Casing and Integrity –

The current casing and cement failure rate of about 8% being reported by Dr. Anthony Ingraffea from Cornell University in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus wells  is unacceptably high and likely to go higher with time since time degrades both casings and cement.   This failure rate for Marcellus wells is troubling because it means that methane and subsequent liquids will contaminate water wells drawing water from subsurface aquifers.   This represents an unacceptable risk to the environment and human health that must be addressed before MSGD goes forward in Western Maryland.

Water Use –

The amount of water necessary for the HVHF stage of well development is in the range of 5 million gallons for each well that is drilled.  The UMCES-AL report recommended that these large amounts of water should be taken only from reservoirs and large rivers.  However, the Departments state that their requirements for water withdrawal permits are sufficiently robust and therefore will retain their current procedures for permitting water withdrawals.  Water taken from local streams can jeopardize the habitat of fish as well as requirements needed for macroinvertebrates.  These concerns for prudent water use sources are critical to the health of Maryland’s coldwater resources.  Given that the current procedure provide only limited public comment on water withdrawal permits would, if MAC requested a hearing for each application, become resource intensive and cumbersome as well as providing an additional source of public contention that could be avoided by developing large resource solutions for significant amounts of water needed over short time frames.

Emissions –

Emissions from the many diesel trucks and engines used during the drilling and fracking operations will contribute to a significant increase in the vicinity of the well pad and downwind from it.  Equally important are the other emissions originating from the natural gas well, gas processing unit, and compressor and these include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrate oxides (NOx), glycols, -- While MAC applauds the inclusion of Green Completion concepts in the report outlined from EPA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), we urge that all of the EPA standards be included and most importantly they be made mandatory.  Equally important is that participation in EPA’s Natural Gas Star program that encourages oil and gas companies to improve and reduce methane emissions should also be mandatory.   MAC urges an approach that leads to a leak prevention planning requirement and a process of continuous improvement.

Chemical Disclosure and Tracer Use –
 
Although the Departments plan to require the disclosure of all chemicals for the permitting process, the identity of all chemicals will not be shared with the public for those claimed to be a trade secret.  Those chemicals claimed to be trade secret will only be shared with health professionals who have a need to know in treating individuals with health issues. 

There remains several concerns that are not addressed by this policy.  These include first responders who will be called upon when accidents occur at well sites or when transporting chemicals to or wastewater from well sites.  Not knowing their toxicological exposure risks is an unacceptable risk and must be address by procedures that are clearly protective and reduce risks to acceptable levels.  Similarly, part of disclosure should include recommendations for protective procedures and measures by health professionals for workers at the well site as well as for persons living adjacent to the site as a precaution to prevent or alert individuals to potential harmful exposure.

Work has begun to develop tracers for use in the drilling mixtures that can be used to identify contamination resulting from failures of various kinds.  Currently, radioisotopes, nano iron, and DNA fragments are being examined as potential tracers.  Although each approach has limitations and a timeline for effectiveness, they may be useful in detecting leaks and failures or accidents in the future and MAC encourages the use of any safety technology that will be helpful in leak detection, procedure failure, or accidents as a safeguard for the environment and human health and safety.

Wastewater Storage and Disposal –

The decision to not allow for waste disposal in Maryland is important and requirements by the Departments for logging and identifying shipments, materials being hauled, hauler, date, and name, address, shipment amount, and date of the receiving facility are all critical to protecting Maryland’s environment and the safety of its citizens.  However, MAC believes that a final requirement for this important process would be to add a real time manifest reporting and a GPS truck tracking system to the process.  The lack of an effective monitoring system will like all other critical parts of MSGD is a flaw that leads to the inability to detect and manage significant problems when they occur.

Infrastructure –

As noted in our earlier, there are no specific BPs identified in the current draft document for gathering lines, gas processing units, compressor stations, or aquifer hydrological considerations.  Reference to the Public Service Commission for guidance and information that would conclude that significant permitting, protective rules, and oversight are not in place are unacceptable.  These major deficiencies lead to the conclusion that on their face, the draft BPs are incomplete and unacceptable to address MSGD in Maryland.  This conclusion is also in line with MAC’s earlier comment that risk analysis is needed for these additional missing infrastructure aspects of MSGD.

Monitoring and Enforcement –

Monitoring has been mentioned earlier as a critical component for MSGD in Maryland.  This combined with effective and timely enforcement are the keys to safeguarding Maryland’s precious natural resources and protecting its citizens.  A system for real time and effective monitoring has not been developed.  Although these components are very important, the Departments are leaving the critical aspects to standards that have yet to be established.  Likewise, guidance for enforcement is not identified.   MAC suggests that an EIS approach can be used as a basis on which to structure a monitoring program.    MAC strongly requests that public involvement be a key part of that process.

Traffic –

Traffic is a key part of safely proceeding with MSGD in Western Maryland.  Not only will the road and bridge infrastructure be damaged, but we also foresee very significant safety issues particularly where the large trucks and concentration of activity on small county and park roads will undoubtedly lead to a significant increase in accidents.   The later situation where the large trucks are present on small park or country roads cannot be tolerated by visitors and local residents.  Traffic patterns and road usage would have to be closely monitored or prohibited in some cases.  For example, we predict that the use of Savage River Road along the Savage River and its reservoir would be intolerably dangerous for automobile traffic during use by well operators as well as destroying the road.  This would in effect stop use by visitors and residents.  Other instances undoubtedly exist throughout the counties.  MAC urges a comprehensive risk analysis for all aspects involving traffic, related infrastructure as well as for personal safety and that traffic considerations be a critical part of the permitting process

Marcellus Shale Constraint Analysis –

DNR has studied the access to Marcellus Shale gas using two horizontal distances while constrained by surface setbacks as well as the Accident Storage Dome.  Their analysis suggests that through the use of horizontal drilling up to 98% of the Marcellus formation should be accessible with 8000 foot horizontal laterals and 94% should be accessible with 4000 foot horizontal laterals. 

One aspect that is not considered at this time may be limited by the availability of the current lease holdings.  In addition, this latter issue is complicated by the fact that Maryland does not have a forced pooling law whereby minerals may be taken from under properties that have not signed leases.  MAC considers the constraint estimates as hypothetical at this time.

Marcellus Shale and Recreational and Aesthetic Resources in Western Maryland –

We believe that the recreational and aesthetic resources discussed in Appendix E are primary resources of Western Maryland.  In this appendix, the Departments have highlighted the critical role these special resources play in the Western Maryland economy defined by state owned lands.  The many benefits derived by fishermen, hunters,  as well as other user communities identified by activities that they participate in at parks including hiking/walking, general relaxation, swimming, picnicking/cookout, sightseeing and photography are referenced.   MAC believes that this section provides significant insight on the role state lands may play in the economy. That reports would appear incomplete without a broader analysis of tourism and property considerations of the whole county which should be significantly enhanced by the ongoing Economic Study provided it is concluded to be complete and authoritative by knowledgeable experts.

Concluding Comments –

As mentioned in the beginning and discussed throughout our comments, MAC believes the Best Practices presented in the report by the Departments is incomplete.  While it has many good recommendations, it is woefully deficient on specifics in many areas where the discussion ends with statements that standards or guidelines will be developed.  In looking at the report, three major areas stand out that give concern to MAC. These are risk analysis, the CGDP and setbacks.

 A major shortcoming of the Best Practices report is that they have not been derived from or scrutinized by a risk analysis procedure.  MAC believes that without such an approach, the ability of the stated BPs to address unacceptable risks required by the Governor’s Executive Order is unknown and his mandate has not been fulfilled.  In addition, MAC has commented on significant areas where no specific BPs have been identified or stated such as those for gathering lines, gas processing units and compressor stations all of which pose significant risks to the environment as well as people.

An exceptional portion of the document focuses on a Comprehensive Gas Development Plan and at the same time, the CGDP as presented by the Departments is a conceptual outline.  Although the departments propose to make this a mandatory requirement, MAC noted that it has not come under broad scrutiny by the public, the industry, or elected government representatives.  Furthermore, the transfer of the conceptual BPs associated with CGDPs to BPs associated with single well development is not addressed, if the CGDP approach is not adopted.

MAC believes that another major concern in the BPs is the area of setbacks and protections.   We find the assigned distances of special and unique natural resources to be unacceptable.  In addition, the discussion of these important considerations lacks reference to the use of the statutory protections afforded by 14-108 of the Maryland Code to protect the many special and unique natural resource areas of Western Maryland.  While there are hints and proposed activities like development of GIS projects to evaluate setbacks and identification of critically important features, protection of special natural resources such as the Savage River Watershed as well as other irreplaceable resources is not a foregone conclusion.  MAC intends to work with the Departments to emphasize the needed protections.

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Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Maryland’s Draft Best Management Practices Report.  I appreciate the long hours devoted to this ongoing fact-finding process by the agencies, the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, and the many concerned citizens and groups who continue to participate in this dialogue.

My name is _________.  I am a mother and a small business owner in Asher Glade in the northwest corner of Garrett County.  My family’s home and business—our life’s investment—is situated in an area that is likely to be part our state’s very first CGDP, should industrial shale gas development (broadly, “fracking”) eventually be permitted here.

A local corporation, Peppermint LLC, owns large tracts of Garrett County forestland (and accompanying mineral rights) including several parcels very near to our home.  Their 385-acre parcel on our no-outlet road was one of the first sites for which drilling permits were sought in Maryland.  The owners do not reside on that parcel.  We live on our farm, own our mineral rights, and have no intention to lease them. Our acreage is small enough to be of little use to developers, yet if fracking is permitted in Maryland, we will very likely experience, due to our proximity to leased land, all the above- and below-ground impacts that come with industrial gas development on someone else’s property.

The State should be aware—when developing its regulations for this process—that for many small landowners, possession of mineral rights offers no real advantage. Without the very strictest regulations and enforcement, the scale of this development, should it occur, puts owners of small parcels in a situation very like a split mineral estate.  We small landowners are at the mercy of the decisions of large landowners all around us who believe—rightly or wrongly—that this process is safe and that it will be lucrative for them. 

There was no way to know this when we invested in the beautiful farmette where we’ve lived and worked for 17 years.  If we had understood then that mineral laws and industrial gas development could effectively diminish the right of small landowners to equal protection under the law, we would never have invested in land on shale.  I am no legal scholar, but I’d like to know that the legal minds in our State have considered this shortcoming when making policy choices. If fracking development, by its nature, puts certain stakeholders at a clear disadvantage, then in a functioning democracy, the laws we enact to regulate fracking should be further restrictive—in order to prevent impacts to those who can only be harmed by such development—and should include mechanisms to fairly compensate people for economic loss and personal harm.   

Because Maryland will make its choices about fracking later than other states, we have the advantage of doing so with both eyes open about its risks.  But if we understand these risks we must ask: is it legal to require one class of people to make sacrifices so that others will benefit?  And if the Law says “yes,” are we brave enough to make a precedent to change it?  If not, then let’s all be honest and fair and extend appropriate compensation to those people. By recommending legislation for presumption of liability and financial assurance, the MSAC has taken solid first steps to address these needs. 

I am a member of the local group CitizenShale and I concur with the many points made in their thorough examination of the BMPs. I also agree with many advocacy groups and individuals who have commented that developing BMPs before we have completed a full professional risk analysis, as well as all scheduled studies, is premature.  The unfortunate order of this process raises questions about the transparency of the whole process mandated by Governor O’Malley’s Executive Order.  For those of us living on the bull’s eye of this proposed industrial onslaught, it also undermines confidence in the State’s ability to make an informed, unbiased decision that will protect all citizens.

I ask that the State also re-consider its statement in the Overview (Sec. II) that natural gas produces lower GHG emissions than coal when burned for electricity.  Any comparisons of the two energy sources should analyze the complete “life-cycle” of production.  Calculation of the GHG footprint of shale gas development should include documentation of leakage rates (rates of higher than 3% effectively cancel out gas’s GHG advantages over coal use) and a full accounting of potential emissions from all truck traffic needed for extraction and waste disposal.  If Maryland requires a closed-loop system for waste disposal, and then transport of the waste to other states, it is likely that the truck transport needs here (and the resulting diesel emissions) will be greater than average.

I submit my personal comments on Maryland’s BMPs representing myself, and, I hope, the perspective of other small landowners and of those who do not own land or minerals at all.  The following, in order of priority, are areas that I would like to see strengthened to bring us closer to achieving the “gold standard” of protections our Governor has requested.

III (A) (6) Location Restrictions and Setbacks

Setbacks from water supplies:
Individuals—and consequently the tax bases of Maryland’s mountain counties—could face financial ruin if water supplies to residential properties are destroyed by fracking and value of properties diminished.  A public health crisis created by contaminated drinking water will not reflect well on our region or our State, especially if we allow fracking too close to water supplies despite broad awareness of recent scientific proof of migration of methane and other substances.

The State should strengthen setbacks for both private groundwater wells and public drinking water supplies to no less than 1 kilometer (3,300 ft.), based on the findings of two recent peer-reviews scientific studies.  The first, conducted by researchers at Duke University (June 2013, National Academy of Sciences) found methane concentrations 17 times higher on average in water wells in close “proximity—within one kilometer—to active drilling and extraction areas than the concentration in wells located in non-active drilling areas.”

A second study, conducted by the University of Texas-Arlington (July 2013, Environmental Science and Technology), found “elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium” occurring at an even greater distanced from high-volume, hydraulically fractured (HVHF) wells. On average, researchers detected the highest levels of these contaminants within 3 kilometers of natural gas wells, including several samples that had arsenic and selenium above levels considered safe by the EPA.

Industry proponents will likely say a 3,300-foot setback would severely restrict areas available for development.  But given what we have learned in 2013 it begs the questions:  Isn’t it the State’s job to regulate this industry based on sound science and what best protects our citizens and resources or is the purpose of regulation to facilitate the needs of the gas industry? (See Sec. III, A, intro.) Isn’t it possible these recent studies demonstrate that other states have been allowing this development too close to water supplies all along?  Maryland is the first state to be considering fracking regulations since the Duke and UT studies were published.  The State and the MSAC should heed their findings and commit to establishing a one-kilometer setback that evidence shows would afford crucial protections for our water supplies.

As I write this, new information has been published in a 9/8/13 Washington Post story about growing concerns over fracking’s impacts on the drinking water supply for the DC Metro area.  Both the Fairfax County Water Authority and Management of the Washington Aqueduct have written to the US Forest Service urging them to prohibit fracking in the George Washington National Forest, due to concerns of water source contamination in the headwaters of the Potomac River.  If municipal water managers fear fracking’s effects on the quantity and quality of water needed to serve large urban areas (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/us-forest-service-set-to-decide-on-fracking-in-george-washington-national-forest/2013/09/07/cb7228aa-1644-11e3-a2ec-b47e45e6f8ef_story.html), shouldn’t policy makers responsible for the protection of rural Maryland’s drinking water also be wary, and so adopt the strongest policies for groundwater protection? 

III (A) (Table 1-2) Location Restrictions and Setbacks

Setback recommendations for aquatic habitat:
In order to better protect our valued waterways and aquatic habitats, Maryland should strengthen protections for these resources to at least the protection the State is willing to grant to gas industry assets: 2,000 ft.  A 300-foot setback on a body of water used by wildlife and for human recreation is so small that the drill site would be visible from the waterway; disrupting water use would have serious economic consequences for the tourism sector, in addition to threatening wildlife, especially endangered species.

III (A) (Table 1-2) Location Restrictions and Setbacks

Setback recommendations for compressor stations from occupied buildings:
The draft BMPs recommend a 1,000 ft. setback between a compressor station and an occupied structure.  At the very least this restriction should also apply to distance of compressor from cultural assets, waterways and roadways.  In nearby Fayette and Washington Counties, in PA (and across the Marcellus where development is more advanced) compressor stations often cause the most visible industrialization and the most harmful impacts of gas development on rural residents.  Newspaper accounts tell horror stories of families experiencing problems with health and property value (and unable to enjoy their no-longer-rural homes) when gas processing facilities are built nearby. (http://www.observer-reporter.com/article/20130823/NEWS01/130829753#.UhifFILD_cs)

Until Maryland’s Shale Advisory Commission’s study of health impacts is completed, we do not fully understand the potential impacts from gas-processing emissions, nor do we know what the appropriate distance is to keep families safe from respiratory problems and other impacts from gas processing facilities. I concur here with the comment of Physicians for Social Responsibility that the State should revisit BMPs and regulations for setbacks and siting of compressor stations, processors and infrastructure after the completion of the Health Study.  To better protect public health, it may be necessary to increase setbacks, and to mandate a setback that is greater on the downwind side of such facilities.

To my knowledge, that the State Public Service Commission has not been involved in discussions about its role in siting gas development infrastructure in Maryland.  The BMP’s do not spell out how the interplay would work between FERC, the PSC, the Maryland Agencies and local municipalities in deciding placement of infrastructure.   Giving the MSAC time and resources to better understand this interplay would be an additional benefit to revisiting infrastructure siting issues after the studies are completed.

III (A) (10) Location Restrictions and Setbacks

Exceptions to Setback requirements
Allowing individual landowners to waive setback requirements diminishes the rights of all other nearby residents to expect full protections from the State’s regulations. Allowing exceptions for “good cause” can be interpreted in ways that always favor the developer and harm the small landowner who has not consented to setback waivers.  Please do not allow exceptions to setback requirements.

VIII (C) Forced Pooling

Possible consideration when Executive Order has been fulfilled, but further study, legal analysis and considerable public/private review required. 
Forced Pooling or Compulsory Integration should not be allowed in the State of Maryland. 
Participation in what many believe to be an experiment with our resources should be done only by choice. Owners of land and mineral rights should not be forced to allow development on and extraction of resources below their land.  The rights of resident communities should supersede any rights afforded to corporate interests and absentee owners.

VI (F) (1,2) Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards

Casing and Cement—Requirements for Casing and Cement, Isolation
1. Please do not allow reconditioned casing to be used to protect Maryland aquifers.
2. Pennsylvania DEP documents a first-year failure rate in wells constructed in the state using API standards at 6.2% to 7.2%.  Maryland’s current BMPs for well construction are derived from the same API standards.  If we use these standards and assume the same failure rates, when drilling wells in western Maryland we can expect 1 of the first 14 well casings to fail within the first year. Even more alarming, a review of data in a textbook by oil and gas industry leader Schlumberger concluded: “After 10 years about 40 percent of wells have cement failure.  After 30 years, about 60 percent of wells have cement failure…” (Lobdill, Why Gas Wells Drilling is Environmentally Risky, 2011) This statement refers to vertical wells using conventional technology rather than HVHF wells in which explosive charges and chemicals are introduced into the bore.  Can we accept this amount of risk already acknowledged by the industry?

Nobody wants their lives and homes to be part of troubling statistics.  The State and the MSAC needs to do more to study and address the causes of casing integrity failure and to propose better practices that continually improve performance of casing integrity.  If better practices are not currently available to improve upon first-year failure rates as well as long-term integrity, shouldn’t we all be asking: is certain contamination of underground water sources in Maryland a responsible choice or an unacceptable risk?

VI (D), Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards/
VII (D) Monitoring, Record-Keeping and Reporting

Chemical Disclosure/Tracer Chemicals
Due to ongoing concerns that the chemicals associated with fracking development could enter underground sources of drinking water, Maryland should—as a “gold standard” for best practices —mandate the use of a tracer (or marker) chemical to be included with the mixture of hydraulic fracturing fluids.

The use of such chemicals would provide needed assurance to residents living near drilling operations that the State is able to document any changes in their drinking water source. If Maryland residents are asked to assume fracking’s inherent risks, we should at least know that by assuming these risks we will advance scientific knowledge of potential impacts of gas development activities on surface and ground water.

III Comprehensive Gas Development Plans (CGDPs)

Impacts minimized for some; maximized for those nearby
I appreciate the intent of the State to minimize cumulative impacts in western Maryland through mandating the use of CGDPs. However it is very likely that CGDP requirements will ultimately create more intensive “sacrifice zones” in the areas where this highly concentrated development takes place. 

Landowners within the CGDP area who do not own mineral rights, or who own smaller parcels, will experience an inordinate amount of impacts because their property falls within an area of intensive development.  The State should consider denying a CGDP permit if any landowner within the CGDP does not own his mineral rights (i.e. a split estate).   In addition, the State and the MSAC should advocate for legislative protections like a Surface Owner’s Protection Act (SOPA) and adequate State severance taxes whose funds are administered by a publicly appointed commission similar to the MSAC or by an ombudsman panel. 

VI (A) (4, 6) Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards

Pipelines, Ancillary Equipment
As mentioned in the discussion of setback requirements for compressor stations (III (A) (Table 1-2), the BMP’s do not spell out how the interplay would work between FERC, the PSC, the Maryland Agencies and local municipalities in deciding placement of infrastructure. The PSC has not yet adopted a permitting process that has standards “for the location, materials, construction or testing of gathering lines.” The agencies should adopt a clearinghouse strategy that would bring the PSC into the permitting process for the CGDP. The agencies and the MSAC should review the process for permitting, siting, construction and operation of all pipelines and ancillary development outside of the CGDP process.  The agencies/MSAC should advocate in the 2014 Legislative session for a bill moving the PSC to adopt permitting for rural gas gathering lines within the state.

Also notification protocol is missing here. UMCES-AL recommends that applicants wishing to drill wells be required to notify property owners residing within the established setback that an application has been filed for development. This notification requirement should also apply to citing of compressor stations and other ancillary equipment. Applicants who wish to construct ancillary infrastructure are required to notify all landowners whose property line falls within the current required setback (1,000 feet.)

VI (J) (1) Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards

Air Emissions — Green Completions
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network has developed extensive comments in this area.  I defer to their expertise here in support of requiring Green Completions:  This recommendation would take a big step towards solidifying EPA’s New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for natural gas well sites. However, given the threats from members of Congress to strip EPA of its authority to implement these standards and EPA’s history of delaying the implementation or withdrawing rules before they are implemented, it is crucial that Maryland require green completions through state regulations.

A major shortfall of this recommendation is that the NSPS lays out additional requirements that are not covered in this Maryland-specific language. Those requirements include green completions for well “re-completions”/“workovers,” reporting requirements for green completions, gas bleed limits for pneumatic controllers, reduction requirements from storage vessels at the well site, and air toxic requirements from glycol dehydrators used at the well site. This BMP recommendation should be expanded to include all of the requirements in EPA’s NSPS.

VI (J) (2b) Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards

Air Emissions — Flaring restrictions
Flaring for periods longer than several days under any circumstances will result in an unacceptable level of noise and light and possibly dangerous air quality for nearby residents, especially those with small children or respiratory conditions.  I saw first-hand a gas well flare at a Chevron well in nearby Addison PA in Autumn 2012 and I have to conclude it must have caused a great deal of inconvenience and disruption to local residents as it flared over several weeks. 

The roar of the flare could be heard throughout the town, and the flame was so large it could be seen in Maryland neighborhoods along the Yough and I-68 corridors.  Since I am an asthma sufferer, I did not stay nearby long enough to breathe the air around this flare, but a plume of smoke rising above the actual flames filled the sky and hung there on a windless night.  Maryland needs to wait for the findings of the health study to gain a better understanding of the impacts associated with emissions and flaring from gas wells and related facilities.  Any regulations regarding flaring should not be finalized in COMAR until it is revisited after the completion of the Health Study in June, 2014.

VI (H) Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards

Hydraulic Fracturing—Seismic testing during development
These comments are informed by the extensive written comment submission by geologist Donald C. Helm:  A recent study (ongoing) by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) for the Department of Energy (DOE) found that fractures in 1 in 8 wells had traveled up to 1,800 feet beyond the well bore, and federal regulators have accepted industry arguments that fractures may travel up to 2,000 feet. The CGDP will require more wells from a single pad and this may lead to closer consolidation of well bores.

MDE scales back the seismic mapping requirements recommended by UMCES-AL, requiring only one test per well on the pad. If we are to permit pads with up to 18 well bores, repeated fracturing of all these closely-clustered well bores & laterals could result in seismic changes.  MDE should require seismology of the area to be developed and identify the area or areas where HVHF may communicate with naturally occurring geological faults.

III (E) Comprehensive Gas Development Plan

Shale Gas Development Toolbox—additional siting criteria to guide avoidance, minimization and mitigation of potential impacts Departments should add: e.  Complete hydro-geological data for all fractured-rock strata over Maryland’s Marcellus shale deposits, documenting location of underground aquifers and understanding their movements.  To ensure veracity this data should not be collected by the applicant, but by contractors approved by or employed by the State.
 
VI (C) (2) Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards

Water withdrawal
Maryland’s regulations for water withdrawal need to include a way to track cumulative effects of natural gas development on regional water resources.

In addition, since the State lacks complete hydrological information, action should be taken to prevent depletion of water sources by withdrawals for gas development. Evidence has recently emerged in other shale gas plays that water withdrawals for HVHF development have played a major role in diminishing the water supplies for entire communities. It is impossible to overstate the personal and economic loss that such a failure of water supplies would bring to Garrett and Allegany counties.
.
VI (A) (3) (B) (K) Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards
VII (F) (4) Monitoring, Record-Keeping and Reporting

Pits and Ponds; Transportation Planning; Waste and Wastewater Treatment and Disposal;
Maryland recommends that pits and ponds be used to store only fresh water and that all other material shall be stored in tanks. This good protection should be a requirement in our state, but the state needs to coordinate closely with the local municipalities on construction standards for ponds.

Maryland currently does not allow waste disposal in the State; the agencies have stated that our geology is not suited to this type of Class II UTI disposal well.  This recommendation has my wholehearted support.  However, in BMP presentations it was estimated that only 20% of fracking waste comes back up from the well, so I have to wonder:  shouldn’t we consider all HVHF wells Class II UTI wells if waste is, essentially, stored in them? If we are actually “storing” waste in every well we drill, does it matter that our geology is not considered suitable for this purpose?

A trade-off with the strong requirement for a “closed-loop” drilling systems and a prohibition of toxic frack ponds is increased heavy truck traffic carrying hazardous fracking waste from drill sites over repetitive routes on western Maryland’s 2-lane roads, through our communities. Placarding and GPS tracking/logs should be required for all waste hauling vehicles.  The State should develop plans for coordinating enforcement in these areas; if the responsibility of state police, more staffing will be required to have adequate patrols on our mountain roadways. These patrols will need to be equipped to test for radioactivity. Most of the roadways that serve as main transport arteries in Garrett County are only two lanes.  Serious planning considerations must be required between State, Industry and local jurisdictions to prevent roads like MD 42, MD 219, and Route 40/Historic National Road from becoming haz-mat corridors.

VII (A) Monitoring, Recordkeeping and Reporting

Minimum 2-year pre-development baseline data
This recommendation needs to be a mandatory part of the CGDP
or the Departments need to require a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to compile baseline data to access cumulative impacts and mitigation strategies.

VII (B) Monitoring, Recordkeeping and Reporting
The State will develop protocols for baseline monitoring and standards for monitoring during operations at the site…
It is preferable that baseline water testing be done by the State
(financed through permitting fees) or a State-approved, accredited facility and not by the Industry itself.

The Agencies have said repeatedly at the presentations of the BMPs to the public, that without adequate enforcement, it does not matter how strong our regulations are.
When the Agencies have developed standards for monitoring industrial gas development activities, the public should be given a reasonable opportunity to comment on these recommendations as well, since Maryland citizens, especially those living on shale plays, will be forced to live with the risks and impacts of those activities. These standards should be developed and adopted before any gas development activity commences in our state.

VIII (A) Zoning

UMCES-AL report recommends counties amend their zoning ordinances to establish where fracking would be permitted in order to prevent incompatible land uses
If it is universally understood that performance zoning standards are not politically achievable in Garrett County, will the State and the Administration accept responsibility for permitting a potentially hazardous industrial practice in a community which does not have adequate land use protections in place?  In accordance with recommendations made in the UMCES-AL report, Maryland should not permit fracking to go forward in areas of the state where adequate land use protections are not in place.
 
I extend my thanks, again, to the Agencies and the Administration for the opportunity to comment—and for facilitating civil and responsible public inquiry into a topic that will have long-term consequences for our state and its citizens.

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On behalf of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) and ANHE nurses throughout the state, I appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the Draft Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study: Part II Best Practices (BMP).

Nurses throughout Maryland are very concerned about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on the health of Maryland’s citizens. As such, we’d like to highlight issues within the BMP that are of particular importance to healthcare providers.

1. Confidential business information: The BMP adopts the trade secret hazard communication standard currently used by the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA). This standard outlines a process for providers to obtain trade secret chemical information if it is needed for treatment of a patient. Providers may be forced to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to obtain this information. This standard creates a health care provider “gag rule,” hampers the provider--‐patient relationship that is essential to quality healthcare and may impede timely access to treatment. ANHE strongly opposes this provision. In states where fracking is occurring, health care providers are worried that they could be prosecuted for sharing chemical information with their patients or other healthcare providers.

Chemical mixtures that are used in the fracking process should be disclosed. Companies should also have to provide the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) with toxicity information. There should also be a streamlined process for health care providers to obtain chemical information and should explicitly exclude providers from having to sign a confidentiality agreement to obtain the information.

2. Health Study: It is premature to release a BMP without having evaluated the results of the State health study on the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing and the risk analysis being performed by MDE and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). We oppose any such premature BPM release, as it is impossible to establish best practices without first identifying the risks.

3. Methane emissions: As nurses, we are concerned about the health impacts of climate change and support the efforts of Maryland to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and while the BMP makes a number of recommendations to decrease methane leakage, methane flaring is not prohibited.  With the levels of flaring occurring on other states, this lack of regulation is alarming and ANHE opposes it.  The BMP should require a zero percent methane leakage.  Eliminating the escape of methane from gas wells at any time during construction and production, as well as during the transportation and distribution process, should be established as a best practice in Maryland.

Thank you for this opportunity and we look forward to continued opportunities to provide comments as this process moves forward.

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 I am a resident in Howard County Maryland but vacation in western Maryland and enjoy the natural resources there.  I am concerned about hydraulic fracturing in Maryland and all the associated impacts in western Maryland and other areas that would be affected by infrastructure such as pipelines, compressor stations throughout the state of Maryland.

I am very concerned that these draft best management practices (BMPs) have been published prior to the state’s health and economic studies and therefore MDE and DNR have not established that these practices, if implemented, would allow unconventional natural gas production from shale to occur safely in Maryland. Governor O'Malley's 2011 Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Executive Order directs MDE and DNR to determine whether and how gas production from the Marcellus Shale in Maryland can be accomplished without unacceptable risks of adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment, and natural resources.  This report is not based on any scientific studies and would need to be reevaluated and open to public comments once these critical studies are completed, so that these findings can be properly incorporated.

Even without the completion of these studies, there are many issues and concerns with this report:

Section IV: The proposed setbacks are insufficient to protect the environment and human health.  A recent Duke University study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found evidence of water contamination up to 1 kilometer (3,280 feet) from drilling sites.

The proposed 1000′ for private and 2000′ public drinking water setbacks in the draft Best Management Practice are not enough.  Proposed setbacks allowing drilling 600 feet from “irreplaceable natural areas” and “wild lands” and a mere 300 feet from a stream, river, spring, wetland, pond, reservoir and 100-year floodplain is an unacceptable risk.  Based on evidence of methane, ethane, and propane contamination documented by Duke University researchers, MDE and DNR should increase the proposed setbacks to 3,500 feet and should not treat private wells and public groundwater wells differently.

The state should consider that toxic air pollutants also pose a threat in determining setbacks. One peer-reviewed study found high levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the air during the drilling phase. From the study: “Selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were at concentrations greater than those at which prenatally exposed children in urban studies had lower developmental and IQ scores.” 

Section V: The use of all chemicals used in fracking fluid must be disclosed for each well as this information is essential for health professionals and the public. In the event of accidents, spills, or any emergency situation, first responders have a right to know what dangerous materials they are in contact with.

Section VI: No discharge of potentially contaminated stormwater or pollutants from the pad shall be allowed and must be enforced. I support any recommendation that placarding and GPS tracking/logs be required for all waste hauling vehicles. In addition unique tracer chemicals should be included in fracking wastewater, so that illegal dumpers can be more easily tracked.

Because shale gas pipelines are larger and under higher pressures than traditional rural gathering lines, standards for the location, materials, construction or testing of these lines must be developed.  The Maryland Public Service Commission should correct this serious problem before MDE approves CGDP plans or issues permits.

General Concerns:

Emissions & Flaring:    The BMPs should require gas companies to meet a 1 or 2 percent leakage rate for methane throughout the drilling process. In addition, leakage should be monitored by a certifiable method and reported annually.   Also, the failure rate of casings should be improved as PA has a failure rate of 7.2% within the first year of drilling which is an unacceptable risk.

The proposed BMPs allow flaring for up to 30 days for exploratory wells and place some limits on flaring during drilling.  Nearby flaring sounds like a jet engine at takeoff. It also releases nitrogen dioxides, volatile organic compounds like benzene, and other substances linked to asthma and chronic bronchitis. This BMP is too vague and all flaring should be prohibited.

Emergency Response Plans: The BMPs should require plans for a 12 hour emergency response plan as 24 hours is much too long in case of a blowout, fire or other accident.

I'd like to close with a Native American Proverb:  "We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors: we borrow it from our children."

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Comments submitted to the Maryland Department of the Environment on behalf of Food & Water Watch and Potomac Riverkeeper

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative study of best practices for shale gas development, including drilling and fracking operations.

The undersigned groups maintain that shale gas development presents unacceptable risks to the state of Maryland, and should be prohibited. As such, while our comments identify ways in which the Best Practices study could be improved, in most cases our comments also highlight how the best practices, even if perfectly enacted and enforced, would still lead to significant negative impacts on Maryland’s communities.

We recognize that the study states, explicitly, that the O’Malley Administration has yet to determine whether or not drilling and fracking for shale gas poses unacceptable risks. However, we continue to view the Best Practices study as opening the door to drilling and fracking throughout Maryland.

General comments

The study should make clear that if shale gas development is permitted, then Marylanders should expect shale gas drilling to spread throughout the state, not just throughout western Maryland.

Maryland residents should expect that the oil and gas industry will push to drill and frack for as much natural gas as it can profitably extract from beneath the entire state, not just from the Marcellus Shale in western Maryland. The study, however, fails to acknowledge the likely targets for future drilling and fracking other than the Marcellus Shale. These targets include the Gettysburg, Culpeper, Taylorsville and Delmarva Basins, which stretch from central Maryland to the Eastern Shore. [U.S. Geological Survey. “Assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources of the East Coast Mesozoic basins of the Piedmont, Blue Ridge Thrust Belt, Atlantic Coastal Plain, and New England Provinces, 2011.” June 2012 at 1 and 2.] Indeed, the oil and gas industry’s plans to export large amounts of natural gas overseas, including from a terminal proposed for Cove Point on the Chesapeake Bay, would only increase the pressure to drill and frack throughout the state.

The study should address uncertainty over the long-term contamination risk to underground sources of drinking water from widespread drilling and fracking within a region.

The amount of natural gas that can be produced from a single fracked well varies significantly within a shale gas play, and the rate of production declines rapidly soon after a well is fracked. [EIA. “Annual energy outlook 2012 with projections to 2035.” (DOE/EIA-0383(2012)). June 2012 at 57.] Operators drill and frack the sweet spots of the play first, leaving the less productive and thus less profitable portions of the play for later. This means that the industry has to increase the rate of drilling and fracking just to sustain a constant level of shale gas production.

Allowing the oil and gas industry to ride out this fracking treadmill in Maryland would turn the state into a pincushion of fracked gas wells. According to the Maryland Department of the Environment, one “industry representative” has suggested that over 2,200 new shale gas wells could be drilled in Garrett and Allegany Counties alone. [Maryland Department of the Environment. “Facts about…the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative.” [Fact sheet]. April 2012. ] Over years and decades, these wells would age, degrade and be abandoned, creating pathways through which injected chemicals and natural contaminants can seep into underground sources of drinking water. [Myers, Tom. “Potential contaminant pathways from hydraulically fractured shale to aquifers.” Ground Water. April 17, 2012 at 3 to 4; Brufatto, Claudio et al. “From mud to cement – Building gas wells.” Oilfield Review. Autumn 2003 at 63; Dusseault, Maurice B. et al. “Why oilwells leak: Cement behavior and long-term consequences.” Paper presented at the Society of Petroleum Engineers International Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition, Beijing, China. November 7-10 2000 at 1; Kusnetz, Nicholas. “Deteriorating oil and gas wells threaten drinking water, homes across the country.” ProPublica. April 3, 2011.] The result would be a legacy of risk shouldered by generations of Marylanders.

Scientists do not yet know how drilling and fracking thousands of new wells in a region will ultimately change the way contaminants — not just the cancer-causing fracking chemicals but also hydrocarbon gases and even radioactive brines — mix and move deep underground, over long periods of time. [Myers, Tom. “Potential contaminant pathways from hydraulically fractured shale to aquifers.” Ground Water. April 17, 2012 at 3 to 4; Dusseault, Maurice B. et al. “Why oilwells leak: Cement behavior and long-term consequences.” Paper presented at the Society of Petroleum Engineers International Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition, Beijing, China. November 7-10 2000 at 1; Personal communication with attendees of U.S. EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study stakeholder outreach workshop, Research Triangle Park, NC. May 2013.]

In essence, those living in regions with widespread shale gas development — and more broadly in regions with widespread disposal of toxic wastes via deep well injections — are the subjects of a large, uncontrolled scientific experiment on the fate and transport of the chemicals injected. As Stefan Finsterle, a federal scientist, told ProPublica, “There is no certainty at all in any of this… You have changed the system with pressure and temperature and fracturing, so you don’t know how it will behave.” [Lustgarten, Abrahm. “Injection wells: The poison beneath us.” ProPublica. June 21, 2012.]

The study should explicitly acknowledge the political reality that the proposed “best practices” amount to an initial negotiating position held by Maryland, in the face of oil and gas industry pressure.

Given the industry’s capacity for and track record of spending on political campaigns, Marylanders should expect the oil and gas industry and its advocates to work tirelessly to weaken the state’s regulations, or to defund state-level enforcement of any regulations they fail to thwart. At the same time, the oil and gas industry is likely to continue running its public relations campaign promoting drilling and fracking as safe and as the solution to U.S. energy insecurity.

Industry is partly able to dismiss the negative impacts from drilling and fracking by burying the evidence and obfuscating the issue. The industry blocks access to data and other information that would be needed to evaluate fully the environmental and public health impacts of its operations. [Lustgarten, Abrahm. “Gas drilling companies hold data needed by researchers to assess risk to water quality.” ProPublica. May 17, 2011.] For example, in cases in which drilling and fracking have contaminated water or otherwise endangered the public, court records with technical information on the cases are typically sealed from the public record as part of any settlement agreement. [Urbina, Ian. “A tainted water well, and concern there may be more.” The New York Times. August 3, 2011.] Also, owing to an exemption in the Safe Drinking Water Act, fracking companies do not have to disclose the chemicals that they are pumping underground. [U.S. House of Representatives. Committee on Energy and Commerce. [Minority Staff report]. “Chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.” April 2011 at 3 to 4.]  Even when states do require disclosure, there’s typically an exemption for any chemicals considered trade secrets. [U.S. House of Representatives. Committee on Energy and Commerce. [Minority Staff report]. “Chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.” April 2011 at 3 to 4.]

In one recent case, industry’s control of the data may explain why an EPA investigation into reports of contaminated water was not pursued. [Plushnick-Masti, Ramit. “EPA backed off drilling probe into foul water.” The Associated Press. January 17, 2013.]  Specifically, the EPA is relying heavily on industry’s voluntary cooperation to obtain data to conduct its ongoing study of the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water resources, rather than requiring that well data be shared. According to an Associated Press investigation, this reliance on industry may have kept the EPA from getting to the bottom of a dispute between Range Resources and a landowner with a water well that was contaminated with methane. [Plushnick-Masti, Ramit. “EPA backed off drilling probe into foul water.” The Associated Press. January 17, 2013.]

The study should include a section dedicated to best practices for reducing methane emissions at every stage of the natural gas system.

The study does call for a leak detection program to curb fugitive methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure, and for so-called green completions to curb methane emissions during fracking operations. In light of Governor O’Malley’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act Plan, which ironically projects a decrease in Maryland natural gas production (and thus methane leakage) from 2006 to 2020, [Governor Martin O’Malley Administration. “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act Plan.” August 2013, at 31.] a section dedicated to best practices for reducing methane emissions at every stage of the natural gas system would be beneficial, both in terms of the public interest and in terms of the ability of the state to manage the problem.

With the reality of global climate change increasingly clear, promoters of natural gas have tried to sell increased dependence on natural gas as a “bridge” for transitioning to a low-carbon future powered by renewable energy. [Flavin, Christopher and Nicholas Lenssen. “Power Surge: Guide to the Coming Energy Revolution.” W.W. Norton: New York. 1994 at 91 and 92; Energy Modeling Forum. Stanford University. “Natural Gas, Fuel Diversity and North American Energy Markets.”  Report 20. September 2003 at 1; Podesta, John D. and Timothy E. Wirth. Center for American Progress. “Natural Gas: A Bridge Fuel for the 21st Century.” August 10, 2009 at 1; Jaffe, Amy M. “Shale gas will rock the world.” The Wall Street Journal. May 10, 2010.]  This is based in part on the fact that burning natural gas produces considerably less carbon dioxide than burning coal or oil. But carbon dioxide emissions from burning natural gas are still significant.

Several recent studies now show that relying on natural gas as a bridge will not avoid potentially dire increases in global mean temperature, even assuming relatively low estimates for the fraction of produced natural gas that leaks into the atmosphere. [Myhrvold, Nathan and Ken Caldeira. “Greenhouse gases, climate change and the transition from coal to low-carbon electricity.” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 7, iss. 1. February 2012 at 4 to 5; Levi, Michael. “Climate implications of natural gas as a bridge.” Climatic Change. January 2013.]  Myhrvold et al, for example, use the dated estimate of less than 2 percent leakage while recent studies have estimated methane emissions locally to be as high as 9 percent. [Myhrvold, Nathan and Ken Caldeira. “Greenhouse gases, climate change and the transition from coal to low-carbon electricity.” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 7, iss. 1. February 2012 at 4 to 5; Bradbury, James et al. World Resources Institute. [Working paper]. “Clearing the air: Reducing upstream greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. natural gas systems.” April 2013 at Appendix 1.]

Notably, for its “Golden Age of Gas” scenario of increased global dependence on natural gas, the International Energy Agency estimated that the global average temperature would increase by 3.5° Celsius, or by about 6.3° Fahrenheit, by 2035. [International Energy Agency. “Golden rules for a golden age of gas.” 2012 at 91.] Maryland’s entire economy would be crippled by such extreme climate change. According to the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, this large of an increase in global average temperature would mean our state would suffer:

  • “the loss of virtually all coastal wetlands”;
  • The “inundation of more than 100 square miles of presently dry land and loss of the homes of thousands of Marylanders”;
  • summer-long heat waves “creating life-threatening conditions in Maryland’s urban environments”;
  • “more extreme rainfall events, but also longer lasting summer droughts”;
  • “declines in agricultural productivity” due to “severe heat stress and the summer droughts”; and
  • “the loss of maple-beech-birch forests of Western Maryland” and “the withdrawal of northern bird species such as the Baltimore oriole from Maryland.” [Boesch, Donald F. (ed). “Comprehensive assessment of climate change impacts in Maryland.” Chapter 2 in Maryland Commission on Climate Change. “Climate action plan.” August 2008 at 78.]

Yet IEA’s projection of the climate impact from the “Golden Age of Gas” scenario presumes that much less methane is leaking into the atmosphere than may actually be the case. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide at trapping heat. [Matthews, Kevin. “Why claims about reductions of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are misleading.” Climate Progress. December 5, 2012.] Data on just how much methane is leaking from the oil and gas industry varies widely, but methane emissions are clearly significant enough to cancel much of if not entirely negate the benefit of lower carbon dioxide emissions that come from burning natural gas instead of coal or oil. [EPA. “Inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sinks: 1990-2010.” April 15, 2012 at 2-3 to 2-4 and 3-1 to 3-4; Myhrvold, Nathan and Ken Caldeira. “Greenhouse gases, climate change and the transition from coal to low-carbon electricity.” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 7, iss. 1. February 2012 at 4 to 5; Pétron, Gabrielle et al. “Hydrocarbon emissions characterization in the Colorado Front Range: A pilot study.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, vol. 117. February 21, 2012; Tollefson, Jeff. “Methane leaks erode green credentials of natural gas.” Nature. January 2, 2013. ]

Comments on specific sections

Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans

Drilling and fracking have industrialized rural communities in deeply problematic ways, bringing air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, heavy-duty truck traffic, marred landscapes, fragmented forests and waste disposal problems. All of these impacts result in largely unaccounted for economic costs to affected communities. The study proposes Comprehensive Gas Development Plans (CGDPs) as a means of minimizing such costs.

The study is unclear about how the cumulative impact of shale gas development by multiple companies will be considered in the review of CGDPs.

A “prospective applicant” for a permit to drill and frack would be required to submit a CGDP. [Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Department of the Environment. “Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative (MSSDI) Study, Part II, Best Practices.” August 2013 at 8.] This applicant would presumably be a single company, but the study then suggests that CGDPs would give the state the ability to evaluate “the entire project scope of a single company, or multiple companies simultaneously.” [Ibid.] Then, the study states, “Companies whose geographic planning units overlap are encouraged to develop integrated plans to improve use of existing and new infrastructure, to share or co-locate infrastructure, and to minimize cumulative impacts.” [Ibid.] This final statement suggests “integrated” CGDPs, involving multiple companies, would only be encouraged, not required.

The study repeatedly refers to CGDPs as “beneficial,” but CGDPs are only beneficial to the public relative to the counterfactual of unrestricted and unplanned drilling and fracking. Clearly, CGDPs are not beneficial to the public relative to not allowing drilling and fracking in the state.

The study states that CGDPs “will be beneficial,” [Ibid.] and lists “better protection of natural, social, cultural, recreational and other resources, and reduced cumulative impact” as the leading benefit. [Ibid. at 11.] But CGDPs are not “better protection” than a ban on drilling and fracking in Maryland. CGDPs only offer “better protection” relative to drilling and fracking without any landscape scale planning. The Best Practices study should be more clear that CGDPs only benefit the public interest relative to the counterfactual of unrestricted drilling and fracking. Importantly, the other benefits listed would accrue to industry or facilitate regulation. They would not benefit the public.

The study should clarify the extent to which, in the process of approving an individual CGDP, the state will factor in the economic burden that a more protective CGDP would place on companies.

According the study, “If the State determines that the CGDP conforms to regulatory requirements and, to the maximum extent practicable, avoids impacts to natural, social, cultural, recreational and other resources, minimizes unavoidable impacts, and mitigates remaining impacts, the State shall approve the CGDP.” [Ibid. at 11.] This raises unanswered questions. How will “the maximum extent practicable” be determined? Will the economic burden on an applicant be part of the determination that impacts are either avoided, minimized or mitigated “to the maximum extent practicable”?

Section IV – Location Restrictions and Setbacks

The study states that “certain ecologically important areas, recreational areas and sources of drinking water may only be fully protected if certain activities are precluded there.” [Ibid. at 14.] The study then lists existing and proposed setbacks from certain areas, including restrictions on how close the borehole can pass by geological features or underground coal mines.

Natural fractures of the bedrock beneath central and western Maryland contain potential drinking water resources, and shale gas boreholes should be set back from these geological features.

In central and western Maryland, the U.S. Geological Survey, in partnership with the state of Maryland, is engaged in a study of how groundwater resources in that region change with drought or with periods of heavy rains, and in turn how local changes in groundwater levels impact stream flows there. [U.S. Geological Survey. [Prepared in cooperation with Maryland Departments of Natural Resources and the Environment]. “A science plan for a comprehensive assessment of water supply in the region underlain by fractured rock in Maryland.” [Scientific investigations report 2012-5106]. 2012] The aim of the study is to build a better understanding of the local balances of supply and future demand for water resources. [Ibid. at 16.] This understanding is complicated by the many natural fractures in the bedrock where groundwater resides and by how these fractures connect to rivers and streams. [Ibid.]

The study acknowledges, “There is a definite need for an analysis of extant hydrogeological data from western Maryland that could be used to develop flow nets or models and infer groundwater flowpaths and other important features such as recharge areas, discharge areas, hydrologic residence times, and depth of the freshwater zone across the area.” [“MSSDI Study, Part II, Best Practices.” August 2013 at F-2] Yet, if the oil and gas industry gets its way, shale gas wells would intersect many of these fractures without adequate understanding of how groundwater flows beneath the region. [USGS (2012) at 5, 17 and 21.] By creating new pathways through which contaminants can flow, these new wells would put at risk both the pockets of shallow groundwater and the streams to which this groundwater flows. Moreover, these fractures complicate the casing and cementing of wells that pass through them, increasing the risk of subsurface leaks.

Section VI – Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards

The study should acknowledge that Ohio would likely be relied on for the disposal of drilling and fracking waste generated in Maryland.

Drilling and fracking hundreds of new shale gas wells in Maryland each year would mean hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic waste, and there are no good disposal options. The study favors “100 percent recycling,” and recommends requiring “not less than 90 percent recycling” unless the operator “can demonstrate it is not practicable.” [“MSSDI Study, Part II, Best Practices.” August 2013 at 37.] This would still mean tens of millions of gallons of toxic waste, as well as large amounts of residual solid waste from the recycling process that would require safe disposal.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the U.S EPA established an Underground Injection Control program for permitting the disposal of toxic wastes by injecting them underground into designated wells. [40 CFR §146.] As the alternative to actual treatment, Class II underground injection disposal wells have become essential to the oil and gas industry as a cheap means of disposing of drilling and fracking waste. [U.S. EPA. [Progress report]. “Study of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.” December 2012 at 19.] But Class II wells are not without their problems. Injecting fracking wastewater deep underground has caused a spate of small earthquakes. [Soraghan, Mike. “Wastewater injection well sparked earthquake – Ohio officials.” E&E Publishing, LLC. March 9, 2012.] Further, a recent investigation by ProPublica exposed the shortsightedness of waste disposal through deep well injection, highlighted how the federal rules under which the UIC program operates are outdated, and noted that the EPA has granted “exemptions” so as to allow these injections in some aquifers. [Lustgarten, Abrahm. “Injection wells: The poison beneath us.” ProPublica. June 21, 2012; Lustgarten, Abrahm. “The trillion-gallon loophole: Lax rules for drillers that inject pollutants into the earth.” ProPublica. September 20, 2012; Lustgarten, Abrahm. “Poisoning the well: How the feds let industry pollute the nation’s underground water supply.” ProPublica. December 11, 2012.]

The study fails to address this issue. It states that “it is not likely that Class II wells will be located in Maryland,” and thus “defers any consideration of the matter.” [“MSSDI Study, Part II, Best Practices.” August 2013 at 38.] Ohio has become the dumping ground for drilling and fracking waste generated in Pennsylvania. If fracking is permitted in Maryland, not to mention New York, Ohioans can expect to see even more drilling and fracking waste will be sent into the state, and down the state’s Class II injection wells. The study should acknowledge this fact.

The study should address the potential for operational problems as a result of the disposal of large volumes of solid waste from drilling and fracking operations.

The State of New York has estimated that drilling a typical shale gas well generates about 5,859 cubic feet of rock cuttings — enough to cover an acre of land more than 1.5 inches deep. [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program: Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs.” September 7, 2011 at 5-34.] These cuttings, about the size of coarse grains of sand, must be disposed of, and they are coated with used drilling fluids that can contain contaminants such as benzene, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and radium-226. [Resnikoff, Marvin et al. Radioactive Waste Management Associates. [Report prepared for Residents for the Preservation of Lowman and Chemung]. “Radioactivity in Marcellus Shale.” May 19, 2010 at 7; Mall and Donnelly. September 8, 2010 at 10.]

The study rightfully acknowledges that cuttings and other solid waste from drilling and fracking may have harmful levels of radioactivity, and that when this is the case, these wastes should not be disposed of in landfills. [“MSSDI Study, Part II, Best Practices.” August 2013 at 37.] But these wastes may present other problems for landfills, beyond radioactivity.

North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources determined that landfill linings could be degraded, potentially resulting in leaks of harmful contaminants, and that layers of drilling cutting wastes could plug up the flow of landfill fluids, causing spills out the sides of the landfill. [North Carolina Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Commerce, and Justice and RAFI-USA. [March 2012 at 189 to 190.] The study should account for this potential impact.

The study should incorporate best practices for minimizing losses of well integrity due to cement failure, both during completion and long after a well is producing or even abandoned.

In addition to design flaws that can cause immediate cases of contamination, cement degrades over years and decades. [Myers, Tom. (2012) at 3 to 4; Brufatto, Claudio et al. (2003) at 63; Dusseault, Maurice B. et al. (2000) at 1; Kusnetz, Nicholas (2011).] Separation between the cement and the borehole, and microfractures within the cement itself, make it possible for methane and other hydrocarbon gases to migrate vertically over long distances, potentially contaminating underground sources of drinking water. Maryland should either come up with best practices for minimizing the long-term degradation of the oil and gas industry’s wells, or propose best practices for monitoring and resealing degraded wells.

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The Board of Directors and committee members of the Casselman Coal Poolee Association would like to express our appreciation to the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Department of Natural Resources, and to the members of the MDE-DNR Advisory Commission, UMCES-AL, the House Environmental Matters Committee and the Senate Education, Health and Environment Committee for their work pursuant to Governor O’Malley’s Executive Order 01.01.2011.11, the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative.  Your efforts will be invaluable in assisting our Maryland State policymakers and regulators in providing a clear legislative pathway to the development of efficient natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale in Maryland without unacceptable risks of adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment, local communities, ecosystems, and other natural resources.

With regard to the August, 2013 Draft Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Part II, the following comments are provided:

UMCES-AL recommendations with regard to setbacks from mapped underground coal mines to the borehole are unnecessarily restrictive, as appropriately noted by the Departments in the August, 2013 Draft Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Part II. We endorse the Departments recommendations with regard to this critical issue. Pre-drill planning including careful site evaluation and pilot hole investigations is the safest and most effective method to identify these features. As noted by MDE’s mining program, Maryland’s deep coal mines cover thousands of acres, but are only several hundred feet deep, and can be safely cased through, utilizing pilot holes to precisely identify and locate any voids. The MDE and DNR have appropriately proposed that the best practice is to conduct pre-drill planning in any area where underground mining is suspected within 500 feet of the prospective borehole, based on a review of available records. The Departments have recommended that the pre-drill planning shall include selection of drill hole locations that avoid all mine voids and assures lateral support of drill holes during drilling and casings during well construction. If such locations cannot be found, voids must be filled or isolated with multiple concentric strings of casing and cement.  We fully endorse these recommendations.

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We are writing to express our support for a reasonable approach to possible exploration for & production of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.

Our company has operated in Frostburg since 1847, currently having mineral & gas rights on about 4,000 acres in the area.

Several days ago we were asked to consider contacting your Commission about the current discussions on how to approach the above.

We believe that there are significant potential benefits to the Nation, State, western counties & our Company, if there are quantities of gas that can be recovered without risking damage to aquifers & the overall environment. Strict but reasonable regulation & oversight is necessary.

From a personal standpoint I believe that exploration & production companies should be required to disclose all chemicals & such injected into the ground, even if federal regulations, influenced by industry lobbyists, do not require full disclosure.

Based on a brief review on the information we received, it appears that a time frame of less than two years should be acceptable, as would additional consideration to tract sizes.

We would appreciate being added to the list of parties interested in copies of any of your reports, minutes, etc.

Thank you for your consideration and efforts.

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 The Marcellus Shale formation does not extend into Montgomery County, Maryland, but the U.S. Geological Survey identifies the Culpeper Basin located within the western part of our County. While the Culpeper Basin has not yet been qualitatively assessed by the USGS, recommendations for the Marcellus Shale could be considered applicable to the Culpeper Basin in the future. 

Our staff has found that the Culpeper Basin underlies the Poolesville Area Sole Source Aquifer, the primary source of drinking water for the area, as well as geological formations such as the shale barrens, the serpentine barrens and the diabase bedrock formation, which provide rare and unique habitats within the County. Protection of such resources are included in our local land use, zoning, and forest conservation codes and laws. 

Currently, hydraulic fracturing is not an allowed use in Montgomery County. As part of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative, we request the addition of a statement to indicate that the State will not seek to preempt local zoning and land use controls. 

Thank you for providing us with the opportunity to comment upon the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact our staff.

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The Montgomery County Planning Department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has reviewed your August 2013 Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study, Part II, Best Practices; our comments are below. 

There are too many unanswered questions about fracking for Maryland to move ahead.  The risks are such that letting the genie out of the bottle now would be a terrible mistake... you'll never get it back in.

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 Thank you for extending the comment period for feedback on the proposed regulations published in the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study (MSSDIS).  It is a complex task that you have been assigned, and many of us have been struggling with getting a basic understanding of what is proposed.
 
My position on this issue has always been that we need a fair and equitable process that will provide safety measures to protect our environment while allowing the citizens of Maryland to develop another natural resource, as other resources have been utilized in the past.  This would include the forests and coal reserves in Western Maryland along with the agricultural industry and harvests from the Chesapeake Bay.  These industries have contributed to the welfare of all Marylanders over the past century.  Now, we have another resource, the extent of which is unknown at this time, to add to this list.   The state entered this process considerably behind Western Maryland, and I am somewhat surprised, myself, to think that we have now been debating the pros and cons of the development of natural gas for 5 years and are seemingly nowhere close to an answer on which for either landowners or gas companies can base their long-term decisions.
 
While we have many questions about specific aspects of the regulations, our biggest concern lies with the process of the Comprehensive Gas Development Plan.  With only approximately 1% of the shale play lying in our area and Dr. Eshleman’s report recommending that this type of plan be voluntary, the proposed regulations are too time consuming and expensive compared to our neighboring states.  In my view, this discourages the entry of multiple companies into the Maryland fields and at this point has completely run the gas companies “out of town” so far as considering leases or development of wells.  It may be an unintentional consequence, but this limits competition and works to the disadvantage of all.  I do not quite understand how the effort to develop an oversight process turned into a focus of creating a “gold standard” that makes Maryland regulations more stringent than any other state in the nation.  This really bespeaks of an underlying political effort to simply stall this process for an undetermined period of time—for what purpose is completely speculative.  To further add a complicated cycle of reviews and public hearings to the cycle just adds to the redundancy of the process.  In the end, someone has got to take the responsibility for accountability and move on.
 
As we continue the effort to define the balance between the rights of property owners and the protection of the environment, the accountability of state officials to oversee the regulatory side of the equation with a timely and balanced approach is a major concern.  Of all of the studies that have been ordered, I don’t believe I have seen a calculation of what the cost of existing regulations for any kind of development already on the books amounts to with the gas industry, much less the cost of all the newly proposed regulations that are being proposed (such as the CGDP).  It is a simplification to just say that these are “gas company costs.”  Every cent eventually leads to a reduction to the property owner, which in turn is a reduction to our communities and the state in taxes that will be paid.
 
At this point, I cannot support the regulations as proposed.  We have to find a better way to build into the equation the most efficient and effective means of production.   My second issue of concern, and as far as I know not even a point of discussion, is a set of temporary regulations that will allow for exploratory wells to quantify the quality and quantity of the gas underlying the shale play in Western Maryland.   I don’t know how we can make an educated decision about all of these issues without that factor.
 
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to give “our 2 cents’ worth.”
 

##

I thought it was very prudent of Maryland to have a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing of natural gas until its safety could be studied with more depth. As we have seen in neighboring states there have been many serious problems with the process and a larger impact on local communities than was communicated before it began. Many people have voiced that they wish could go back in time and not lease away their land that now has become uninhabitable and unsellable. Is that situation in the best interest of the land, farms, vineyards and tourism industry in western Maryland? What about the health of our citizens? I feel that these “best practices” are not thorough enough to warrant lifting the moratorium. The gas industry needs to be much more responsible about being stewards of the communities they come to profit from which would include being financially responsible for any environmental and health damage caused. As the original UMCES-AL Recommended Best Management Practices for Maryland report states: “We believe that it is inevitable that there will be negative impacts from [Marcellus shale gas development] in western Maryland …and that a significant portion of these “costs” will be borne by local communities.”

That should be a big red flag in this process!

##

Friends of Deep Creek Lake is submitting this email to ask you continue to refine and improve the best management practices for Marcellus Shale drilling,

As a watershed organization we know there are 18 mineral leases in the DCL watershed. We are concerned that the set backs for drilling are insufficient to provide the protections needed within our watershed and in the County.

Further we are concerned about the protection of our water wells. Most of the DCL watershed properties south of the Glendale Bridge are on wells. It is unacceptable to allow any practice which may jeopardize our water supply.

Our water is a great natural asset in Garrett County. The now internationally famous Deer Park water company is less than a mile from the watershed. Our water is famous and has provided economic benefits for over a century.

It is unacceptable to take a risk which will potentially jeopardize the economic engine of Garrett County-- Deep Creek Lake-- or take a chance our water supplies will be contaminated.

Accidents do happen. We just had a 36,000 gallon sewer spill into the lake caused by human error. It is hard to imagine a collection of best management practices which will ensure 100% protection of our natural resources and Deep Creek Lake.

Final comment. Standards and practices are changing constantly. What was a good practice or standard last year when the study was conducted may have been superseded with better practices or proven to not provide protections it was designed to provide. We could not find a process by which there is on-going updating and evaluation of BMPs as the study process moves forward.

Thank you for all the hard work you have done on this effort.

##

 General Comments

 The report makes clear the complexity of the regulatory challenges and the great effort that has been expended thus far by the staff from UMCES-AL, DNR and MDE to identify and address potential problems “…without unacceptably and negatively impacting public health, safety, the environment and natural resources”. My thanks and gratitude is extended to all the professionals who are working diligently and with integrity to meet these challenges within the imposed time constraints and budget limitations.

 I appreciate the fact that because of the these constraints there are still critical items that are to be determined by State agencies if drilling is ultimately permitted and other items will require filling in the details. In addition, the success or failure of the best intentions to meet the stated mission will depend on having sufficient staff and other supporting resources to do adequate detailed field assessments, reviews of permitting documents, and monitoring of the drilling sites and infrastructure during drilling, during production, and post-production (10 years, 50 years?) This is my single biggest concern if drilling is ultimately approved. Despite the best regulations that the legislature and governor may pass these can mean very little if adequate staff and money is not provided to carry out the intent of the law. The will to do this can vary from one administration or legislature to another and the public may support drilling and regulations, but may not want to finance the costs. I know that Section VII deals with these issues and tries to cover enforcement. I hope the intentions listed here are adequate – the level of fees collected for the work required will determine future capability and success to execute the promised oversight of any threats to public health, safety, and the environment.

Comments by Sections:

Section III. C. 4 The requirement that state and local governments have to respond within 45 days of the submission of a CGDP by a company wishing to drill seems too short a time period for this critical final decision. I support a longer time. The other review steps seem adequate.

Section IV. B. 6 I suggest a change from “should avoid” thermal impacts to streams to “shall avoid” thermal impacts to streams.

Section VI.
The introduction of this section states “The standards in this section do not preclude the use of new and innovative technologies that provide greater protection of public health, the environmental and natural resources. Practices used in shale gas development continue to evolve and improve. Exceptions to these conditions will be considered if the new technology can be demonstrated to assure equal or greater protection.” I much prefer a regulation that requires the introduction of new best practices by the industry as new technologies emerge that can provide more protection to public health and safety and to the environment. This approach was supposed to be a requirement with coal-fired power plants, but unless the plants were brand new and not major plant over-hauls the spirit if not the actual law was routinely ignored by the power industry. I hope we can do better in the State of Maryland with shale gas production. Better technology requirements could be a requirement every five (?) years if improvements exceed some pre-set thresholds, e.g. a reduction of some air pollutant by 20%. 

A.4 Pipelines. This section seems vague to me. Although I am not qualified to suggest them, I believe that they are needed.

B. Transportation. Please consider changing “should” to “shall” in the following Draft Report language in this subsection, “Note: Trucking should be closely monitored during high-use and wet periods if it is not possible to suspend activities.”

The requirement that all drilling related trucks be equipped with monitoring devices is an excellent idea. There must be official logging and storage of this data during the drilling operations so the data can be reviewed if there is a question of inappropriate water acquisition or disposal of waste products or an accidental spillage.

D. Chemical Disclosure. It is essential that medical personnel at clinics and local hospitals have immediate access to the identity and health risk information on all chemicals used at a drilling site when a patient presents with symptoms that could possibly be related to an exposure of a toxic gas, vapor or contaminated potable water source, within some specified distance from a well site or compressor station.

E. Drilling. The comments in E. 1. & E. 2. seem to me to be very reasonable modifications to the UMCES-AL recommendations.

J. Air Emissions.  I have not reviewed the new EPA standards, but my hope is that each well site will have one or more continuous air monitoring systems in operation either in real time or at reasonably short intervals during the lifetime of the operation of the well. The monitors must be able to trigger alarms at the well site and at a remote monitoring site that is staffed 24/7 when established pollutant levels are exceeded. Ideally all toxic chemicals used in the drilling and any expected to be in effluents from the wells should be monitored as well as fugitive methane. After eventual capping of the well periodic monitoring at the site should continue to be conducted.

Section VII.
B. “State agencies will develop standard protocols for baseline and environmental assessment monitoring, record keeping and reporting. In addition, the State agencies will develop standards for monitoring during operations at the site, including drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and production.” This is one of the most important parts of the report. I understand that it may be premature to have those in place before drilling is even approved, but if a decision is made to proceed with drilling then I would like to see the protocols submitted for public comment.

##

I recently spoke with two public health scientists who are looking at people harmed by unconventional gas development in Pennsylvania. They firmly believe a catastrophe is in the works there. People already have symptoms, and other symptoms will take years to appear. I don't know that we can create a set of best practices that would make fracking safe for human health, wildlife, plants, water, soil and air. And we need to tend to all of those areas, rather than focus merely on what will make some money in the short-term. If, in the end, we spend more on health care and clean up than we get from a few jobs, then on balance, this industrial practice won't be a plus for Maryland. So, without health and economic studies as a reference, weighing these BMPs is a challenge. Nevertheless, I offer these comments:

 1) Proposed setbacks are not large enough. A recent Duke University study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found evidence of water contamination up to 1 kilometer (3,280 feet, or 0.62 miles) from drilling sites.
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/06/19/1221635110.full.pdf+html

Air pollution, of course, also poses a threat. One peer-reviewed study found high levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the air during the drilling phase. From the study: “Selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were at concentrations greater than those at which prenatally exposed children in urban studies had lower developmental and IQ scores.”
http://www.endocrinedisruption.com/chemicals.air.php

Setbacks of 300 feet from trails or 600 feet from “irreplaceable natural areas” and “wildlands," 1,000 feet from drinking water wells and 2,000 feet from public groundwater wells, surface water intakes and reservoirs all seem inadequate. Setbacks should be increased to 3,000 feet to 4,000 feet.

2) Use of toxic chemicals should be prohibited. Under the proposed BMPs, the state would require disclosure of chemicals used in fracking before drilling begins as well as posting on-site and with emergency response agencies. If a company claimed its chemicals are protected as trade secrets, it would still have to disclose the information to MDE, which would determine if the claim was “legitimate.” MDE would divulge the names of chemicals deemed to be trade secrets “only to exposed persons or health care professionals.” And doctors would have to sign non-disclosure forms. That is exactly the unacceptable gag rule in place in Pennsylvania.  At one of the shale commission meetings, Dr. Clifford Mitchell suggested that the state not allow trade secrets, but no one followed up on that. If Maryland allows fracking, I recommend that Maryland prohibit toxic chemicals, secret or otherwise. The oil and gas industry can be counted on to have numerous accidents. We can’t afford to have toxic chemicals spilling near drinking-water sources, streams that support wildlife and soil for growing food. Nor can we afford to deal with water laced with toxic chemicals sloshing around underground in new fissures that could eventually reach aquifers. Cement casings fail immediately 5 or 6 percent of the time; over the life of a well, these casings continue to fail, also putting aquifers at risk. (Industry studies find up to 60 percent will fail after 30 years.) If the gas industry wants to frack in Maryland, it should be required to demonstrate it is using nontoxic materials. This will also solve the problem of what to do with the produced waste: It could be sent to a municipal treatment plant.

3) Emergency response plans are insufficient. Under the BMPs, company emergency response plans must include information on specially trained crews that can arrive within 24 hours of a blowout, fire or other accident. Twenty-four hours is an eternity when a high-pressure drilling operation malfunctions and toxins are spewed freely. Workers, nearby residents and the environment all face serious risks in an accident.  Here’s an account of how badly things can go wrong when the company needed just 12 hours to get specially trained personnel on site:
http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/gas-drilling/after-blowout-most-evacuated-families-return-to-their-homes-in-bradford-county-1.1135253

How about a requirement for trained crews to arrive immediately.

4) Well pad berms are not big enough. The well pad, according to the BMPs, would have to be surrounded by a berm designed to hold at least 2.7 inches of rain within a 24-hour period, so that spills of gasoline, oils and other hazardous chemicals wouldn’t flow onto surrounding land. A member of Chesapeake Climate Action Network determined that more than that amount of rain has fallen in 24 hours on several occasions in the past few years, including during Superstorm Sandy. Climate change guarantees more deluges, so this BMP is not sufficient to protect the land, water, human health, wildlife or the Chesapeake Bay.

5) Methane leakage rates must have tighter controls and be monitored. Several studies show high levels of methane leakage during drilling and from pipelines. Methane doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere as CO2 but is a much more efficient greenhouse gas,  causing 72 times more warming than CO2 over 20 years.  Several studies indicate that methane leakage rates are so high as to make the use of natural gas from fracking no better—and perhaps worse—for the climate than coal. Leakage must be under 2 percent for natural gas to be better than coal, and yet studies show leakage rates ranging from 4 to 11 percent.
The BMPs endorse industry self-regulation:
 
The UMCES-AL report recommended that all operators in Maryland should voluntarily participate in USEPA’s Natural Gas STAR program. This program is a partnership between EPA and industry that encourages oil and natural gas companies to adopt cost-effective technologies and practices that improve operational efficiency and reduce emissions of methane. It is up to each industry partner to determine which technologies and practices it will implement to reduce emissions. A company joins by signing a Memorandum of Understanding, then develops an implementation plan, executes the program, and submits annual progress reports. No State action is necessary to allow operators to participate in the Natural Gas STAR program.
 
The state should require gas companies to meet a 1- or 2-percent leakage rate for methane throughout the drilling process. In addition, leakage should be monitored by a certifiable method and reported annually. Otherwise this BMP means nothing. Sources:
http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/THOC/Fracking.pdf
http://www.nature.com/news/air-sampling-reveals-high-emissions-from-gas-field-1.9982
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/02/08/421588/high-methane-emissions-measured-over-gas-field-offset-climate-benefits-of-natural-gasquot
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/methane-leaking-in-utah-suggests-higher-national-rate-16316

Thank you for accepting my comments.

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The Board of Directors and committee members of the Casselman Coal Poolee Association would like to express our appreciation to the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Department of Natural Resources, and to the members of the MDE-DNR Advisory Commission, UMCES-AL, the House Environmental Matters Committee and the Senate Education, Health and Environment Committee for their work pursuant to Governor O’Malley’s Executive Order 01.01.2011.11, the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative.  Your efforts will be invaluable in assisting our Maryland State policymakers and regulators in providing a clear legislative pathway to the development of efficient natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale in Maryland without unacceptable risks of adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment, local communities, ecosystems, and other natural resources.

With regard to the August, 2013 Draft Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Part II, the following comments are provided:

UMCES-AL recommendations with regard to setbacks from mapped underground coal mines to the borehole are unnecessarily restrictive, as appropriately noted by the Departments in the August, 2013 Draft Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Part II. We endorse the Departments recommendations with regard to this critical issue. Pre-drill planning including careful site evaluation and pilot hole investigations is the safest and most effective method to identify these features. As noted by MDE’s mining program, Maryland’s deep coal mines cover thousands of acres, but are only several hundred feet deep, and can be safely cased through, utilizing pilot holes to precisely identify and locate any voids. The MDE and DNR have appropriately proposed that the best practice is to conduct pre-drill planning in any area where underground mining is suspected within 500 feet of the prospective borehole, based on a review of available records. The Departments have recommended that the pre-drill planning shall include selection of drill hole locations that avoid all mine voids and assures lateral support of drill holes during drilling and casings during well construction. If such locations cannot be found, voids must be filled or isolated with multiple concentric strings of casing and cement.  We fully endorse these recommendations.

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We are writing to express our support for a reasonable approach to possible exploration for & production of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.

Our company has operated in Frostburg since 1847, currently having mineral & gas rights on about 4,000 acres in the area.

Several days ago we were asked to consider contacting your Commission about the current discussions on how to approach the above.

We believe that there are significant potential benefits to the Nation, State, western counties & our Company, if there are quantities of gas that can be recovered without risking damage to aquifers & the overall environment. Strict but reasonable regulation & oversight is necessary.

From a personal standpoint I believe that exploration & production companies should be required to disclose all chemicals & such injected into the ground, even if federal regulations, influenced by industry lobbyists, do not require full disclosure.

Based on a brief review on the information we received, it appears that a time frame of less than two years should be acceptable, as would additional consideration to tract sizes.

We would appreciate being added to the list of parties interested in copies of any of your reports, minutes, etc.

Thank you for your consideration and efforts.


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Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Best Management Practices report (Part II – Best Practices- August, 2013) from the Marcellus Advisory Commission.  The Nature Conservancy (Conservancy) is an international non-profit conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people, seeking to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.  We are known for our science‐based, collaborative approach to developing creative solutions to conservation challenges.  We carry out on the ground conservation work in all 50 states and more than 35 foreign countries with the support of approximately one million individual members.  We have helped protect nearly 15 million acres of land in the United States and Canada and more than 102 million acres with local partner organizations globally.  The Conservancy works with communities, industry, and governments in areas affected by the recent boom in shale and other unconventional oil and gas development.  We advocate the application of conservation science to siting decisions and the adoption of best management practices to reduce the environmental impacts of energy development. 

 The Conservancy is very supportive of the best practices report as drafted.  As an organization that works on the issue of unconventional gas development across the country, these BMPs, if adopted into regulation in Maryland, would be some of the best, if not the best, in the country.  However, the Conservancy is concerned that the timeframe for the development of regulations from these recommended Best Practices is indefinite.  We understand that there are public concerns about the development of new oil and gas regulations before the full report from the Commission is available.  However, current Maryland regulations on oil and gas are outdated.  Regardless of whether someone supports or opposes shale gas development, it serves the State to have the best regulations in place to protect the health, safety, and natural resources of Maryland. 

We offer the following comments to improve and clarify the current draft.  The comments are organized by section.   

Comments on Part II - Best Practices
Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study
The Nature Conservancy
September 10, 2013

Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans

 The Comprehensive Gas Development is one of the most important and innovative aspects of the Commission’s report and addresses the Conservancy’s concern for the landscape scale impacts of unconventional shale gas development.  The Nature Conservancy has done extensive analysis on the cumulative landscape impacts of natural gas development in Pennsylvania.  It estimated that, at build out, well pad development could result in the loss of 90,000 acres of forest, and pipeline and gathering line development could result in the loss of another 134,000acres in Pennsylvania.  Beyond the direct loss of forest, over a million additional acres of forest could be fragmented with the associated habitat degradation due to natural gas infrastructure development.

The Nature Conservancy’s Pennsylvania Energy Impacts Assessment released in 2010 highlighted these potential impacts and called for comprehensive planning to minimize these cumulative impacts.  The need for landscape level planning has also been identified by the Pennsylvania State University and the U.S. Geological Survey as important in controlling the impacts from shale gas development.

We would urge that Comprehensive Gas Development Plans be mandatory and not voluntary.

Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans

A – Application Criteria and Scope

1.  The recommendation is to “submit a CGDP for the area where the applicant may conduct gas exploration or production”.  In discussions at the Commission meetings, there was considerable debate over what constitutes an “area”. For instance, there was discussion as to whether “area” is the entire state, a county, or a portion of a county where drilling will occur.  The definition should probably be clarified in the final draft of the recommendations.  We would recommend that an area be defined as that which can be served by shared infrastructure without having to over extend that shared infrastructure to the point where it makes no economic or ecological sense. 

B – Planning Principles

 7. In this recommendation, it’s not clear whether the 2% limit on surface development within a high value watershed applies to all development within the watershed or just the surface disturbance caused by gas development.  If it applies to gas development over and above existing surface disturbance, high value watersheds that already have some development may be impacted even with the 2% limit.  If this is the case, additional mitigation measures may be needed or that watershed should become off limits to gas development.

9. It is not clear whether the “siting policies” referred to in this recommendations are part of the Shale Gas Development Toolbox or a separate siting policy process.

C – Procedure and Approval Process

6. This recommendation does not state who would be responsible for determining the specific organizations and surface owners who will be part of the “stakeholders group”, who will organize the meetings, and who will pay for the facilitated process.

D –Benefits of a Comprehensive Gas Development Plan

The Conservancy believes that the development of a comprehensive gas development plan has the potential to not just protect natural, cultural, social and recreational resources, but it could end up saving the gas drilling companies significant development costs due to increased efficiency.  In order to make the use of CGDPs more attractive to industry, particularly if CGDPs are not made mandatory, we would support the use of expedited permits and approvals.

Section IV – Location Restrictions and Setbacks

A – Location Restrictions and Setbacks

Table 1-1

Setbacks from aquatic habitats – Some of the aquatic habitats need better definition.  For instance, the report does not state what stream order classification system is used to define the term “stream” as used in this section.  In addition, the term “seep” is not defined in the text.  In many cases, depending on how these terms are defined, these aquatic habitats may not be adequately mapped.

Active gas wells – In addition to historic gas wells, there should be consideration to setbacks or conditions placed on fracking near existing production wells.  Fracking near existing wells can result in a “frack hit” on an active production well that could result in a blowout of the well equipment on the production well.  This problem can be avoided either by setbacks or by special preparation of the production well to handle a possible “frack hit”.

Setback from Compressor station – The table does not make it clear whether the setback from an occupied buildings for compressor stations is from the actual building housing the compressor, or from the building and associated infrastructure, or from the limits of the property that houses the compressor station.  This should be clarified. 

B – Siting Best Practices

2. The Conservancy would support the conservation of high value forest through easement or fee-simple acquisition as a mitigation option for implementation of the no-net-loss of forest recommendation given the lack of land in Western Maryland for reforestation.  The Conservancy would recommend that the definition of high value forest include inholdings within state forest lands, parcels surrounding existing large protected tracts of forest, and key connectors and corridors linking large forest blocks.

Section VI- Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards

A. Site Construction and Sediment and Erosion Control

1 - The Pad

There have been comments made before the Commission that the standard in the Best Practices of controlling the first 2.7 inches of rainfall in a 24 hour period may not by sufficient.  We would recommend that this be given a second look.

4 – Pipelines

The report makes a note that pipelines are not regulated by the State, but by the US PHMSA, Office of Pipeline Safety.  However, Maryland does have authority over sediment and erosion control, which has been delegated to the counties.  The linear nature of pipelines and the amount of clearing, grading and trenching involved makes pipelines a potential significant source of sediment pollution during the construction phase.  We would recommend that limits be placed on the length of open trench and non-stabilized soil exposed at any time.  Pipelines right of ways should be cleared, pipe laid, filled, and stabilized in segments to avoid excessive erosion.  In addition, the right of way should be vegetated within an appropriate timeframe.

6 – Ancillary Equipment

 This may be covered under existing MDE regulations as regards disposal of hazardous materials, but the waste from glycol dehydrators should be disposed of properly.

C – Water

2 – Water Withdrawal

 The Conservancy agrees that current MDE regulations for water withdrawals are designed to allow a “permittee to make reasonable use of the waters of the State without unreasonable interference with other persons also attempting to make reasonable use of water”.  However, the regulation of water withdrawal strictly for human use may disregard the ecological flow requirements of species that occur in those waters.  We would encourage MDE and DNR to review current policies and regulations to ensure that water withdrawals for HVHF also protect the ecological flow requirements of plant and animal species that use waters of the State that might experience HVHF.

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Section IV. A  10. 10. “For good cause shown and with the consent of the landowner protected by the setback, MDE may approve exceptions to the setback requirements.”  I would like to see a definition of “for a good cause shown”.

Section VI.  B  “Require the applicant to enter into agreements with the county and/or municipality to maintain the roads which it makes use of, in the same or better condition the roadways had prior to the commencement of the applicant’s operations, and to maintain the roadways in a good state of repair during the applicant’s operations.”   This is a suggestion which looks good but may be very difficult to carry out.  It is politically difficult to “charge” employers when you are a local elected official.  I would like to see MDE or the appropriate state agency oversee this function, rather than leave it up to the county and/or municipality to negotiate.

Section VI  P  “Operators shall, prior to commencement of drilling, develop and implement an emergency response plan, establish a way of informing local water companies promptly in the event of spills or releases, and work with the governing body of the local jurisdiction in which the well is located to verify that local responders have appropriate equipment and training to respond to an emergency at a well.”   Rural areas with aging populations such as Allegany and Garrett Counties are challenged to find adequate numbers of emergency responders, as well as providing training and equipment.  The cost of this additional responsibility should be borne by  the drilling companies.

Section VII:  In the strongest possible way, I want to emphasize that the resources to pay for regulators, monitors and enforcers of such vital functions as water quality, air quality and noise monitoring should be borne by the drilling companies.  I have great concern about the availability of qualified individuals to perform these functions.

Section VIII: C  “The Departments offer the following comments regarding the forced pooling recommendation. At this point of time, consideration of this recommendation is premature. Once the requirements of the Executive Order have been fulfilled, this recommendation could receive additional consideration which would require further study, legal analysis and considerable public/private review.”  I am categorically opposed to force pooling.

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On behalf of Beitzel Corporation and Pillar Innovations representing 378 employees, I am writing to offer our support in favor of the responsible drilling of Marcellus Shale, specifically in Western Maryland, and recognize that safe, reliable, affordable natural gas could be an important part of Maryland's energy future. Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to comment on the Best Practices draft document.

As a business leader, there are numerous well-documented benefits associated with Marcellus Shale development. Through job creation and increased revenue for both the state and local businesses, the benefits will ripple across the region, providing money for businesses, education, transportation and other important infrastructure needs. Likewise, we would be better poised to retain our youth and college graduates through not only drilling related careers, but ancillary positions, such as testing labs, engineers, surveyors, lawyers, etc., as well.

These points are important to my business because we are very actively working in the shale gas industry. Our companies currently have approximately 50 full-time employees working in this industry. We have seen a dramatic decrease in business in the coal industry in the past year and we have changed our business model to include gas services. I believe that the State of Maryland would be wise to do the same. The jobs that we provide in this industry pay substantially better than the average wage in Garrett County Maryland. Our main disappointment with this work is that our employees need to leave the State of Maryland every day and every week to make a respectable income. We are missing a substantial opportunity at a reasonable business right in our own back yard.

As noted recently by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rich Studley in his statewide campaign to "Protect Michigan's Energy Future", it has been documented that "more than 12,000 wells have been fracked in Michigan since the 1960s, mostly in the northern Lower Peninsula" and further asserts that "fracking has not been shown to harm Michigan's groundwater or surface water."

One specific area of concern is the process in which exploratory vs. permanent wells will be handled in the region. While we appreciate the investment of time by the State and Commission members, it is also important to have the flexibility to be certain a sufficient quantity of natural gas is present. Likewise, we would hope that if a permit is secured for an exploratory site and activity is determined, the permit would effectively translate to proceed as outlined in the then approved Best Practices.

In closing, thank you for your time and consideration of these comments. Michigan is one of many states that confirmed responsible drilling is a proven economic driver that offers the potential to restore prosperity to the poorest part of Maryland through job growth, a stronger economy and the next generation investment.

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Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Maryland Departments of the Environment and Natural Resources (MDE/DNR) report on Recommended Best Management Practices for Marcellus Shale Gas Development in Maryland (BMP Report).  Please accept these comments on behalf of Earthworks, a national non-profit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from irresponsible energy development while seeking sustainable solutions.

The Governor’s Executive Order [Executive Order 01.01.2011.11] creating the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative charged its Commission and the Departments with developing what many have described as the “Gold Standard” for regulating shale drilling in Maryland.  While developing Best Management Practices is an important step, the BMP Report should take in to consideration a formal risk assessment as well as the economic study performed by the Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI).

Since hydraulic fracturing enjoys broad exemptions from portions of seven bedrock federal environmental laws [Earthworks Report: The Oil and Gas Industry’s Exclusions and Exemptions to Major Environmental Statutes] including the Clean Water Act (CWA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the critical regulation of this heavy industrial activity belongs to the states.  In Maryland, our MDE has the responsibility for executing these laws since the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted Maryland primacy over enforcement.  Any Best Management Practices (BMPs) or subsequent regulations should close these loopholes in Maryland.

Stormwater
The BMP Report properly recognizes that the center of gas development occurs on the well pad [BMP Report at page 16].  Therefore, Earthworks supports the Report’s recommendations requiring zero discharge pads, closed-loop drilling systems, and reinforced berms.  While the pad itself may be the most important, all the infrastructure activity associated with gas drilling also creates the potential for substantial stormwater pollution.  Unfortunately, the BMP report is silent on how the Departments plan to handle stormwater runoff from pipelines, access roads, and other construction activity.

The Department’s treatment of stormwater runoff from increased oil and gas development bears particular importance in light of Maryland’s efforts to comply with EPA’s mandates under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).   First, some of the lands proposed for hydraulic fracturing drain in to the Potomac River that feeds the Chesapeake Bay.  Increased industrial development within the Chesapeake Bay watershed will likely have substantial effects on stormwater pollution levels.  Second, as a result of recent legislation, most Marylanders will soon pay more in stormwater utility fees designed to fund the TMDL compliance efforts.  Requiring Marylanders to pay more for stormwater protection while largely absolving the oil and gas industry from these efforts everywhere except the well pad is unjust.

The Eshleman Report [Recommended Best Management Practices for Marcellus Shale Gas Development in Maryland At Ch. 4 page 10] recommended designating areas of gas development as “hotspots” for the purposes of stormwater management.  The “hotspot” designation within the Stormwater Manual [Section 2.8 of the Maryland Stormwater Manual] provides important protections to Maryland’s waters from runoff by certain kinds of industrial activity- including oil and gas development [Appendix D.6 of the Maryland Stormwater Manual].  At the very least, the Departments should make a determination whether the “hotspot” designation would provide better stormwater management protection than what is otherwise contemplated by the BMP Report.  The purpose is to treat hydraulic fracturing operations under Maryland law the same as similar heavy industrial activity.

Hazardous Waste
The Departments understand the challenges posed by oil and gas waste disposal in Maryland.  Earthworks salutes the BMP Report’s recommendations setting a goal of 90% wastewater recycling while banning the use of waste pits[Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study, Part II, Best Practices report draft dated May 13, 2013 at page 30].  The BMP Report’s recommendations that operators maintain spill prevention plans [BMP Report Section P at pages 33 and 34] and haulers of hydraulic fracturing waste inventory their cargo on Material Safety Data Sheets underscore the dangers involved in shipping millions of gallons of this material across state lines.

As with stormwater, the oil and gas industry enjoys an exemption from the applicable federal law.  If drilling were to proceed in Maryland, COMAR regulations should treat wastes from oil and gas facilities as RCRA hazardous materials.  As the Departments are aware, the EPA in 1988 determined oil and gas wastes as nonhazardous despite acknowledging that known toxics like benzene appear at high levels.  While many of the same chemicals found in oil and gas production the EPA already regulates as hazardous, once these same materials emerge from gas wells as flowback or produced water, the law exempts them from this treatment.  The reason Maryland should treat oil and gas waste as RCRA hazardous is that EPA’s 1988 determination is out of date.

In the intervening twenty-five years, advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have dramatically changed the process of natural gas extraction.  Unlike conventional drilling, modern hydraulic fracturing requires operators to drill much further underground in to regions containing large amounts of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM).  Newly fracked wells also require millions of gallons of water containing tens of thousands of gallons of hazardous chemicals.  After fracturing the shale, the substantial majority of these fluids return to the surface often containing higher levels of dangerous materials than upon initial injection. 

Because of the high volume of chemicals used, combined with drilling deeper in to regions with high levels of NORM, the proper regulatory treatment of wastes from the oil and gas industry is as hazardous materials under RCRA Subtitle C.

Disclosure
Earthworks supports full pre-frack disclosure, including volumes and concentrations, of chemicals by Chemical Abstracts Service number posted for each well on a publicly accessible and searchable website.  Earthworks opposes the designation of certain chemicals as trade secrets.  Despite industry arguments to the contrary, there is no proprietary or competitive advantage associated with keeping this information secret.  The only purpose served by maintaining secrecy is to conceal from the public the dangerous nature of the chemicals the industry uses.  As a result, Alaska’s state oil and gas commission [http://doa.alaska.gov/ogc/frac/fracindex.html] has recently proposed fracking regulations that ban trade secrets.

If Maryland were to allow operators to request trade secret protection for certain chemicals, the Department must establish a formal administrative mechanism for challenging that designation.  This is the practice in most states that allow for trade secrets.  The mechanism should involve notice to the public as well as a sufficient opportunity for comment.  Any resident of Maryland or any organization registered with the Secretary of State should have standing to bring a challenge.  If Maryland does allow for trade secrets, regulators should create a presumption against granting that designation unless compelled by clear and convincing evidence. 

Conclusion
The most important consideration for Maryland regulators is to place the needs of Maryland residents ahead of the oil and gas industry.  For this reason, any regulations promulgated by the Departments should treat this industry similar to other industrial activity. Furthermore, as a matter of process, any report purporting to offer best management practices should first take in to consideration a formal risk assessment as well as the RESI economic study.

When considering Best Management Practices, the Departments must also consider Best Management Practices for regulatory enforcement.  As the attached report [Breaking All the Rules: The Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement, September 2012] -- based on states' own enforcement data -- documents, oil and gas development regulations across the country are largely empty promises not backed by the resources to enforce them. If Maryland develops new regulations to govern unconventional oil and gas development, it should learn from the mistakes of these states and incorporate a robust enforcement policy. The findings and recommendations in the attached report are a great place to start.
The most important consideration related to enforcement is that the regulator must revoke permits for violations.  Earthworks acknowledges the Department’s intention to require the industry to internalize pollution costs through fines, penalties, and permit fees.  However, simply assessing fees will not create compliance.

Earthworks appreciates the opportunity to comment on Maryland’s BMP report and recognizes the substantial effort put forth by the regulators, Commissioners, policy makers, and members of the public who contributed to its development.  In particular, Earthworks believes that in some respects Maryland has achieved the “Gold Standard’.  Banning waste pits, banning diesel fuel, requiring two years of baseline water testing, requiring green completions and 98% flaring efficiency all indeed are best management practices.  Thank you for accepting these comments.

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I am writing to you today on the behalf of the Garrett County Farm Bureau.  We are concerned about the proposed regulations for the production of shale gas in Maryland, and I would like to discuss this issue with you.  As you are aware, many of our members are in the position of balancing the environmental protection of the property that we own with producing the gas from beneath it.  While none of us pretend to be experts on industrial regulation, we do think we have had some experience with finding this balance in the past with regard to our natural resources.  From our perspective, we think it is entirely reasonable that the production of our gas is regulated to the same standard as any other industry in Maryland.  We agree with Chairman Vanko that the truly unique part of this process is the hydraulic fracturing and are not opposed to specific regulations related to water quality; for example, the 2500 foot presumption of liability, which is law, or the 2-year testing requirement, which is proposed, as long as these processes are done in a timely manner and are not designed to add an undue length of time to the permitting procedure.

The area with which we fundamentally disagree is the proposed requirement for a Comprehensive Gas Development Plan (CGDP).  While this type of plan is reasonable on extremely large acreages like the Pennsylvania state lands, no one in our organization can visualize how such a thing would work when a thousand landowners may be involved and there are no proven reserves here to encourage a company to engage in such a process.  At the very least, the industry needs to be permitted to drill enough wells under temporary restrictions to prove the reserve before they are required to jump such a hurdle. 
We consider the CGDP requirement to be above and beyond the standard set for any other industry in Maryland and maintain that it will impair the economic viability of the gas play.  Therefore, we would like the department to withdraw or completely revise the regulations regarding the CGDP.  We also feel that it should be voluntary, not mandatory, with incentives to encourage companies to comply.

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Clean Water Action is a national environmental organization with over a million members, and over 65,000 Maryland members. While we thank the Maryland Departments of Environment (MDE) and Natural Resources (DNR) for the hard work put into this draft, Clean Water Action believes that this report is premature in light of the fact that a full risk analysis was not done prior to its development and publication. In addition a number of important studies remain outstanding, such as the public health study, and the hydrological, geological, and economic surveys. Although Governor Martin O’Malley’s executive order set a time line for the submission of studies and reports, and the date for MDE and DNR’s report on Best Management Practices has already been extended, these remaining studies certainly seem necessary to inform any discussion and review of best management practices at this time.

The geological formation known as the Marcellus Shale formation covers approximately 48,000 square miles and runs beneath the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee and Maryland. In Maryland the formation runs below the western most counties of Washington, Garret and Allegany. Industry and state agency assessments estimate that millions of cubic feet of natural gas could be recovered from the formation with hundreds or even thousands of natural gas wells anticipated for the three counties. The impacts to water quality and quantity, air quality, recreation and the wildlife, within and near the treasured resources these areas would be severe and must be investigated in an environmental impact study and full risk analysis before best management practices are proposed and evaluated, regulations drafted and any decision to move forward on drilling is determined.

Today the remains of wells begun over 20 years ago and then abandoned remain part of the landscape of western Maryland’s Garret County. With modern advances of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, fossil fuel production companies have envisioned access to these shale gas reserves and in many cases hope to do so faster than studies, assessments, regulations and public health and environmental protections could be appropriately conducted, publicly reviewed and implemented into policy. Fracking has been shown to be more water intensive and polluting, with long and lasting environmental impacts. The extraction process involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals into a well, fracturing the shale and releasing the gas trapped within. Maryland’s drinking water should not be sacrificed in a rush to pursue the exploitation of methane gas deposits that have existed for millions of years.

Maryland’s watersheds and aquifers provide millions of Marylanders with the raw, and sometimes clean and unfiltered source of drinking water. It would be foolish to put this critical resource at risk before a complete environmental risk analysis has been carried out. Only then can Maryland determine whether to allow drilling to proceed in the state, and if drilling is to proceed for MDE and DNR develop the most effective regulations possible.  Absent that analysis, there is no assurance that the best management practices outlined in the report, and the regulations that might be promulgated from the report, will be adequate to control a dangerous industrial activity that has already caused documented environmental and human health impacts in many other states.  However, since MDE and DNR have made a request for public comment on the draft best practices report Clean Water Action would like to point to three specific issues, their potential impact on the environment and how they might be improved.
 
Clean Water Action supports the Report’s recommendation in Section VI part H that “Diesel fuel shall not be used in hydraulic fracturing fluids.” In a 2004 report Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs, EPA described diesel as the “additive of greatest concern” in hydraulic fracturing operations. Diesel fuel contains toluene, ethylene, and xylene – the so-called (“BTEX”) compounds. These compounds are highly mobile in groundwater and associated with well-documented health effects. Such a prohibition is consistent with the 2011 finding of the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Shale Gas Production Subcommittee that “…there is no technical or economic reason to use diesel as a stimulating fluid.” In its review of diesel used in fracking fluid, EPA has calculated that the maximum concentration of benzene at the point of injection could be 880 times the acceptable level of benzene in drinking water. Even using the minimum value for benzene in diesel, and injecting the smallest quantity of diesel reported by oil and gas service companies, EPA calculated that benzene at the point of injection would be nine times the acceptable concentration of benzene in drinking water. EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for benzene in drinking water at zero.

In 2005 Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, in which the definition of "underground injection" was amended to exclude “the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities. Therefore, hydraulic fracturing operations were exempted from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) unless the fracturing fluids contained diesel fuels precisely because of the high level of concern around potential ground water contamination. At the time, industry spokes-people claimed that diesel was no longer being used in hydraulic fracturing operations. However, a U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce investigation determined that between 2005 and 2009, companies injected 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel or hydraulic fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel into wells in 19 states. Additionally, a 2010 Subcommittee on Energy and Environment report disclosed that Halliburton and BJ Services had used diesel in hydraulic fracturing operations in at least 15 states in 2005, 2006 and 2007, with BJ Services reportedly using 1,700 gallons of diesel based fluids in 2 state fracturing jobs.

For the reasons state above, Clean Water Action supports the Report’s recommendation in Section VI part H that “Diesel fuel shall not be used in hydraulic fracturing fluids.” A prohibition on diesel is an appropriate action for the state of Maryland to take in order to reduce public health risk and threats to underground sources of drinking water and to eliminate the possibility of costly clean-ups related to potential diesel spills and leakages.

Despite numerous calls for chemical disclosure at the federal level from President Obama in his 2012 State of the Union, the Bureau of Land Management’s 2012 proposed fracking rules, and the introduction of H.R. 1084 and S. 587, the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC Act), we have yet to see federal law, regulations or rules passed on this urgent issue. Clean Water Action believes this puts Maryland in a position to take a leadership role in establishing the most proscriptive disclosure practices of any other state to date.

Clean Water Action recommends that the Agencies should improve on the chemical disclosure requirements in Section VI, part D Chemical Disclosure. Drillers should be required to disclose (1) in a publicly available database (2) all chemicals added to the frac water used during the fracturing process (not just OSHA listed hazardous chemicals), (3) with chemical name and concentrations, and (4) the Report should be submitted 30 days before the well is fracked and updated/completed 30 days after the well is fracked. Frac Focus is not sufficient for this purpose; Maryland should develop a publicly available database for this purpose.

In 2010 a memorandum to members of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, disclosed that energy companies Halliburton and BJ Services had used diesel and other known toxic chemicals in hydraulic fracturing operations in at least 15 states in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Additionally, a report by the minority staff of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce found that between 2005 and 2009, the 14 leading oil and gas service companies used “780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products” in fracturing fluids, with “95 of the products containing 13 different carcinogens.” Not knowing what chemicals are injected into the ground is cause for extreme concern and something that certainly must be addressed with strong disclosure regulations.

The major concern regarding insufficient disclosure is related to the amount of the chemical laced fluid that is injected into the subsurface and which does not remain underground, but returns to the surface in potential flowback. For example, literature cited by the already mentioned 2004 EPA study indicated that 25 to 61% of certain hydraulic fracturing fluids might be recovered over time, leaving 39 to 75% of the injected fluids in the formation. More recently, in a 2010, a consultant working on behave of the Quebec government stated in their study that 15 to 30% of fracturing fluid is recovered as flowback from high volume hydraulic fracturing operations with 70 to 85% of chemical laced fluids initially left underground. Over time, the injected fluids left behind are expected to return to the surface or may even find their way into drinking water sources. Unfortunately, real flowback fluid percentages are not completely known since companies are not required to report either the volume of fluid that flows back to the surface or the estimated volume of fluid that remains in the formation following a hydraulic frac. It is therefore important, to be safe, that disclosure of information on chemicals used in fracking be specific and timely enough that scientists, health care providers, environmental organizations and citizens know what to test for and can keep up to date on evidence about the health and environmental effects of different chemicals. This can only be achieved if there is complete and open access to information far in advance of drilling and extraction.

Chemical disclosure laws at the state level vary widely and the level of detail disclosed often depends on how states protect trade secrets. They may have protections for companies to withhold information at their discretion, submit fewer details about proprietary chemicals or release such information to specific agencies, first responders or only in case of emergencies. State laws also vary regarding the timing of disclosure requirements. Although many gas operators voluntarily disclose the chemicals they use, after using them, they have reserved the right to, and have, litigated the use of hazardous chemicals while not identifying them based on ‘trade secret’ claims. This exclusion is certainly in conflict with the reason for the SDWA and not in the best interest of public health.

Trade secret law is state-based with some uniformity of 47 states and District of Columbia having adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) definition, which is “Information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program device, method, technique, or process that derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.” A company taking “reasonable” efforts to maintain the secrecy of one or more ingredients of a fracturing fluid additive would consistently shield those ingredients from disclosure on a public website. It appears from most state regulations and laws on disclosure, including Maryland’s draft recommendation that if litigated courts will find that these “reasonable efforts” would include making sure information is not published on a website accessible to the general public.

Maryland should not allow oil and gas companies to claim "trade secret" exemption to avoid releasing chemical information. Any consideration of a “trade secrets’ loophole will only limit and obstruct the ability of health care professionals to respond in a safe and timely method to exposures and resulting health effects; Such a policy will limit the ability of environmental protection agencies and organizations to monitor water resources and detect leaks and discharges. It will also obstruct residents and citizens from making informed decisions regarding natural gas extraction on their land and in and around their communities.

MDE and DNR’s recommendation in the draft Report that the disclosure of hazardous chemicals be limited to those under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) must be expanded to all chemicals added to fluids before and during the fracturing process. Although some states limit disclosure to chemicals regulated under OSHA, Colorado, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas do require disclosure of all chemicals added to fracking fluid. Unfortunately, when companies are required to report non-OSHA chemicals, they assert trade secret protection for them at a higher rate than for OSHA chemicals.

This is important because OSHA requires only the disclosure of “hazardous chemicals” on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for placement in work spaces. It also defines a “hazardous chemical” broadly with no obligation for a company to test the product they are using. In addition, OSHA’s requirements are greatly limited to chemicals “known to be present in the workplace in such a manner that employees may be exposed under normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency” thus limiting “hazardous chemicals” to those studied for workplace exposure. There is evidence that probably half of the chemicals used in fracturing by companies are not OSHA regulated chemicals.

Agencies should also remove their recommendation encouraging and/or allowing fracking companies to report to FracFocus. CWA believes it is problematic for the MDE and DNR after drilling has commenced to cede some degree of state oversight and the public’s right to know to a non-regulatory third party by, “encourage[ing] well operators to disclose the identity and amount of chemicals used on FracFocus.” Such a policy would require any citizen, group or professional, who is not in the privileged regiment for receiving chemical disclosures from the State to rely on and search a voluntary industry database. In addition, FracFocus allows companies and operators the sole discretion to determine whether a chemical is a trade secret and no way for the public to know or challenge that priority determination.

Currently eighteen states require disclosure in one form or another of fracking fluid chemicals. Unfortunately, eleven of those require or allow reporting to the website FracFocus, managed by the trade organizations the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC). In its April 2013 report, Legal Fractures in Chemical Disclosure Laws: Why the Voluntary Chemical Disclosure Registry FracFocus Fails as a Regulatory Compliance Tool, Harvard Law school’s Environmental Law Program found that any “reliance of FracFocus as a regulatory compliance tool is misplaced.” According to the report about 20% of all hydraulic fracturing chemicals are not disclosed on FracFocus forms and until recently limited reporting to OSHA-regulated chemicals. The site trade organization site has even gone as far as holding themselves out to their members as exempt from federal and state public information laws.

In order to improve MDE and DNR’s chemical disclosure recommendations in the draft Report Clean Water Action requests that current recommendations and subsequent policy better ensure that the public has access to information about the identities and volumes of chemicals used in the drilling process. This will require full and timely reporting and complete accessibility to the public, and not just a select few and prohibitive and prescribed times during the extraction or fracking process.  Policy recommendations must also reject any trade secret regime or loophole and we urge the agencies to reject any consideration of using the industry created self-reporting FracFocus as a means of disclosure for reporting.

Hydraulic fracturing wastewater poses a major threat to Maryland streams, rivers, and tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. This wastewater contains not only the chemicals used in fracking fluid, but also natural contaminants from deep underground that are carried to the surface in the flowback like organic pollutants, dissolved solids and radioactive materials. Although EPA has committed to develop standards to ensure that hydraulic fracturing wastewaters receives proper treatment and can be properly handled by POTWs. However, their plan is not to propose rules for wastewater until 2014. Until these regulations are in place, the Agencies must create the most prohibitive practices and regulations on disposal and/or treatment of hydraulic fracturing flowback.

MDE and DNR have proposed recommendations in Section VI, parts C, I and K, of the Report to ensure that oil and gas drilling wastewater does not have negative impacts on public health and natural resources in Maryland. However, the Agencies recommend best management practices for treating wastewater that are “preferable” which may allow companies the option not to follow those practices if they can prove it is not “practicable’ to do so. Clean Water Action recommends the Agencies make the practices in the above mentioned sections mandatory for all hydraulic fracturing activities.

Clean Water Action agrees that Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW’s) should not accept oil and gas wastewater, especially in the absence of federal standards. However, the Agencies should not “request” that POTWs not accept oil and gas wastewater for treatment, but rather should “prohibit” POTW’s from accepting this wastewater. Agencies must not authorize any POTW that discharges to fresh water to accept these wastewaters and should prohibit the transportation of wastewater to other states for the purpose of treatment or deep well injection.

The rapid development of the Marcellus Shale industry has overwhelmed communities with negative impacts through its intense industrialization of rural farm and forest lands. There is great concern over fracking in Maryland by organizations, groups and citizens who in there review of the experiences and data from other states have concluded that fracking simply cannot be conducted in a way that poses ‘acceptable risks.’ Clean Water Action shares this concern and believes this report is premature in light of the fact that a full risk analysis was not done prior to its development and publication. In addition a number of important studies remain outstanding, such as the public health study, and the hydrological, geological, and economic surveys. It may be the case that following these studies and assessment required by Governor O’Malley’s executive order that Maryland will decided that fracking is inherently dangerous and that it should be permanently banned. Until then, given the uncertainties and potential for harm to the environment and public health caused by of the fracking process, we must make sure drilling can be done safely with proper procedures and safe-guards. And since the order did set a date for the submission for MDE and DNR’s draft report on best management practices, which has already been extended Clean Water Action has presented some recommendations for their improvement here.

The recommendations outlined in the Agencies’ draft best management practices report demonstrate how Marcellus Shale drilling and extraction has the potential to significantly affect our environment, negatively alter local communities and impact residents’ quality of life. Clean Water Action has pointed out the need for the Agencies seek to improve with at least three of these recommendations. First, Clean Water Action supports the Report’s recommendation in Section VI part H that “Diesel fuel shall not be used in hydraulic fracturing fluids,” in order to protect underground sources of drinking water from known risks and urge the Departments to retain this policy. Second, improve on chemical disclosure requirements in Section VI, part D Chemical Disclosure. Drillers should be required to disclose (1) in a publicly available database (2) all chemicals added to the frac water used during the fracturing process (not just OSHA listed hazardous chemicals), (3) with chemical name and concentrations, and (4) the Report should be submitted 30 days before the well is fracked and updated and completed 30 days after the well is fracked. Additionally, FracFocus is not sufficient for this purpose and Maryland should develop a publicly available database for this purpose. Finally, Clean Water Action recommends that the Agencies improve Section VI, parts C, I and K regarding water and wastewater treatment to ensure that wastewater from oil and gas extraction is prohibited from POTW’s (wastewater treatment plants) and that the Agencies prohibit the transportation of wastewater to other states for the purpose of treatment or deep well injection.

On behalf of Clean Water Action’s 65,000 Maryland members we thank the Maryland Departments of Environment (MDE) and Natural Resources (DNR) for the hard work put into this draft and for accepting these comments.

References:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (“NRDC”) Comments on Permitting Guidance for Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing Activities Using Diesel Fuels - June 2011.

US Environmental Protection Agency, Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs, June 2004.

Nicholas Kusnetz, Critics Find Gaps in State Laws to Disclose Hydrofracking Chemicals - ProPublica, June 2011.

Chart of Fracking Chemical Disclosure Rules & draft rules from the federal Bureau of Land Management. - InsideClimate News, August 2012.

Kate Konschnik with Margaret Holden and Alexa Shasteen, Legal Fractures in Chemical Disclosure Laws, Harvard Law School, Environmental Law Program Policy Initiative, April 2013.
Katie Huffling, The hidden health risks of fracking - Nurses demand disclosure of chemicals used in natural gas drilling, The Baltimore Sun, July 2012.

John Murawski, Fracking giant Halliburton nixes NC's chemical disclosure rule, The News & Observer, May 2013.

Brandon J. Murrill and Adam Vann, Hydraulic Fracturing: Chemical Disclosure Requirements, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, June 2012.

Rebecca Hammer, Jeanne VanBriesen, Ph.D., PE and Larry Levine, In Fracking’s Wake: New Rules are Needed to Protect Our Health and Environment from Contaminated Wastewater, Natural Resources Defense Council and Carnegie Mellon University, May 2012.

Clean Water Action, Assessing the Impact of New Federal Red Tape on Hydraulic Fracturing and American Energy Independence, Testimony Before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, May 2012.

Bridget DiCosmo, EPA'S Draft Diesel Fracking Guide Raises Questions Over State’s Primacy, Inside Washington Publishers, May 2012.

Clean Water Action, Environmental Groups Call on EPA to Ban Diesel Use in Fracking, May 2012.

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, Shale Gas Production Subcommittee 90 Day Report, U.S. Department of Energy, April 2011.

Gwen Lachelt, EARTHWORKS, Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) comments
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the UIC Class II permitting guidance June 2011.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs, June 2004.

Ben W. Heineman Jr., Can the Fracking Industry Self-Regulate? The Atlantic Monthly Group, 2011.

Daniel Rozell, P.E., and Dr. Sheldon Reaven, "Water Pollution Risk Associated with Natural Gas Extraction from the Marcellus Shale," Risk Analysis - Society for Risk Analysis, August 2012.

Clean Water Action, Testimony on Senate Bill 513, Environment - Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater - Prohibited Acts, February 2013.

Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale NPDES Program Frequently Asked Questions, March 2011.

Food and Water Watch, Factsheet on House Bill 296, Environment - Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater - Prohibited Acts, February 2013.

 

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General Comments: The American Petroleum Institute (API), as an ANSI accredited standards developing organization, develops its standards and recommended practices in accordance not only with ANSI’s Essential Requirements but also on the two key principles: proven engineering practices and performance-based requirements. Taken together, these principles lead to standards and recommended practices that ensure risk mitigation through the application of proven engineering practices while at the same time allowing for innovation through performance-based requirements. It is in this context that API provides the following specific comments:

Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plan (CGDP)

On Page 8, the Draft Report states that “The CGDP should address at a minimum, all land on or under which the applicant expects to conduct exploration or production activities over a period of at least the next five years.”

The CGDP would be required for all wells, including exploration wells. This requires the development of an extensive plan for long term development in areas where there is no information on the viability of the project, or indeed if the Marcellus formation in the area would support such a development.

The requirements rely on an as yet to be developed “Shale Gas Development Toolbox” which has a number of portions that currently do not exist. It is unclear in the recommendations if the CGDP could be initiated without the toolbox being in place. The areas that have yet to be developed include:

  • Adherence to Departmental siting policies
  • Use of a to be developed Toolbox
  • Development of a mapping application that is similar to the DNR’s MERLIN system tailored to include geospatial data
  • Development of new maps of public outdoor recreational use areas to establish additional setbacks (page 18)
  • Launching of a process for developing new maps of use areas that include participatory GIS workshops (page 18)

If one looks at the complete requirements to obtain a drilling permit, the permit would require the development and approval of a five year CGDP plan, followed by a lengthy approval process. The total time for the development and approval of a CGDP plan is estimated at a minimum of 18 months. Assuming approval of the plan, this would be followed by a minimum two years of pre-development baseline data collection (pages 44 and F-1) on groundwater, surface water, and both aquatic and terrestrial ecological resources prior to obtaining approval to drill the initial well. The total time to perform the baseline study and obtain state approval is estimated at 28 months.

Without validating the need for a mandatory CGDP, a more practical approach would be the permitting of one or more exploratory wells in accordance with current state regulations to allow operators the opportunity to determine the feasibility of further development. It should be noted that to begin the process of drilling an exploration well, the operator must dedicate approximately four years of resources and expense before obtaining any information on the viability of production from the Marcellus formations in Maryland. This timing assumes the noted policies, maps, and toolbox are in place.

Even assuming that all the “Shale Gas Development Toolbox” items are addressed, there is still a great deal of ambiguity in the approval process, as on page 11 the report states: “If the State determines that the CGDP conforms to regulatory requirements and, to the maximum extent practicable, avoids impacts to natural, social, cultural, recreational and other resources, minimizes unavoidable impacts, and mitigates remaining impacts, the State shall approve the CGDP.” How does the state plan to balance the various interests and determine if a plan “conforms to regulatory requirements and, to the maximum extent practicable?”

Finally, it should be noted that the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Appalachian Laboratory (UMCES-AL), which surveyed best practices from several states recommended that the CGDP be voluntary, with incentives for those organizations that chose to develop and submit a CGDP.

Section IV – Location Restrictions and Setbacks

There are a number of proposed setbacks within the document, many of which are in conflict with each other. For example, it is unclear on page 30 with respect to the drilling of a pilot hole within 500 feet of the proposed borehole, whether the setbacks for the pilot hole would be the same as for the final developed well. There are no provisions for using the same pilot hole for the main borehole of the well if no issues are identified during its drilling.

Another example of significant uncertainty in the document is with the 300 feet setback from various “recreational use areas” clearly recommended on page 16, versus the suggestion on page 18 that it may be doubled to 600 feet based on a workshop anticipated later this year.

The 1320 foot setback from historic gas wells (from both the vertical and horizontal well bore) is being recommended with no real technical basis. It may be reasonable to recommend “identification” of existing wells within a certain, somewhat arbitrary, distance as part of the permitting process to ensure those wells are appropriately recognized and considered, but it’s an entirely different issue to establish that as a mandatory setback. Setbacks should be established to balance environmental protection and development. Overly restrictive setbacks can have the unintended consequence of essentially reducing the area available for drilling.

Section V – Plan for Each Well

It is noted that on page 20 operators are required to consider API standards and guidance documents in the preparation of well plans. This is consistent with some other states inclusions of API standards in their regulatory process and may work to improve the well planning process by incorporating the engineering rigor found in these documents. However, caution should be exercised in the application of these requirements. This is due to the fact that as performance based standards, a variety of engineering solutions can be found in these documents. The requirement that the plans must “follow a normative element of a relevant API standard” or otherwise “explain why and demonstrate that the plan is at least as protective as the normative element” could lead to conflicting requirements as performance-based standards often contain multiple normative elements which allow for the use of engineering judgment in their application.

Section VI – Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards

A. Site Construction and Sediment and Erosion Control, 1, The pad:

The UNCES-AL recommended and the Departments agree on the use of closed loop drilling systems on “zero discharge” drilling pads. Closed loop mud systems are used in many areas, particularly where non aqueous drilling fluids are utilized. Using a closed loop system will add costs to the drilling operation and will require additional space on the drilling pad to incorporate the technology. To allow for spotting the needed tanks for the process can require up to 6 acres for the drill site. This increases the surface footprint of the drilling pad above what would be required for non-closed loop systems.

The larger question comes from no discharge of rainwater from the entire drilling pad. The requirement to capture, store and transport all storm water can result in a large increase in truck traffic to haul the storm water from the entire pad. Capturing and storing only that water which could potentially be contaminated would be an adequate approach to meet the environmental safeguards sought without unnecessarily increasing truck traffic. Likewise, the development of a clearer definition of what constitutes a “drilling pad” could also be helpful in minimizing the potential of increased and potentially unnecessary truck traffic. Potential contamination sources would be the drilling rig and associated equipment, excluding areas occupied by temporary housing, parking lots, etc.

A. Site Construction and Sediment and Erosion Control, 4, Pipelines:

The report notes that the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates intrastate gas and liquid pipelines, and that it appears that the PSC has not established any standards for the location, materials, construction, or testing of gathering lines. API has a published recommended practice, RP 80, “Guidelines for the Definition of Onshore Gas Gathering Lines” that the PSC and others may find of value.

B. Transportation Planning:

There are several comments on timing of heavy trucking. The highlighted times listed on page 26 are an extension of API recommendations that a transportation plan be incorporated into the overall project plan and that the plan address traffic needs. A more complete review of the recommendations contained in the API recommended practices associated with transportation planning could assist the state in this area.

C. Water:

As with transportation, the current API recommendations address water withdrawal and usage should be evaluated by the state in the development of final recommendations.

3. Water reuse:

While encouraging recycling and reuse of water is appropriate, the requirement for 90% recycling “on the pad site of generation” is unrealistic due to the number of inherent operational variables. To achieve that high level of recycling can require use of specialized equipment that not only requires additional space, but also needs enough volume through-put to be practicable. Allowing for transport of flow back and produced waters to a centralized recycling facility has the 4 potential to improve reuse and recycling of the water. Again, this topic is covered in the API recommended practices with respect to water use and reuse for hydraulic fracturing operations.

E. Drilling, 4, Drilling Fluids and Cuttings:

It is noted the top portion of the well is to be drilled with materials that are appropriate for drinking water. This is appropriate and in common use. The next statement deals with drilling at deeper depths and the allowance for the use of materials that may not be appropriate for use while drilling through potable water supplies. These materials would only be allowed “if approved by the Department.” It is not clear the criteria to be employed to approve such materials, and how they would gain approval by the Department.

For cuttings disposal, there is an unclear criteria that if the cuttings meet other criteria established by MDE, then on site disposal of the cuttings could be allowed. There is no information as to what the other criteria may be. This means for planning purposes, all wells would require hauling off of cuttings and the initial plan would include increased trucking to move the cuttings. This creates an immediate bias in the plan and artificially inflates the potential traffic from the drilling site.

F. Casing and Cement, 1. Requirements for Casing and Cement:
The recommendation is all coupling threads meet the API specifications and casing strings be assembled to the correct torque. This requirement eliminates proprietary threads that may exceed API specifications and also does not allow for the use of couplings that are made up to a particular depth rather than a minimum torque. The recommendation should allow for the use of API threads or threads that exceed API requirements based on an engineering analysis and judgment.

There is a recommendation that the operators “must use a sufficient number of centralizers to properly center the casing in each borehole.” There is no definition of what degree of centralization is required, the allowable type of centralizers, or the proposed installation methods. This information can be found in the API technical documents, recommended practices, and specifications for centralizers. It is recommended the recommendation include these documents by reference.

Requiring the cement to remain in a static state for a minimum of 12 hours and to achieve a compressive strength of 500 psi is excessive. Modern cement additives and slurry designs can achieve the 500 psi requirement in much less time than 12 hours. It is recommended the recommendation be changed to allow for continuation of activities if the cement has reached a minimum of 500 psi.

For cementing, centralization, and wellbore isolation, it is suggested the recommendation incorporate API Standard 65-2, “Isolating Potential Flow Zones During Construction” in the document. This standard contains design and engineering practices for isolation of potential flow zones and goes beyond the limited recommendations found in the current document. API Standard 65-2 has been adopted into both federal and state regulations and serves as an industry guidance document for proper well design and construction.

E. Casing and Cement, 2. Isolation:

The recommendation calls for the production casing to be run the entire length of the well and cemented. This requirement does not appear to allow for the use of production liners and tie backs, and would also appear to require cementing the entire production casing back to surface. Requiring cementing of the entire production casing back to surface will create a number of design challenges that may actually reduce the effectiveness of the cement seal. Bringing cement from the total well depth back to surface could require the use of cements with very long fluid times (pump times) that would result in a delay of the set of the cement at the lower temperatures near surface. Cementing back to surface also eliminates the potential to monitor annular pressures between the production casing and intermediate casing, a needed safety measure during fracturing operations.

The recommendation should clarify isolation in the production casing, allow for use of liner and tie back technologies, and better define what is meant by the statement referencing cementing.

E. Casing and Cement, 3. Cased Hole Logging, Integrity testing and pressure testing:

The recommendation is for the use of a segmented radial cement bong log (SRCBL) rather than the conventional omnidirectional cement bond log (CBL). There is no statement in the recommendation as to which casing strings would require the use of the SRCBL. This should be clarified in the recommendation. Further, there is no provision for the evaluation and analysis of the SRCBL, or who would determine the effectiveness of the cementing operation. It is noted there are no recommendations for capturing data during the cementing operation that would supplement the logging operation.

As noted earlier, the incorporation of API Standard 65-2 would address cement evaluation in its full form, using surface data during the cement job, laboratory design data as well as post job logging information. The Standard correctly notes that one single data point (or data set) should be used to make the evaluation of cement isolation.

Section VII – Monitoring, Recordkeeping and Reporting

A key recommendation on page 44 is for two years of pre-development baseline data to evaluate the condition and characteristics of aquatic resources (which page F-1, Table 1, Item 1-A extends to also include underground drinking water, surface water, and terrestrial ecological resources). While API’s recommendations for baseline testing are tied to the normal well permitting process, this section states that state agencies will develop protocols for baseline assessments and monitoring, none of which currently exist to API’s knowledge.

API Comments Summary:

As an overall view of the recommendations from the document, this appears to be geared toward requiring a great deal of initial reporting from the operator to identify all of the future plans for drilling and production in Maryland prior to any exploration drilling. The processes outlined require considerable reliance on state agencies developing protocols, plans, and toolboxes that currently do not exist. Coupled with requirements for extensive multiple-year testing prior to the initiation of drilling, if an operator worked diligently to drill an exploratory well in Maryland today, these draft requirements and recommendations would put the well spud date at minimum of five to six years into the future, assuming the state develops the maps and 6 protocols within one year of approval of the final report, a goal that would prove challenging to achieve. API believes that a realistic and shorter time frame should be considered for the combined CGDP and baseline activities (perhaps 12 months or less) which would allow for exploratory wells to be drilled earlier in the process to help provide more accurate and detailed information necessary for the development of the CGDP. Should this revision be accepted API would be happy to meet with the MDE to further discuss and refine this concept.

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The Maryland Petroleum Council offers these written comments on the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study - Phase II Best Practices Draft Report, August 2013. This is in addition to comments submitted by API.

The Governor's call for a "Gold Standard" has Maryland proposing the strictest set of drilling requirements in the United States. But in its effort to propose the strongest standards, the State has drafted its own Best Practices, a number of which are not required by any other state or a voluntary consensus Industry standard and that, if adopted, may not allow for reasonable development. While learning from other states or Industry experiences makes sense, creating an untested Best Practice in a vacuum does not.

We have serious concerns about a mandatory Comprehensive Gas Development Plan (CGDP) for at least five years. This requirement is premature, requiring it after a company has drilled initial exploratory wells would make much more sense. Shortening the time frame to two or three years would also allow for more accurate forecasting. Bifurcating it to provide some basic information before doing any initial drilling and then requiring a very detailed document before production can occur would be practical. It would also allow for a significantly more substantive and accurate long term CGDP being submitted.

Two year baseline water monitoring should at least be based on whether there is already sufficient data available for a given watershed. Automatically requiring two years of monitoring before drilling anywhere may be unnecessary and redundant when this information is already available.

The 90% water reuse is a sound goal which some companies are already doing on some sites but this should not be a fixed requirement which will allow companies to adapt to the appropriate conditions. The setback requirements should not be arbitrarily picked and there should be some criteria and a scientific basis rather than a "farther is better" approach.

Moreover, for certain common activities these proposed Best Practices would treat the drilling industry differently than everyone else without any justification. One example is the proposal for storm water management.

We strongly question with the present natural gas market, the sizable acreage of leases not being renewed in Western Maryland, and these overly stringent requirements whether there will be any significant development of the Marcellus Shale in Maryland before 2020. This proposal could result in a continuation of the de-facto drilling moratorium.

The draft BMPs and the potential "Gold Standard" for development only mean something if they are balanced enough to allow drilling in Western Maryland while offering sufficient protections to the environment and the citizens of Maryland.

Finally, it is important to note that the development of shale gas in over 22 other states has provided tremendous benefit s to most Marylanders including significant savings on their energy bills, air quality benefits and jobs.

Please let me know if you have any questions or need additional information.

###

I've been involved in this Natural gas/Mineral “thing” that has been going on in Garrett County for the last five (5) plus years. I recently set up Garrett County Minerals, LLC (see flyer). I've probably done more mineral searches than anyone in the county, and I've been dealing on a daily basis for 5+ years with mineral related issues. Because of this extensive involvement with the various aspects of mineral ownership, I've become very familiar with many of the various legal concepts of property ownership. A legal concept that I found interesting is that of a Defacto taking. If the government takes your property, they have to compensate you for it. There is an actual taking when the state takes your property and pays you for it, for instance, a highway. Then there is a Defacto taking, a taking because of government laws, regulations, or restrictions that in fact take your property because you can't use it. You've been deprived of your property rights without being paid.

My first question is: Has or will the committee consider the cost to the State of Maryland if the Courts were to determine that because of all the regulations and restrictions imposed on natural gas drilling in Maryland, the result is a Defacto taking of property rights. (Natural Gas) Maryland seems intent on setting an extremely high bar for the natural gas industry and setting standards that are tougher than in any other state. Eminent Domain, the governments taking of property, is ultimately a federal constitutional question. Second question: Can the State of Maryland under the Federal Constitution set a higher standard for drilling than all the other states where natural gas development is taking place? If the people of Garrett County with natural gas rights had those same rights just across the line in West Virginia or Pennsylvania, they could be worth a fortune. In Maryland those rights are worth nothing, and they may never be worthy anything. How constitutional is that?

 ###

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft report of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study. We are supportive of the Governor's Advisory Commission and its task to provide recommendations on the safe drilling of Marcellus Shale in Western Maryland; fore, we believe that the production of clean energy such as this will be beneficial to the economic development of Western Maryland.

The Maryland Chamber applauds the Commission for their efforts in developing the proposed recommendations in the study; however, we believe that some of the proposed mandates and testing requirements including the CGDP are some of the most stringent regulations in the Country but are also very costly and time consuming, while offering minimal environmental protection. Approximately 1% of Marcellus Shale lies in Maryland, these proposed stringent regulations and their associated cost and time consuming nature plus other fees will likely further reduce any interest in shale gas production in the State.

These recommendations would require a great deal of upfront reporting and years of testing before any drilling may occur and is reliant upon state protocols and plans that have yet to be established; nor assessed for practicality in real time applications . These, yet to be established, protocols and extensive pre-drilling requirements will most likely push back production for at least 5 more years. During a time, when we as a state and as a country, are seeking ways to expand upon economic development opportunities and diversity through job and industry growth, we believe that these recommendations will hurt that effort in Maryland. Therefore, we urge the commission to seek a shorter and more realistic timeframes to be considered for the CGDP and allow the exploration for shale gas to be done earlier in the process to provide for more accurate and detailed information for the approval of the a final CGDP.

Please remember that we are competing against other states for this economic activity while protecting our natural resources. Thank you for the chance to submit these comments and if we can provide further information, please let us know.

 ###

The Maryland Motor Truck Association (MMTA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Part II - Best Practices report dated August 2013.

Maryland Motor Truck Association is a non-profit trade association that has represented the trucking industry since 1935. In service to its nearly 1,000 members, MMTA is committed to supporting and advocating for a safe, efficient and profitable trucking industry across all sectors and industry types, regardless of size, domicile or type of operation.

Within the report there are several comments on the timing of transportation activities and, more specifically, heavy-duty trucking. While we agree that planning for an increase in truck traffic should be accounted for, the report's recommendations fail to recognize that most of the truck traffic generated from Marcellus Shale drilling is short-term, typically occurring over a few months during site preparation of the well (e.g., hauling pipe, water, etc.). Once a well is established, truck traffic significantly decreases as gas is transported via pipeline.

Many of the recommendations included are unrealistic. For example, encouraging "maximum movement of heavy equipment by rail to protect road systems and prevent accidents" is idealistic. While rail is a viable long-haul transportation option, the last miles traveled in the geographic region will ultimately be made on a truck. The requirement that "all trucks, tankers and dump trucks transporting liquid or solid wastes be fitted with GPS tracking systems" is virtually impossible in an industry that is deregulated, highly fragmented, and uses a large number of independent contractors to meet short-term transportation needs.

MMTA is also concerned about the length of time required to go through the approval process and obtain a drilling permit. The American Petroleum Institute estimates that, given the recommended processes, a well operator will have to dedicate four years of resources and expense before obtaining any information on the viability of production from the Marcellus formations in Maryland. Given the choice of proceeding through Maryland's cumbersome processes or dedicating resources elsewhere, well operators will almost certainly choose to operate in other states, further decreasing Maryland's economic competitiveness in this arena. A more realistic time frame should be considered.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments.

###

Aware that September 10 is almost upon us, I want to acknowledge your efforts in the ongoing work of trying to create safe shale drilling practices.  I know that there are many voices and opinions that come to the front as you continue your hard work.

However, I also feel compelled to reiterate my concerns about the unequal playing fields of interested parties.  The power of the gas and oil industry is daunting to me, a native of Garrett Co0unty.  I live in a serene setting, bordered by farmlands on every side.

Much well deserved discussion about the potential effect of drilling on tourism continues to be presented in both meetings and written material.  However, as a private landowner who was born in this beautiful county, I voice grave concerns about both short term and long term consequences of drilling.  I reside on the land I love.  I shudder when I consider what my surroundings might look like if neighboring farmers lease their land.

While I heartily agree that tourism could be greatly harmed by drilling and its aftermath, I beg you to equally consider the individuals and families whose lifestyles of peach and beauty could be forever changed by contaminated water, disturbing industrial noise, devastated farmlands, and property devaluation.  Tourists come to enjoy our beautiful scenery when schedules permit travel.  Residents are much more vulnerable to both short term and long term effects of drilling.

Concern for families who live here should be at least as big a consideration as the financial impact of drilling on tourism.

Well casing integrity and setbacks must be determined with the best interest of residents of Garrett County in mind.

I hold my breath, hoping that the political power of the gas and oil industry and its allies will not be allowed to control my surroundings, my home, and my peace and quiet.  I feel very vulnerable.  I am a taxpayer.  I am not alone.

If in years to come you can be credited for saving our county from environmental hazards and devastated view sheds, you will have a place of honor and respect in the hearts of those who live here because we love Garrett County.

###

I am submitting this correspondence as my public comment in response to your Department's Draft Report (Part II) Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study. My concerns about the general issue of unconventional natural gas (and oil) development arise from multiple factors in my background and life situation, which I will list here.

1. I own39 acres just above the small town of Friendsville in Garrett Country. I hope to make this spot my final residence when I am able to set up a homestead on the property.

2. I am a current resident of Pennsylvania who has seen astonishingly bad impacts from this state's permissive accommodation of the shale gas industry.

3. I hold a master's degree in environmental policy analysis from Johns Hopkins and have quite a sound knowledge base in the adverse impacts of anthropogenic atmospheric forcing. Non-hyperbolically, the human-caused threat to the ecosystem - the life support system for our species and all other species - has, in the course of my lifetime, scaled up to endanger accomplishments accrued over centuries and millennia of civilization. Fossil fuel burning is this threat's most urgent aspect. I view the task of expediting as immediate a shift as possible away from reliance on destructive forms of energy not as utopian, but essential.

The rest of this letter will loosely combine personal observations and more general opinions and conjectures, but I trust I shall get my point across.

When I was looking for land to purchase, the realtor who assisted me stressed that I should unconditionally avoid reclaimed strip mine acreage and insist on full mineral rights. However, the advent of horizontal drilling has made control even of subsurface one ostensibly owns increasingly problematic. A Kentucky-based company approached me, rather aggressively actually, seeking to lease my Marcellus rights for five year's at the risible sum of a few dollars an acre. That was an easy offer to reject, and I can't be quite certain how I would have responded to one for more serious money. But as my suspicions of the fossil fuel industry were already well developed, I'm sure I would have undertaken extensive research before acceding to any proposal. This was over five years ago and I believe any leases on my hill, i.e. tracts abutting or near my land, have expired. In any case, solicitations from a potential Marcellus driller, coinciding with Pennsylvania's burgeoning natural gas "boom," caused me to look critically into the practices associated with unconventional gas exploitation, particularly hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

I urge that Maryland's accommodation of gas development take, at most, a GO SLOW SLOW SLOW approach and would greatly prefer indefinite continuation of a total moratorium. This industry has not shown itself to be trustworthy. In Pennsylvania, reckless Marcellus drilling and fracking have incontrovertibly degraded water supplies: probably causing permanent damage in some instances. (The EPA is now embroiled in a controversy over this issue, as higher-ups have significantly softened a rather damning staff report.) Air pollution and noise pollution further plague people living near drill sites, and medical problems plausibly linked to nearby gas development are not uncommon.

Gas development is certainly not a job creation panacea. The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce got egg on its face when it released a report overstating by at least an order of magnitude the expected positive economic impact from a Marcellus go-ahead. Agriculture and tourism, both important sectors in typical Marcellus areas, are intrinsically incompatible with industrial fossil fuel extracting installations. The number of jobs added in Pennsylvania as a result of large-scale Marcellus shale exploitation is debatable - publicized estimates range from a low of a few to several thousand claimed by the "anti" side up to hundreds of thousands claimed by the "pro" side. What seems clear is that the few skilled jobs go mostly to experienced industry hands imported from places such as Texas or Oklahoma. You can count an extra four-hour shift per week working at a convenience store for minimum wage as a "multiplier effect" job from gas drilling, if you like. Yet, is this the quality of work and quality of life someone with an expressed concern for the public interest would really want to brag about? Sure, some motels have gone from mostly empty to full, and new housing development has taken place, but in the process long-time local residents have seen costs escalate beyond their means. Crime rises at least in line with, probably somewhat faster than, the rise in population, and educational and medical capacities are likewise overburdened. Providing public services to mitigate problems and meet new needs imposes unaccustomed costs, and those paying the bill, most likely, are not principally the entities who brought these needs about.

The most available direct Marcellus job for locals in Pennsylvania gas play regions is truck driver: hauling the equipment, the toxic chemicals, and the obscenely humongous volumes of water that go clown each well and then comeback up horribly polluted. These jobs pay poorly, often by the load rather than by the hour. Reports have surfaced of up to 20-hourdays. Overwork anywhere near this degree certainly causes safety-compromising fatigue. According to anecdotal accounts, some truckers in this stressful situation have resorted to self-medicating with methamphetamine or "bath salts."

Some main stream environmental organizations and state governments have conducted voluntary, cooperative discussions with the shale gas industry, based on an assumption that gas development is inevitable and their having a "seat at the table" should help instill more responsible behavior by the gas interests. In my opinion, this idealistic or good-natured approach is more apt to undermine than to protect the public interest and the environment. My perusal of the document I am commenting on here leads me to suspect that industry – whether overtly, covertly or by osmosis- has had undue influence in framing the so-called Best Management Practices. Some are not strict enough, some impossible to achieve, most of the rest difficult if not impossible to regulate and enforce properly.

For example, a setback of 1,000 feet is inadequate on its own terms and close to meaningless if horizontal drilling extends the exploitation zone thousands of feet in every direction from the well pad. The draft report also describes accidents as "rare." I don't know what the threshold for rare is; horrific incidents can occur at a low rate and still be unacceptable. Last November or thereabouts, a trucker in Texas got a whiff of the concentrated toxic fracking fluid he was to be hauling and died. I feel sure something like this will happen again.

High-minded assurances of perfect well casings with no methane leaks also ring false. The industry itself admits that up to a fifth of installed casings fail overtime. Ballyhooing unconventional natural gas as a "bridge fuel" to some vaguely alluded to renewable-based future strikes me as highly suspect. Under present circumstances, a grievous lack of independent studies and consequent reliance on industry-produced data and projections set policy makers up to make decisions using a combination of inadequate information and misinformation. Given literally thousands of truck trips required per well drilled along with a reasonable expectation of methane leaks, unconventional gas most likely carries a carbon footprint quite comparable to coal. 1wouldmuch rather see Maryland, a state with a praiseworthy environmental protection record in many respects, move toward phasing out its small coal industry than open its gates to Marcellus shale drilling.

Misuse and grotesque waste of water is what irks me about fracking more than anything else. Talking heads drone on about conflict in the current century shifting from conflicts over oil to conflicts over water. In fact (I use the word pointedly), justly resolving conflicts marks the only path to a humane future, and 1greatly rue that my country stubbornly pursues a foreign policy based almost exclusively on militarism. While intrinsic scarcity of water is not the problem here that it is in more arid fracking regions, I revere water as the most immediate necessity for life other than air, and unequivocally condemn its degradation in the cause of Marcellus gas extraction. Injection wells cause earthquakes. Pennsylvania previously let frackers take their "produced water"(what comes back up after fracturing) to rinky-dink small town water treatment plants when even sophisticated systems are not fully equipped to remediate the toxins it contains. A county not far north of where I live has taken to using diluted produced water to melt roadway ice, and a mechanic our family knows states that the frequency of vehicles brought in for repairs following catastrophic undercarriage/frame failure has gone up five- to ten-fold. Did the road department pay the gas interests for access to this wonderful resource? I wouldn't bet against it. Rampant gas exploitation is a phenomenon of rural areas. This shields it from view and scrutiny by the bulk of the population, and also greatly exacerbates the difficulty of regulation. Basically nothing can stop some exhausted, overworked and underpaid truck driver from surreptitiously discharging his load into a stream. The chance that the gas company ultimately responsible for this untraceable misdeed will be punished with an appropriately hefty fine is vanishingly small, while past and future fish kills testify to environmental crimes committed.

The industry category that brought us the Exxon Valdez, the Macondo blowout, and the Enron scandal is a poor candidate for Mr. Nice Guy soft touch handling by authorities. The technical specifications for setbacks, casings, reporting requirements, etc. shown in the Draft Report do not seem strict enough in many particulars, and even were this not so an enormous gap between what goes on the books and what will be enforced effectively is utterly unavoidable. The jury is still out on whether fracking can be done safely. Personally, I am inclined to doubt it.

"Oh, but we need the gas." So goes the mantra by industry mouthpieces and too many politicians. I am not such a lunatic visionary that I foresee the imminent total end of the fossil fuel era. However, carefully using the last "easy" gas and oil under stringent, continuously tightening conservation and efficiency standards must take priority over giving a green light to unconventional fossil fuels, including both shale gas and tar sands oil. (Redirecting the vast supply earmarked for the world's single largest consumer, the U.S. war machine, to peaceful civilian purposes would help, too.) Under leadership that expedites efficiency maximization for all existing demand points, and maps out and constructs a nationwide smart grid, renewable-source electricity could become the norm quite soon. If we "need" fracked gas so badly, how come byproduct gas from the Bakken fracked oil field mostly in North Dakota is flared on such a scale that satellite night photography shows this location glaring brighter than Minneapolis and almost as bright as Chicago? What a waste. Meanwhile, in our local tracking fields incessant rumblings suggest that LNG exports, not energy self-sufficiency, are the industry's actual aim. By the way, local fracking occurs at one-third the depth and five times the pressure typical in the Bakken, while the latter area has more acute water transport and diversion problems due to its aridity. If you think unconventional oil is OK, look what it did to Lac-Mégantic. Significantly stronger and more hazardous volatile components in unconventional production, compared to standard output in past decades accelerate pipeline corrosion as well.

Finally, some reputable Wall Street types opine that an Enron or subprime mortgage style "quick, flip it" bubble is the fate, shortly forthcoming, for the Northeast's shale gas industry. A petroleum engineer at a forum I attended noted that wells are almost certain to need re-fracking, perhaps as frequently as every two years, to maintain anything remotely resembling their initial production. In a setting already rife with methane leaks, toxins, and gallons of water wasted and degraded by the trillion, is this the denouement that beckons? Better not to start out along this path in the first place.

I appreciate the opportunity to provide my input. Thank you.

###

Section II - Overview

Subsection (A) second paragraph; “When burned to generate electricity, natural gas produces lower greenhouse gas emissions than oil and coal, which could help to reduce the impact of energy usage as we transition to more renewable energy sources.”
Scientific studies indicate that because methane is a potent greenhouse gas, unless leakage rates during development are rigorously controlled, gas is not “better” than coal, and from a “life-cycle” standpoint, its development may offer no advantages for slowing climate change.
“The exploration for and production of natural gas could boost economic development in Maryland, particularly in Garrett and Allegany Counties.” Without the final report from the Economic Study under way in Garrett and Allegany County, this statement takes a position held by the Gas Industry and landowners which will benefit from Natural Gas development. Garrett County has a tourism-based economic environment and blanket statements cannot cover the unique economics, demographics, and geology of this area.

The state will not require that multiple companies submit comprehensive drilling plans together; rather, it will "encourage" them to work together on drawing up their plans. Asking the gas industry to voluntarily work together and share information about its drilling sites does nothing to guarantee that the public's interest is taken into account during planning.

Section III - Comprehensive Gas Development Plans
 
“Proactive, upfront planning at a landscape scale provides the framework for evaluating and minimizing cumulative impacts to the environmental, social and economic fabric of western Maryland. The Departments agree that a CGDP process will be beneficial and recommend that this be a mandatory prerequisite before any individual well permits would be issued.”

Making basic CGDP planning mandatory demonstrates the State’s strong commitment to avoiding conflicts with HVHF development. However, it is very likely that CGDP requirements will ultimately create more intensive “sacrifice zones” in the areas where this highly concentrated development takes place. (See Section III, (C), (10) under Procedure and Approval Process re: Social impact.)

B. Planning principles
 
(B), (3), “Avoid, minimize and mitigate impact on resources as discussed in Section IV.”
Section IV does not address mitigation.
 
(B), (4), “Preferentially locate operations on disturbed, open lands or lands zoned for industrial activity.”
Departments should mandate that the state’s first wells be drilled in industrial parks to assure minimal land-use conflicts.
 
(B), (7), “Avoid surface development beyond 2% of the watershed area in high value watersheds. This threshold is based on the ecological sensitivity of specific aquatic organisms within these high value watersheds. Other factors, as discussed in the location restriction and setbacks section will also limit the location and extent of surface development.”
 
(B), (9), “Adhere to Departmental siting policies (to be developed) to guide pipeline planning and direct where hydraulic directional drilling and additional specific best management practices are necessary for protecting sensitive aquatic resources when streams must be crossed.”
Since this area is incomplete (TBD siting policies), it raises particular concerns regarding infrastructure development. Compressor station planning is omitted and should be inserted with “pipeline planning.”
 
(B), (10), (b), “Sequence of well drilling over the lifetime of the plan that places priority on locating the first well pads in areas removed from sensitive natural resource values.” (see no. 4)
Departments should mandate that the state’s first wells be drilled in industrial parks.
 
(B), (10), (c), “Consistency with local zoning ordinances and comprehensive planning elements.”
Action from the State is needed to motivate local land use performance standards in Garrett County, in the absence of county-wide zoning.
 
(B), (10), (d), “Identification of all federal, state and local permits needed for the activities”
More specifics needed here on how PSC and FERC permitting will relate to CGDP process. The public cannot comment on processes the State has not addressed.

C. Procedure and Approval Process
 
(C), (3), “The applicant’s preliminary Environmental Assessment shall be based on the data in the Toolbox, supplemented with other information as needed, including a rapid field assessment for unmapped streams, wetlands and other sensitive areas.” This requirement under the CGDP has an element that is duplicated in Section V, (1), “Completing the Environmental Assessment: This effort includes all environmental assessment baseline monitoring and site characterization required as a prerequisite for issuing individual well permits. These are activities that would be initiated after the CGDP has been approved and require site-specific, field scale assessment and monitoring.” And due to the requirement of Section V, (1), this would allow for development under the CGDP to forego a more comprehensive Environmental Assessment (EA) for all activities beyond the individual well permitting process. There currently is a requirement under Maryland Code, Environment 14-104:
(b) (1) The Department shall require an applicant to submit an environmental assessment for the purpose of evaluating an application.
(2) The Department shall coordinate with the Department of Natural Resources in its evaluation of the environmental assessment.
 
The State agencies have repeatedly stated that current requirements for an EA in Maryland are deficient, because they were developed prior to HVHF and that HVHF has a broader impact over conventional gas well development. Additionally MDE and DNR have different criteria within each agency’s specific language for an EA; this needs to be updated.
 
DNR has already determined that conventional oil and gas development on state lands under Natural Resources, Title 5, Forests and Parks, Subtitle 17, Leasing of State Oil and Gas Resources (Section 5-1701, 5-1702, 5-1703) would require a more through Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). So it would seem that the Departments should require an EIS in Maryland for all unconventional natural gas development, which has proven to have a larger footprint and significantly more impacts compared to conventional development.
 
(C), 5, “The public review and approval process will be initiated upon request of the applicant following receipt of agency comments.”
The public review and approval should be an automatic process as part of the permit, and not at the request of the applicant.
 
(C), 6, “A stakeholders group that includes the company, local government, resource managers, non-governmental organizations, and surface owners will be convened; in a facilitated process that shall not exceed 60 days, to discuss and improve the plan.”
This 60 day time frame should commence after the Departments initial review. Conditional, see below.
 
(C), 6, “A stakeholders group that includes the company, local government, resource managers, non-governmental organizations, and surface owners will be convened; in a facilitated process that shall not exceed 60 days, to discuss and improve the plan.” Will Section III, (C), (A), commence upon completion of Section VII, (A), “DNR emphasizes that a minimum of 2 years of pre-development baseline data is necessary to evaluate the condition and characteristics of aquatic resources, particularly the living resources, since statewide monitoring experience demonstrates there is great variability on a seasonal and annual basis.” Or will they be started at the same time? There is a conflict with time frame of these two section, which could potentially create a conflict with Section III, (C), (11), “Once the CGDP is approved, the entity may file a permit application for one or more wells that are consistent with the plan.”
 
(C), 7, “The plan is presented at a public meeting by the applicant and the public shall be allowed to comment on the plan.”
In rural areas such as Allegany and Garrett Counties, it is difficult to adequately provide complete information about the content of public meetings. The Departments should require the applicant to pay for a notice in local newspapers that would direct local residents to a website which would contain the CGDP and the comments on the plan to date. Once the notice has been published, they should allow for a 45 day comment period.
 
(C), (10), “If the State determines that the CGDP conforms to regulatory requirements and, to the maximum extent practicable, avoids impacts to natural, social, cultural, recreational and other resources, minimizes unavoidable impacts, and mitigates remaining impacts, the State shall approve the CGDP.”

  • The State should describe a threshold at which it would reject a CGDP if it determines that impacts are not sufficiently minimized or mitigated. If human residents are included among the social “resources” the State must consider in permit approval, would the state reject a permit approval if a resident within the CGDP can demonstrate the development would place an undue burden on his rights (i.e. diminishment of property value or health/safety concerns?)
  • Will the State consider approving a CGDP near or adjoining state lines where regulations in the adjoining state do not meet requirements of Maryland’s CGDP process and regulations?
  • Will the agencies consider satisfaction of CGDP requirements to be “good cause” to grant exceptions to setback requirements? (see Section IV, (A), (10))
  • Would such waivers be considered adequate mitigation?

(C), 12, “Significant modification to the original plan, such as a change in location of a drilling pad, or the addition of new drilling pads, will require the submission and approval of a modified CGDP application.”
If the applicant increases the its total surface disturbance by 20% or greater the applicant should be required to resubmit their application for the CGDP and begin a new the process. Those applicants that increase their operations by less than 20% should be allowed to modify the existing application.

D. Benefits of a Comprehensive Gas Development Plan
 
(D), (1), “Better protection of natural, social, cultural, recreational and other resources, and reduced cumulative impact.”
•      Without a comprehensive Risk Analysis, cumulative effects of impacts cannot be identified.
•      CGDP’s will offer better protection only for resources outside of the CGDP development area. CGDPs alone, without an adequate, and fairly administered severance tax to fund mitigation for these resources—including human residents living within a CGDP experiencing impacts to water supply, health and property value—are not sufficient protections.
 
(D), (2), “Fast track wetland and waterway permit approvals for multiple individual impacts, such as those associated with pipeline networks and road construction, contingent on a comprehensive alternatives analysis scenario.”
All wetlands and waterway permits are mandated to meet the same criteria for Floodplain, Waterway, tidal or Nontidal Wetlands permits as outlined in Water Management Administrations; Wetland and Waterways Program.
 
(D), (5), “Opportunities to implement mitigation actions prior to permit approval or in advance of project development.”
Again as outlined previously, without a comprehensive Risk Analysis, the departments will not have a way to identify all impacts for mitigation.
 
E. The Shale Gas Development Toolbox
 
The toolbox will provide access to geospatial planning data necessary to address the Comprehensive Gas Development Plan (CGDP). The data will be available for download, and can be viewed through a publically accessible interactive mapping application.
Without having the toolbox to evaluate there is no way to determine the content for use in the CGDP permitting process. This should have been included to allow public comment as to the content and usefulness.

 … Many fine scale environmental features, such as headwater streams or small wetlands, are often not mapped. In addition, the effects of recent land use change may not be reflected in the mapped datasets. For this reason, and to evaluate other site specific factors, additional site assessment data will need to be collected by the applicant to meet the requirements of the CGDP. The planning datasets that will be included in the toolbox include those related to the elements discussed in Section IV. A. Location Restrictions and Setbacks and in Section IV. B. Siting Best Practices. Additional datasets may be added to improve the CGDP process.
The State lacks complete hydrological data on the region to be drilled. Should the public assume that, in the absence of a comprehensive Risk Analysis, that the State expects the industry to provide hydrological data the State lacks?
 
(E), (3), Planning element: Additional siting criteria to guide avoidance, minimization and mitigation of potential impacts.
Departments should add:
e. Underground Hydrology for all acreage over Marcellus shale deposits (see above); location of underground aquifers and understanding of their movements.

 E), (4), “… natural resource mitigation … to address unavoidable impacts.”
An item 4b should be added here that,
1) discusses the gradual upward migration of newly formed fractures in massive rock and the correlated upward migration of zones of enhanced permeability in saturated particulate-based beds such as aquifers,
2) identifies possible mitigation techniques and amelioration responsibility for any polluting effects/events that stem from this gradual, probably unavoidable, and definitely time-delayed process of the upward migration of permeability enhancement, and
3) identifies who should pay for this mitigation or amelioration.
Laboratory tests indicate unequivocally that any slight change of porosity of particulate-based aquifers (sand, clay, sandstone, claystone, etc.) changes the corresponding permeability exponentially. This enhancement, in turn, directly affects the upward density flow of gas into and through any aquifer towards the land surface and into the overlying atmosphere.

Aquifer mechanics and the upward migration of fractures have been studied, measured, and modeled in the American southwest. This is because such features and their results are more observable in arid regions. The water table is often hundreds to thousands of feet below land surface and an upward migration of a crack can be identified through the brittle unsaturated overburden. Initially, arid zone hydrogeologists borrowed concepts and equations from the mining industry who appropriately use a bending beam analogy. But a crack in a bending beam that is applicable to underground mines migrates from the top downwards, contrary to hydrogeological observations in the field. A breakthrough came with the publication of the award winning 1994 paper entitled “Hydraulic forces that play a role in generating fissures at depth” by D.C. Helm, published in the Bulletin of the Association of Engineering Geologists. These same mechanisms, empirically corroborated in the American southwest, are applicable to hydraulic fracturing anywhere and to the likely unavoidable gradual upward migration of these fractures, especially when proppants remain in place. Another 1994 paper entitled “Displacement discontinuity modeling of fissuring caused by groundwater withdrawal” by Z.P. Sheng and D.C. Helm and published in the Proceedings of the 8th International Conference of the Association for Computer Methods and Advances in Geomechanics describes the application of a widely-used standard computer code to a case in Arizona where a vertical fracture intercepted the land surface along a line many miles long after having migrated upwards from depth.

It is important that the required microseismic and tiltmeter data gathered early at each well be made available to State authorities, MDE, MDNR, the academic community, and to the general public, along with any interpretations.

While gathering this microseismic and tiltmeter data, the operator can use other early data in order to determine the principal directions of in situ regional stresses at MDE and MDNR designated locales of interest. Such a determination can be made by the operator from a well-known standard procedure while inducing an initial or a more modest pre-initial hydraulic fracture. This information will help greatly to map in advance the direction of fracture propagation induced from any specified horizontal line or vertical borehole. After reaching a reasonably short distance from the borehole or line, the direction of propagation becomes controlled by the pre-existing regional stress field.

Location Restrictions and Setbacks
 
A. Location Restrictions and Setbacks
Table I-1: Existing Setback Requirements, last line item:
 
Distance (feet): 2,000
From: Gas Well
To: Existing gas well in the same reservoir
Waivers: Unless the Department is provided with geologic evidence of reservoir separation to warrant granting an exception

Section IV:

Cite: [COMAR 26.19.01.09 E]
If the State mandates such a large setback from historic gas extraction activities, it is unclear how the State can also permit much larger, deeper and more complex wells to be drilled in close proximity to other wells on a CGDP well pad. Also, if the State affords a 2,000 ft setback protection to historic gas extraction facilities, it should also protect the assets of the State—including natural, cultural, historic and human resources—with the same setback.
 
Distance (feet): 1,000
From: Well
To: a school, church, drinking water supply, wellhead protection area, or an occupied dwelling,
Waivers: Unless written permission of the owners is submitted with the application and approved by the Department,
Cite: COMAR 26.19.01.09 G
Allowing individual landowners to waive setback requirements infringes on rights of all other nearby residents to expect full protections from the State’s regulations and from the CGDP process.
The provision for exceptions can easily be abused by industry, effectively negating protections put in place in this section. It also opens the possibility of aquifer contamination to occur in a shared water source that might otherwise have been afforded protections if original setback guidance was observed. Setback waivers should only be permitted with the approval of all surrounding landowners who would have been afforded more complete protection if the original setback remained in force. (See also: (A), (10))
 
A. Location Restrictions and Setbacks
Under a scenario that excluded drilling from the Accident gas storage dome and assumed an 8,000 foot horizontal drill length, approximately 98 % of the Marcellus shale would be accessible. In an effort to be conservative, the same analysis was run using a 4,000 foot horizontal drill length, resulting in about 94 % accessibility to the Marcellus shale formation. This assessment supports the UMCES-AL suggestion that it is reasonable to expect that shale gas resources can be broadly accessed while minimizing surface disturbance, particularly in areas with sensitive resources.
“Best Management Practices” should refer only to Management Practices intended to protect Maryland’s resources and the public. It is inappropriate for Maryland’s agencies to develop regulations with the intention of maximizing industry’s ability to recover resources under our communities. Recommend that this statement be stricken from the State’s final BMP report.
 
The “Location restrictions” discussion ignores the effects on wetlands, fresh water aquifers, etc., of the upward migration of induced zones of enhanced vertical permeability. Unfortunately, criteria for “setbacks” are applied only to the pad and to other activities and events taking place at the land surface. These applications are necessary, but are not sufficient. Though one can expect historic gas wells (and environs) to mark locations where vertical upward flow of gas and pollutants may occur, they do not mark the only locations where one can expect to find sooner or later zones of enhanced vertical permeability that eventually will reach the land surface and hence will introduce future upward flow of methane gas not only to fresh water aquifers and wetlands, but also to the atmosphere. One should also consider the effect that formation-to-formation geologic heterogeneities have on the mapping of where zones of enhanced permeability may be expected to migrate. Ditto for the locations and geometries of deep coal mines.
 
A. Location Restrictions and Setbacks
(A), Table I-2 Setback Recommendations from UMCES-AL Report with Adjustments Recommended by the Departments
The “to” section describes from the “edge of the drill pad disturbance” and should include a descriptive outline that includes the sedimentation and erosion controls and storm water controls as the limits of disturbance (LOD) for the setbacks.
 
(A), Table I-2 Setback Recommendations from UMCES-AL Report with Adjustments Recommended by the Departments
Distance (feet): 300,
From: Aquatic habitat (defined as all streams, rivers, seeps, springs, wetlands, lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and 100 year floodplains)
To: Edge of drill pad disturbance
MDE and DNR: Agree
(setback footer note):This distance shall be measured from the center of a perennial stream or from the ordinary high water mark of any river, natural or artificial lake, pond, reservoir, seep or spring, determined as conditions exist at the time of the approved CGDP.
This is not sufficient protection for waterways used by boaters and fishermen. Drill pads should not be visible from a waterway or body of water; disrupting river/reservoir use would have serious economic consequences for tourism.
 
(A), (6), Replace the recommended 500 foot setback from private groundwater wells to the borehole with a 1,000 foot setback.
Current regulations, COMAR 26.19.01.19G, are more protective and state that an oil and gas well cannot be closer than 1,000 feet to a drinking water supply. Private groundwater wells are considered a drinking water supply.
Two recent peer-reviewed studies have found methane contamination originating with HVHF wells within an area much greater than 1,000 feet.
 
The first, published in June 2013 through Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conducted by researchers at Duke University found methane concentrations 17 times higher on average in water wells in close “proximity—within one kilometer—to active drilling and extraction areas than the concentration in wells located in non-active drilling areas. The average and maximum amount of methane continued to increase based on well location to nearby drilling sites, reaching levels high enough to be considered a potential explosion hazard.
http://www.legislativegazette.com/Articles-Main-Stories-c-2013-07-08-84353.113122-Duke-research-finds-evidence-of-methane-contamination-in-Pennsylvania-drinking-wells.html
Full study: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/06/19/1221635110.full.pdf+html
 
A second, peer-reviewed study, published in July in Environmental Science and Technology, conducted by the University of Texas-Arlington found “elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium” occurring at an even greater distanced from HVHF wells.
 
“On average, researchers detected the highest levels of these contaminants within 3 kilometers of natural gas wells, including several samples that had arsenic and selenium above levels considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. For example, 29 wells that were within the study’s active natural gas drilling area exceeded the EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Limit of 10 micrograms per liter for arsenic, a potentially dangerous situation.
 
The areas lying outside of active drilling areas or outside the Barnett Shale did not show the same elevated levels for most of the metals.
 
http://www.uta.edu/news/releases/2013/07/Schug-water-well-contaminants-study.php
 
MDE and DNR have admitted at a public BMP presentation that there is a “definite lack of information on hydrology” in Maryland. Since hydrological information is, at best, incomplete, the state should be willing to further strengthen protections for both private and public drinking water sources.
 
In Garrett County alone, approximately 14,394 households rely on groundwater wells for their drinking water supply. Given the wider radius of contamination of shallow groundwater resources demonstrated by the most current science, I recommend setbacks for residential and public water supplies no less than 1 kilometer (3,280 ft.)
 
*Consistent with UMCES-AL recommendation 4-B, the applicant will be required to notify the owners of any drinking water well within 2,500 feet that an application has been filed. In accordance with most recent scientific studies, the scope of this required notification should be extended to owners of drinking water wells within one kilometer (3,300 ft) of active development area outlined in the permit.
 
(A), (7), The setback requirement of 2,000 feet shall apply upstream of any surface water intake on a flowing stream, as a radius around any drinking water well, and from the edge of any drinking water reservoir.
The currently specified setback from any drinking water well presumes that contamination comes from pollution events that occur at or near the land surface (on the pad, in collection ponds, etc.). Events that are inevitably occurring beneath the land surface are ignored. Ignorance is no excuse when protection of natural resources and the health of citizens are involved.
 
(A), (10), For good cause shown and with the consent of the landowner protected by the setback, MDE may approve exceptions to the setback requirements.
Allowing individual landowners to waive setback requirements infringes on rights of all other nearby residents to expect full protections from the State’s regulations and from the CGDP process. The provision for exceptions can easily be abused by industry, effectively negating protections put in place in this section.
It also opens the possibility of aquifer contamination to occur in a shared water source that might otherwise have been afforded protections if original setback guidance was observed. Setback waivers should only be permitted with the approval of all surrounding landowners who would have been afforded more complete protection if the original setback remained in force.

B. Siting Best Practices
(B), (1), Forest mitigation that is required to meet a no-net-loss of forest standard will be evaluated differently based on whether the loss is temporary or permanent.
This recommendation does not make clear how clear-cutting several contiguous acres of forest can be considered temporary.
 
(B),(3),Conservation of high value forest land through easements or fee-simple acquisitions should be considered as an additional mitigation option for implementing the no-net-loss of forest recommendation, particularly since reforestation options in western Maryland locations may be limited. Conservation banking may also be an additional mechanism to meet forest conservation mitigation.
This recommendation does not make clear how conservation banking will be used. Does this mean that the drilling company can undertake or contribute to conservation efforts elsewhere if impacts in western Maryland cannot be avoided? Will the Agencies consider credit trading to satisfy forest conservation mitigation for western Maryland forests? Will a local stakeholder be a part of decision-making regarding the use of conservation banking?

Section V:

Plan for Each Well
 
(1), “Completing the Environmental Assessment. This effort includes all environmental assessment baseline monitoring and site characterization required as a prerequisite for issuing individual well permits. These are activities that would be initiated after the CGDP has been approved and require site-specific, field scale assessment and monitoring.”
This was addressed in Section III, (3), (C).
If the Departments fail to make Section VII, (A), “DNR emphasizes that a minimum of 2 years of pre-development baseline data is necessary to evaluate the condition and characteristics of aquatic resources, particularly the living resources, since statewide monitoring experience demonstrates there is great variability on a seasonal and annual basis.”
A mandatory requirement for the CGDP, then the Departments need to move to an EIS for CGDP permitting.
 
Environmental assessments should include the determination of in situ principal stresses and the mapping, specified location by specified location, of the most likely direction(s) of uncontrolled future fracturing and enhanced permeability*.
 
(2), Method of providing power to equipment
Where possible, electricity from electrical transmission lines should be used to minimize air and noise pollution; natural gas and or solar should be used for all on-site electrical generation where feasible.
 
(3), Acquisition of water
The departments should adopt the water appropriations standards of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) for appropriations and fees. The SRBC fee structure allows for stream monitoring from areas where water withdraws are likely to impact water turbidity, ph, and temperature.
 
(6), Identification and evaluation of shallow and deep hazards
The upward migration of enhanced permeability* needs to be added
 
(10), Casing
Currently Pennsylvania has adopted the API standards for well casings standards and is experiencing initial installation failure rates as high as 8.9% according to a Cornell study. There needs to be a review of how the API standards are being completed and Maryland needs to find a way to adopt a standard that allows for 0% failure upon installation of casing.
 
To achieve a gold standard in Maryland a review is necessary of the API standards to determine the reason for this alarming rate of failure. We should find a way to adopt a standard that allows for 0% failure upon installation of casing.
 
The Society for Petroleum Engineers (SPE) has analyzed scenarios in which casings can fail and leak. (http://www.scribd.com/doc/65704543/Casing-Leaks) The industry, in consultation with the Agencies, should be required to address the causes of casing integrity failure, to propose better practices that continually improve its standards for casing integrity.
 
(17), Contingency planning
The upward migration of enhanced permeability* needs to be added.
 
(20), Storage, treatment and disposal of water, wastewater, fuel and chemicals All storage containers and transportation vehicles that handle wastewater, flowback, drilling muds, cuttings, fuel and chemicals will have GPS tracking, placards and radioactive monitors.
 
(21), Road construction and transportation planning
This will need to be evaluated after the transportation study has been completed.
 
(24), Waste handling, treatment and disposal
Transportation vehicles that handle wastewater, flowback, drilling muds, cuttings, fuel and chemicals will have GPS tracking, placards and radioactive monitors.
 
(*), The term “permeability” as used in the draft Best Practices Report is defined in terms of the units of speed, namely length/time (L/T). This (L/T) usage coincides with the definition of the term “hydraulic conductivity” (as used by hydrogeologists) when water is the moving fluid of interest. The L/T term is actually a hybrid. A different fluid’s flow relative to the geological frame, such as methane gas, would yield a different value for the L/T term even for the same geological frame. The term “permeability” is reserved by hydrogeologists for that part of the L/T term that pertains exclusively to the fabric of the frame, whether the frame is geological or a plastic liner. The units for the geohydrological usage of the term “permeability” are L2 (length squared). This latter definition is implied in the present Comment whenever the term “permeability” appears.

Section VI:

Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards
(A), Site Construction and Sediment and Erosion Control
It would be extremely beneficial to select key locations and to test at the field scale if possible for the pre-fracturing vertical permeability of the geological units of interest.
 
(A), (1), The Pad
“The drill pad must be surrounded by an impermeable berm such that the pad can contain at least the volume of 2.7 inches of rainfall within a 24 hour period. The berm may be made impermeable by extension of the liner.”
The berm shall be made impermeable with the use of the liner. In the event of a high volume, high pressure liquid release an earthen dam will likely fail and use of a liner would prevent or minimize a failure.
 
(A), (2), Tanks and containers
“Tanks and containers shall be surrounded with a continuous dike or wall capable of effectively holding the total volume of the largest storage container or tank located within the area enclosed by the dike or wall.”
This area shall be underlain with a synthetic liner with a maximum permeability of 10-7 centimeters per second to prevent leeching into the soil.
 
(A), (3), Pits and Ponds
“The UMCES-AL Report does not make recommendations for the construction of pits and ponds, but recommends that they should be used only to collect or store fresh water; all other material shall be stored in tanks. The Departments agree.” Due to documented instances of violations in other Marcellus development states regarding toxic materials in ponds meant to store only fresh water, the Agencies should require (not recommend) that all pits and ponds should be used to collect and store ONLY fresh water. (http://canon-mcmillan.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/swihart-road-couple-expressed-concern-over-range-resources-worstell-impoundment
 
(A), (4), Pipelines
“In Maryland, the Pipeline Safety Division of the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates and inspects intrastate gas and liquid pipelines. It appears that the PSC has not established any standards for the location, materials, construction or testing of gathering lines, which should be addressed by the PSC.”
Title 20 of the Maryland Statues “Public Service Commission” (PSC) subtitle 56, 57, and 58 allow for the Gas Industry to develop pipelines and compressor stations within the State with little or limited oversight from the PSC.
COMAR 20.55.02.01 Good Engineering Practice - The gas plant of the utility or gas master meter operator shall be constructed, installed, maintained, and operated in accordance with accepted good engineering practice in the gas industry to ensure, as far as reasonably possible, continuity of service, uniformity in the quality of service furnished, and the safety of persons and property.
COMAR 20.55.02.04 Inspection of Gas Plant –
A. Each utility or gas master meter operator shall adopt a program of inspection of its gas plant in order to determine the necessity for replacement and repair. The frequency of the various inspections shall be based on experience and accepted good practice. Sufficient records shall be kept to give evidence of compliance with the inspection program.
B. Each utility or gas master meter operator shall inspect its gas pipeline system to ensure that it is constructed in accordance with the applicable requirements of this subtitle.
COMAR 20.58.01.03 Good Engineering Practice - An operator shall construct, install, maintain, and operate a hazardous liquid pipeline in accordance with accepted good engineering practice in the hazardous liquid pipeline industry to ensure the safety of individuals and property.
 
There needs to be an external review process from MDE and DNR for permitting, siting, construction and operation of all pipelines and ancillary development outside of the CGDP process. This can be addressed in the 2014 Legislative session as a bill for the PSC to adopt permitting for rural gas gathering lines within the state.
 
(A), (6), Ancillary equipment
“Ancillary equipment includes gathering and boosting stations, glycol dehydrators and compressor stations. A gathering and boosting station collects gas from multiples wells and moves it toward the natural gas processing plant. Glycol dehydrators are used to remove water from natural gas to protect the systems from corrosion and hydrate formation. Compressor stations are placed along pipelines as necessary to increase pressure and keep the gas moving. The location of compressors will be addressed in the CGDP.”
Interstate pipelines and compressor stations are permitted by FERC. And intrastate pipelines and compressor stations would, currently, fall under the Maryland PSC. The PSC, as outlined in Section VI, (A), (4), has not yet adopted a permitting process that has standards “for the location, materials, construction or testing of gathering lines.” The agencies (MDE and DNR) should adopt a clearinghouse strategy that would bring the PSC into the permitting process under the CGDP, which would mandate the permitee to comply with minimizing developmental impacts for all infrastructure.
 
*Notification procedure missing: UMCES-AL recommends that applicants wishing to drill wells be required to notify property owners residing within the established setback that an application has been filed for development. This notification requirement should also apply to citing of compressor stations and other ancillary equipment. (As outlined in Title 20) Applicants who wish to construct ancillary infrastructure are required to notify all landowners whose property line falls within the current required setback (1,000 feet.)
 
B. Transportation Planning
 
“Encourage local jurisdictions to develop adequate transportation plans.” The Transportation study funded in the Governor’s 2013 budget has not yet begun. When developing the scope of this study, the Departments should include the “local jurisdictions” to assure compliance with the policies to be adopted. In addition, there are several road projects under consideration (495 Truck Route) in the region that will have impacts on truck traffic and early involvement in developmental strategies at the state and local level would assure a unified approach to that development.
 
All trucks associated with the development of a well permit must have GPS real time spatial data to allow for tracking.

C. Water
 
(2) Water withdrawal
“The UMCES-AL Report recommends that Maryland revise its oil and gas permitting regulations to explicitly address water withdrawal issues. In particular, they recommend a quantitative analysis of acceptable water withdrawals to ensure that all users of the resource are protected and that water withdrawal should occur only from the region’s large rivers and perhaps from some reservoirs.”
“The Departments do not see a need to add water appropriation provisions in MDE’s oil and gas regulations because current Maryland laws and regulations protect other users of the water resource and the resource itself.”

  • There is no fee for a water appropriations request. However, this may prove to be a very time consuming endeavor for MDE, which may backlog the current 18-month turnaround for permits of over 10,000 gallons per day. Permit fees with the SRBC (which MDE partners with) allow for water monitoring from identified specific sites of surface water.
  • Currently there are no provisions within the permitting structure to track water appropriations requests from parent companies, subsidiaries, or subcontractors for multiple permit requests.
  • There is no provision for the multi-well CGDP process.
  • The current permit does not address the disposal requirements for natural gas development.
  • Under the current system municipalities with a permit are not required to report to MDE withdrawals sold to companies for MSGD, as long as they do not exceed the permit threshold. This gap needs to be addressed to track cumulative effects of natural gas development on regional water resources.
  • In addition, since the Agencies have admitted the State lacks complete hydrological information, the State should take action to prevent depletion of water sources by withdrawals for gas development. Evidence has recently emerged in other shale gas plays that water withdrawals for HVHF development have played a major role in diminishing the water supplies for entire communities. (http://news.yahoo.com/fracking-drying-one-unlucky-texas-town-174324176.html) and (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/11/texas-tragedy-ample-oil-no-water) It is impossible to estimate the personal and economic loss that such a failure of water supplies would bring to Garrett and Allegany counties and to the entire state.
     

D. Chemical Disclosure
 
“…the chemicals could enter underground sources of drinking water.”
Methane gas WILL enter the drinking water. Given the first-year failure rates (up to 8.9%) of well casings documented by Pennsylvania’s DEP, we can expect one of the first 14 wells drilled in western Maryland communities to fail within the first year and allow methane into drinking water aquifers.
 
The only question is when, where, and at what rate. The answer to this question is location-specific. Polluting chemicals may well follow the gas. The physical and chemical characteristics of these pollutants will determine if, when, and where they end up. Because Congress has exempted gas companies from EPA regulations, states like Maryland must shoulder the responsibility to set and enforce regulations that safeguard the health of citizens, our environment, and our natural resources.
 
Since it is an admitted risk that the chemicals associated with HVHF development could enter underground sources of drinking water, Maryland, as a “gold standard” for best practices should mandate the use of a tracer (or marker) chemical to be included with the mixture of hydraulic fracturing fluids.
 
Tracer chemicals were recently used in a study conducted by the Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Labs, and none were found to have migrated into the study well in the year following hydraulic fracturing. This result should give the drilling industry a favorable precedent to consider, while the use of such chemicals would provide needed assurance to residents living near drilling operations that the State would be made aware of any changes in their drinking water source. If Maryland residents are asked to assume the risks inherent with hydraulic fracturing, we should at least know that by assuming these risks we will advance scientific knowledge of potential impacts of MSGD activities on surface and ground water.

E. Drilling

(4), Drilling fluids and cuttings
The Departments agree that the cuttings and drilling mud should be tested for radioactivity, but recommend that they also be tested for other contaminants, including sulfates and salinity, before disposal. If the cuttings show no elevated levels of radioactivity, and meet other criteria established by MDE, onsite disposal of the cuttings could be allowed.
Allowing any onsite disposal of cutting and drilling mud invites potential abuse through cutting corners on testing, and makes every drill pad even more likely to be a future brownfield site. Garrett County already has unacceptably high cancer rates. Maryland should not permit onsite disposal of cuttings and drilling mud.
 
(5), Open hole logging provides important information about the formations encountered and can be used to optimize the well design and drilling operations. ...… The UMCES-AL report does not make a specific recommendation about open hole logging, but states that “The best practice would utilize modern open- hole well logging methods to help fine tune casing placement and characterize flow and hydrocarbon zones, [and] perhaps mud logging to determine levels of hydrocarbons in real-time during drilling....” (UMCES-AL at page 3-11)
Use of data obtained through open hole logging to “fine tune” processes and information (as recommended by UMCES-AL) should not be considered sufficient stand-alone information in the absence of a complete study of hydrology of the site. We should not be drilling blind in Maryland and using the drilling process to document the strata.
 
(5), (g), A copy of all electric, radiation, sonic, caliper, directional, and any other type of logs run in the well. COMAR 26.19.01.10 V.
The statement is too weak. An experienced and intelligent driller has probably developed his or her own seat-of-the-pants method of estimating answers to (a) through (f) and may be good at it. If these logs are desired, they should be required.

F. Casing and Cement

"There's no 100 percent safe way to do anything industrial like [fracking]. No industrial process, no energy extraction is 100 percent safe. If we drill thousands of wells, historical records say that we will have cases of cement [drill casing] failure. I would recommend the strongest regulations possible for casing, cementing and protecting the gas wells," –Robert Jackson, primary author of Duke study of methane migration. (http://www.legislativegazette.com/Articles-Main-Stories-c-2013-07-08-84353.113122-Duke-research-finds-evidence-of-methane-contamination-in-Pennsylvania-drinking-wells.html)
 
(F), (1), Requirements for Casing and Cement
Operators must use a sufficient number of centralizers to properly center the casing in each borehole. The cement shall be allowed to set at static balance or under pressure for a minimum of 12 hours and must have reached a compressive strength of at least 500 psi before drilling the plug, or initiating any integrity testing
Maryland regulations should include more detailed requirements for timing of the casing construction so that the process and monitoring can be completed consecutively during one work shift. Reports from rig workers in Pennsylvania have stated that casing cure times have been shortened in order to accommodate work shift schedules, thus compromising the integrity of the cement strength.
Reconditioned casing may be permanently set in a well only after it has passed a hydrostatic pressure test with an applied pressure at least 1.2 times the maximum internal pressure to which the casing may be subjected, based upon known or anticipated subsurface pressure, or pressure that may be applied during stimulation, whichever is greater, and assuming no external pressure. The casing shall be marked to verify the test status.
A gold standard in Maryland should require that only new casing be used in our state.
 
(F), (2), Isolation
The casing and cement provide zonal isolation between the well and all other subsurface formations. The surface casing shall be run and permanently cemented to a depth at least 100 feet below the deepest known stratum bearing fresh water, or the deepest known workable coal, whichever is deeper. All flow zones, including underground sources of drinking water, shall be fully protected through the use of cemented intermediate well casings, isolating the well and all drilling and produced fluids from surface waters and aquifers, to preserve the geological seal that separates fracture network development from aquifers, and prevent vertical movement of fluids in the annulus. The production casing provides for a continuous conduit for injecting the hydraulic fracturing fluid and for natural gas to flow up the well to the surface. The production casing shall be run the total depth and length of the well and cemented.

This single paragraph in the BMP report describes the core of the whole matter.
An essay by Jilda Rush, asphalt/concrete materials tester, and former Oregon Department of Transportation Engineer, cites a study, conducted by the petroleum industry itself and titled From Mud to Cement-Building Gas Wells, which illustrates the results of improper cement selection and design. “Since the earliest gas wells, uncontrolled migration of hydrocarbons to the surface has challenged the oil and gas industry. Gas migration can lead to sustained casing pressure (SCP). By the time a well is 15 years old, there is a 50 percent probability it will have measurable SCP in one or more of its casing annuli. However, SCP may be present in wells of any age. Cement damage can occur long after the well construction process. Even a flawless primary cement job can be damaged by rig operations occurring after the cement has set.”
 
The State agencies state: All flow zones, including underground sources of drinking water, shall be fully protected through the use of cemented intermediate well casings, isolating the well and all drilling and produced fluids from surface waters and aquifers, to preserve the geological seal that separates fracture network development from aquifers, and prevent vertical movement of fluids in the annulus,
Simply stating this in regulations does not mean that it is possible to achieve, nor does it describe the technical measures necessary to “fully protect” underground sources of drinking water.
 
Industry analyses by the Society for Petroleum Engineers (SPE) discuss multiple scenarios in which casings can fail and leak. (http://www.scribd.com/doc/65704543/Casing-Leaks) The industry, in consultation with the Agencies, should be required to address the causes of casing integrity failure and to propose better practices that continually improve its standards for casing integrity. If better practices are not currently available to improve upon first-year failure rates as well as long-term integrity, the State is faced—as are Maryland’s citizens on the shale—with a clear question: is certain contamination of underground drinking water sources in Maryland an unacceptable risk?
 
(F), (3), Cased-hole logging, Integrity testing and Pressure testing
Cased-hole logging occurs after the casing is cemented. The objectives are to determine the exact location of the casing, the casing collars, and the integrity of the cement job. …
The UMCES-AL report recommended Maryland should consider amending its regulations to require SRCBL (or equivalent casing integrity testing) and other types of logging (i.e., neutron logging) as part of a cased-hole program. The Departments agree and propose to require SRCBL.
Current Maryland regulations address pressure testing as follows. Each pressure test and mechanical test of casings must be recorded in a driller’s log book. If strings of casing, in addition to surface casing, are run in the hole, they shall be properly pressure tested. COMAR 26.19.01.10 R and S. An applicant for a drilling permit will be required to provide a plan for integrity and pressure testing. In addition, the Departments recommend that mechanical integrity tests shall be performed when re-fracturing an existing well. These provisions shall be retained.
Due to concerns about casing integrity discussed above, plan submitted by applicants for integrity and pressure testing should include integrity tests not only at drilling and re-fracturing, but also at annual intervals until the well is plugged, and at regular intervals going forward. (Please see VI. (F), (2), Discussion.)

G. Blowout Prevention

“Existing COMAR regulations already require the blowout prevention equipment must be tested to a pressure in excess of that which may be expected at the production casing point before drilling the plug on the surface casing; and penetrating the target formation.”
This needs to specify the pressure to be 1.2 times the pressure during stimulation, which is the highest pressure normally experienced during the life of the blowout preventer.

H. Hydraulic Fracturing

“The Departments will require that a tiltmeter or microseismic survey shall be performed by the permittee for the first well hydraulically fractured on each pad to provide information on the extent, geometry and location of fracturing. The permittee shall provide this information to MDE.”
A recent study (ongoing) by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) for the Department of Energy (DOE) found that fractures in 1 in 8 wells had travelled up to 1,800 feet beyond the well bore, and federal regulators have accepted industry arguments that fractures may travel up to 2,000 feet. The CGDP will require more wells from a single pad and this may lead to closer consolidation of well bores. Additionally, if the permitee knows they are required perform to tiltmeter or microseismic surveys on the first well; the permitee may drill into geology that is recognized as having the ability to hold HVHF to a specified area. MDE should require seismology of the area to be developed and identify the area or areas where HVHF may communicate with naturally occurring geological faults.
 
MDE scales back the seismic mapping requirements recommended by UMCES-AL, requiring only one test per well on the pad. If we are to permit pads with up to 18 well bores, repeated fracturing of all these closely-clustered well bores & laterals could result in seismic changes.
 
Dr. Donald Helms, a retired Hydrogeologist (USGS, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Univ. of Nevada) refers to a 1994 paper he published describing “a case in Arizona where a vertical fracture intercepted the land surface along a line many miles long after having migrated upwards from depth.”
 
He further states: “It is important that the required microseismic and tiltmeter data gathered early at each well be made available to State authorities, MDE, MDNR, the academic community, and to the general public, along with any interpretations. While gathering this microseismic and tiltmeter data, the operator can use other early data in order to determine the principal directions of in situ regional stresses at MDE and MDNR designated locales of interest.”
 
The State should require adequate micro seismic and tiltmeter surveys for each well bore, at least one per wellbore, or more if indicated by UMCES-AL.

J. Air Emissions

(1), Green Completion or Reduced Emissions Completion
Green completion shall be achieved on all gas wells drilled in Maryland. In green completions, gas and hydrocarbon liquids are physically separated from other fluids and delivered directly into equipment that holds or transports the hydrocarbons for productive use. Flaring shall be allowed only if the content of flammable gas is very low, or when flaring is required for safety. The following circumstances shall not justify flaring:
a. Inadequate water disposal capacity
b. Undersized flowback equipment
c. Except for wells drilled pursuant to a bifurcated permit for exploration
only, lack of a pipeline connect
This recommendation would take a big step towards solidifying EPA’s New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for natural gas well sites. Given the threats from members of Congress to strip EPA of its authority to implement these standards and EPA’s history of delaying the implementation or withdrawing rules before they are implemented, it is crucial that Maryland require green completions through state regulations.
A major shortfall of this recommendation, however, is that the NSPS lays out additional requirements that are not covered in this Maryland-specific language. Those requirements include green completions for well “re-completions”/“workovers,” reporting requirements for green completions, gas bleed limits for pneumatic controllers, reduction requirements from storage vessels at the well site, and air toxic requirements from glycol dehydrators used at the well site. This BMP recommendation should be expanded to include all of the requirements in EPA’s NSPS.
There are still further potential reduction areas that must be pursued to reduce upstream methane emissions, and the NSPS does not go far enough in regulating methane. Maryland regulations should require all proposed regulatory requirements included in the new federal NSPS and then require additional reductions as described below.
(2), (b), Flaring may not be used for more than 30-days on any exploratory or extension wells (for the life of the well), including initial or recompletion production tests, unless operation requires an extension.
A 30-day flare will result in unacceptable, possibly dangerous air quality for nearby residents, especially those with respiratory conditions. This area should not be finalized in COMAR until it is revisited after the completion of the Health Study in June, 2014.
 
(2), (c), Flares shall be designed for and operated with no visible emissions, except for periods not to exceed a total of five minutes during any two consecutive hours.
How can flared emissions NOT be visible?
 
(6), Natural Gas Star
The UMCES-AL report recommended that all operators in Maryland should voluntarily participate in USEPA’s Natural Gas STAR program. This program is a partnership between EPA and industry that encourages oil and natural gas companies to adopt cost effective technologies and practices that improve operational efficiency and reduce emissions of methane. It is up to each industry partner to determine which technologies and practices it will implement to reduce emissions. A company joins by signing a Memorandum of Understanding, then develops an implementation plan, executes the program, and submits annual progress reports.
No State action is necessary to allow operators to participate in the Natural Gas STAR program.
This BMP should be strengthened to make participation in the STAR program mandatory and specifically require that permitees submit a leakage prevention plan to the state that describes the STAR Program measures that will be implemented to achieve a zero percent leakage rate. The World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council both released reports recently that lay out a series of cost-effective technological fixes to reduce the leakage rate to approximately 0.4%. Those recommendations include:

1.     Green Completions to capture oil and gas well emissions.
a.      Payback time: 0.17 – 1.0 year
b.     Profit per well (after payback): $2,180 - $75,620
 
2.     Plunger Lift Systems or other well de-liquification methods to mitigate gas well emissions.
a.      Payback time: 0.09 - 0.13 years
b.     Profit per well (after payback): $7,050 - $100,400
 
3.     Tri-Ethylene Glycol (TEG) Dehydrator Emission Controls to capture emissions from dehydrators.
a.      Payback time: 0.09 years
b.     Profit per well (after payback): $135,560
 
4.     Desiccant Dehydrators to capture emissions from dehydrators (when the gas flow rate is less than 5 MMcfd and have temperature and pressure limitations).
a.      Payback time: 2.67 years
b.     Profit per well (after payback): $2,800
 
5.     Dry Seal Systems to reduce emissions from centrifugal compressor seals
a.      Payback time: 0.38 – 1.15 years
b.     Profit per well (after payback): $77,620 - $473,870
 
6.     Improved Compressor Maintenance to reduce emissions from reciprocating compressors.
a.      Payback time: 0.34 – 4.81 years
b.     Profit per well (after payback): - $2,460 - $12,170
 
7.     Low-Bleed or No-Bleed Pneumatic Controllers used to reduce emissions from control devices.
a.      Payback time: 0.09 – 0.5 years
b.     Profit per well (after payback): $510 - $1,880
 
8.     Pipeline Maintenance and Repair to reduce emissions from pipelines.
a.      Payback time: 0.7 – 2.0 years
b.     Profit per well (after payback): -$39,870 - $53,800
 
9.     Vapor Recovery Units used to reduce emissions from storage tanks.
a.      Payback time: 0.3 – 3.28 years
b.     Profit per well (after payback): $6,970 - $336,990
 
10.  Leak Monitoring and Repair to control fugitive emissions from valves, flanges, seals, connections and other equipment.
a.      Payback time: likely small
b.     Profit per well (after payback): likely positive

According to the EPA, most of these technologies and practices have payback periods of less than one year. That is because they allow companies to capture and sell gas that would otherwise be leaked into the atmosphere. After that rapid payback period, each one of these recommendations would generate additional profits for the company.
 
The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that these combined measures would reduce the leakage rate to 0.4%. At a minimum, these ten recommendations should be mandatory BMPs in Maryland. To reduce leakage even further, the state should require companies to submit a leakage prevention plan that details additional EPA Natural Gas STAR Program measures that they plan to adopt to reduce the leakage rate to zero percent.
 
K. Waste and Wastewater Treatment and Disposal
In order to assure that all wastes and wastewater are properly treated or disposed of, the Departments propose to require permittees to keep a record of the volumes of wastes and wastewater generated on-site, the amount treated or recycled on-site, and a record of each shipment off-site. The records may take the form of a log, invoice, manifest, bill of lading or other shipping documents. For shipments off-site, the record would have to include the following information:
1. The type of waste
2. The volume or weight of waste
3. The identity of the hauler
4. The name and address of the facility to which the waste was sent
5. The date of the shipment
6. Confirmation that the full shipment arrived at the facility
The records would be maintained by the permittee for at least three years, and MDE could audit them during site inspections or otherwise. The requirements would be included as a condition of the permit.
As part of the CGDP, MDE should mandate trucking routes and haul times. In addition MDE should require all trucks to have real time GPS tracking to verify compliance

L. Leak Detection

UMCES-AL Report recommendation 2-A
The Departments accept the proposed recommendations (summarized below) and include additional comments.
A methane leak detection and repair program must be established from wellhead to transmission line.
Permittees shall consider all recommended strategies identified in EPA’s Natural Gas STAR program for inclusion in a leak detection and repair program.
A statement must be submitted listing all equipment available for the detection, prevention, and containment of gas leaks and oil spills. COMAR 26.19.01.06C(17).
MDE may not issue a drilling and operating permit if drilling or operations would result in physical and preventable loss of oil and gas. COMAR 26.19.01.09J.
On site air pollution monitoring, discussed in the monitoring section, shall be included as an element of the leak detection program.
A strong leak detection and repair program is the only way to enforce a mandatory methane leakage rate.  It is therefore critical that permittees not only consider but also implement recommended strategies identified in EPA’s Natural Gas STAR Program. Furthermore, gas companies should be required to implement the model leakage detection and repair (LDAR) model program rules as described in EPA’s “Leak Detection and Repair: A Best Practices Guide”
 
Enrollment in the STAR Program and adoption of recommended strategies and best practices should be mandatory. The elements of implementing EPA’s best practices for a LDAR program include:

  1. Written LDAR Program
  2. Training
  3. LDAR Audits
  4. Contractor Accountability
  5. Internal Leak Definition for Valves and Pumps
  6. More Frequent Monitoring
  7. Repairing Leaking Components
  8. Delay of Repair Compliance Assurance
  9. Electronic Monitoring and Storage of LDAR Data
  10. QA/QC of LDAR Data
  11. Calibration/Calibration Drift Assessment
  12. Records Maintenance

Furthermore, the LDAR program should not end at the transmission line. Preventable methane leakage still occurs after natural gas enters the transmission line. Dr. Robert Howarth estimates that the leakage rate for transmission, storage, and transportation of gas ranges between 1.4% and 3.6%. The WRI’s recent report found that the transmission stage accounts for approximately 25-30% of the upstream emissions associated with natural gas production. In order to avoid the preventable loss of gas during the transmission and storage and distribution phases, the methane LDAR recommendations should be expanded to include transmission and distribution pipelines, pipeline compressor stations, and storage facilities.

Establishing strong methane reduction requirements would complement Maryland’s broader policy objectives. Below are examples of how all of these recommendations are supported by existing gas regulations in Maryland, the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, and recent actions taken by the Maryland Attorney General to further regulate natural gas methane emissions.
COMAR 26.19.01.09J: “MDE may not issue a drilling and operating permit if drilling or operations would result in physical and preventable loss of oil and gas….” Maryland regulations already state that a drilling and operating permit cannot be issued if the practice "would result in physical and preventable loss of oil and gas through inefficient or careless operating practices." This regulation provides a legal basis for all of the above recommendations. If gas is lost at any stage along the natural gas cycle where an EPA Natural Gas STAR Program measure exists that could have prevented that loss, then the loss could be considered preventable. Requiring mandatory EPA Natural Gas STAR Program measures at every stage of the natural gas cycle prior to the issuance of any drilling or operations permits would enforce COMAR 26.19.01.09J.
Maryland’s 2013 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act Plan: It is “critically important that Maryland and the federal government implement standards to keep the methane leakage rate as low as possible.”
Maryland’s climate plan makes clear that the methane leakage rate must be kept as low as possible in order to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. The above recommendations provide a path towards reducing the methane leakage rate to zero percent, which is as low as possible. The above recommendations provide a regulatory framework for carrying out the publically stated intentions of the Governor O’Malley and MDE.

In a letter issued by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) on August 17, 2013, for the Renewable Maryland Project, IEER states, “The overall direction will be of reduced use of coal, oil, and natural gas. Any increases of natural gas use for combined heat and power should be more than offset by (i) increased efficiency in natural gas use in heating in the residential and commercial sectors and (ii) methane derived from biogas as a substitute for natural gas, (iii) increased use of renewable energy for space heating and water heating. Therefore, policies and measures to get to an emissions-free energy sector by 2050 will include milestones to considerably reduce and potentially completely eliminate natural gas use along with other fossil fuels. This is important not only for reduction of direct CO2 emissions from natural gas combustion but also indirect emissions from methane leaks at the wellhead and in pipelines”.
Clean Air Act Notice of Intention to Sue: The EPA adopted NSPS rules for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but did not issue final rules for methane. They decided instead to "continue to evaluate the appropriateness of regulating methane with an eye toward taking additional steps if appropriate." In response to their failure to act, Maryland joined New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Vermont in notifying EPA of their intention to sue in December 2012. The states contend that while the VOC emission controls will “have the incidental benefit of also reducing annual methane emissions by about 19 million metric tons CO2e, the vast majority of methane emissions from this sector will remain uncontrolled.”
Maryland decided to join six other states in suing EPA over their decision not to regulate methane under the NSPS. This shows that the proposed federal standards are incomplete and that further actions are necessary to reduce methane leakage. This is a clear rationale for adopting the above recommendations.

How to achieve zero percent leakage
The adoption and implementation of a mandatory leakage prevention plan combined with a rigorous LDAR regime should lead natural gas companies to nearly eliminate the methane emissions associated with hydraulic fracturing. Inevitably, however, even if all leakage prevention measures are implemented, small amounts of leakage will persist along the fuel chain before issues are identified and repaired. In order to ensure that natural gas production does not contribute to climate change, we propose that natural gas companies operating in Maryland be required to invest in carbon offsets for any leaked emissions annually above zero percent.
Carbon offsets represent a project-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction or carbon sequestration achieved outside of the natural gas sector. By recognizing GHG emissions reductions and carbon sequestration outside the natural gas sector, offsets increase leakage rate compliance flexibility for companies and create significant environmental and economic co-benefits for offset project sponsors (such as landfill operators or farmers).

Through its participation in the regional greenhouse gas initiative (RGGI), Maryland has already agreed to a comprehensive set of standards for valid carbon offset projects. We propose that that same definition be applied to natural gas operators as a flexible mechanism for achieving an effective 0 percent methane leakage rate.

M. Light

UMCES-AL Report recommendations 5-E, 5-E.1, 8-G, 8-H
“The UMCES-AL Report recommends that night lighting be used only when necessary, directed downward, and use low pressure sodium light sources wherever possible. If drill pads are located within 1,000 feet of aquatic habitat, screens or restrictions on the hours of operation may be required to reduce light pollution further. The Departments accept the proposed recommendations for lighting at drill pad sites with the following modifications.”
This recommendation does nothing to protect human “habitats,” which deserve protections as well as aquatic ones. If drill pads are located within 1,000 feet of aquatic habitat or a private residence, screens or restrictions on the hours of operation may be required to further reduce light pollution.
 
“Light restrictions and management protocols must also minimize conflicts with recreational activities, in addition to minimizing stress and disturbance to sensitive aquatic and terrestrial communities.”
“The Departments agree that restrictions on hours of operation could reduce light pollution, but acknowledge that once drilling and fracturing operations have begun, it is generally not safe to halt activities. For this reason, these restrictions can only be applied to activities that could be planned in advance or temporarily suspended.”

This statement gives the industry an escape clause to use lighting at any time during development activities. It should be strengthened to say, in the last sentence: For this reason, activities should be planned in advance so that all measures can be in place to protect surrounding communities from light pollution.

N. Noise

“However, many counties do not have the capacity or the equipment to monitor. For this reason, the Departments may require the permitee to hire an independent contractor to conduct periodic noise monitoring and additional noise monitoring in response to a complaint.”
It should be a mandatory requirement of the CGDP, that during individual well permitting, the permitee will have continuous monitoring for sound during high development activity; such as stimulation of the well. Funding for this monitoring will be paid by the permitee, with all reports to be received by MDE for compliance of the permit.
 
“…Currently, county government bears the responsibility for monitoring and enforcing noise regulations. However, many counties do not have the capacity or the equipment to monitor. For this reason, the Departments may require the permitee to hire an independent contractor to conduct periodic noise monitoring and additional noise monitoring in response to a complaint.”
Garrett County does not have the ability to monitor and enforce noise violations. This statement should be strengthened to the following: The Departments will require the County to select and hire an independent contractor—at the expense of the permitee— to conduct periodic noise monitoring and additional noise monitoring in response to a complaint.

P. Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures and Emergency
Response

“The Departments identify as a best practice that facilities develop plans for preventing the spills of oil and hazardous substances, using drip pans and secondary containment structures to contain spills, conducting periodic inspections, using signs and labels, having appropriate personal protective equipment and appropriate spill response equipment at the facility, training employees and contractors, and establishing a communications plan. In addition, the operator shall identify specially trained and equipped personnel who could respond to a well blowout, fire, or other incident that personnel at the site cannot manage. These specially trained and equipped personnel must be capable of arriving at the site within 24 hours of the incident.”

During many recent incidents at well sites in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, thousands of gallons of produced water and flow back were lost during the first hours of the incident. In one case in Colorado, crews from Texas were flown out to control the incident, taking nearly 18 hours to respond. Maryland should require an eight (8) hour or less response to an incident. With many companies now having advanced operations in Southwestern Pennsylvania the response times need to be faster to protect human health and the environment during incidents.
 
R. Closure and Reclamation both Interim and Final

“Reclamation shall address all disturbed land, including the pad, access roads, ponds, pipelines and locations of ancillary equipment”

Responsibility and monitoring of gas and chemical contamination of aquifers should continue for three to five decades after decommissioning of the well. The entirety of all horizontal lines are likely sources of vertical-flow contamination. The burden of scientific proof and empirical corroboration lies with the gas company to demonstrate that aquifer pollution will NOT occur over the next several decades due to the gradual upward migration of permeability enhancement. Opinion or poor physics cannot be tolerated or excused.

Section VII: 

Monitoring, Recordkeeping and Reporting
(A), “DNR emphasizes that a minimum of 2 years of pre-development baseline data is necessary to evaluate the condition and characteristics of aquatic resources, particularly the living resources, since statewide monitoring experience demonstrates there is great variability on a seasonal and annual basis.”
The recommendation needs to be a mandatory part of the CGDP or the Departments need to require a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to compile baseline data to access cumulative impacts and mitigation strategies’.
 
(B), “State agencies will develop standard protocols for baseline and environmental assessment monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting. In addition, the State agencies will develop standards for monitoring during operations at the site, including drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and production.”
Though implied, this language needs to include predevelopment baseline, and postproduction development which would be captured with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
 
The Agencies have said repeatedly at the presentations of the BMPs to the public, that without adequate enforcement, it does not matter how strong our regulations are. It has also been stated by the agencies that they would rely, in part, on the eyes and ears of citizens to monitor activities surrounding MSGD sites. It is unacceptable to propose that citizens should in any way shoulder this responsibility in the absence of adequate planning and policy by the State.
 
When the Agencies have developed standards for monitoring industrial gas development activities, the public should be given a reasonable opportunity to comment on these recommendations as well, since Maryland citizens, especially those living on shale plays, will be forced to live with the risks and impacts of those activities. These standards should be developed and adopted before any gas development activity commences in our state.
 
(C), “All information collected at the site and within the study area must be reported according to the State developed guidelines. This is to include monitoring and assessment data for air and water quality, terrestrial and aquatic living resources, invasive species, well logs, other geophysical assessments, such shale fracturing characteristics and additional information as required by the State.”
Again, a comprehensive EIS would capture this information and force compliance in a format that would allow for tracking cumulative impacts and mitigating strategies’.
 
(D), State agencies will require more extensive testing of surface water and ground water parameters both randomly and in instances where elevated levels have been detected. The State should also require that tracer (or marker) chemicals be used in the process of hydraulic fracturing in order to advance scientific knowledge of potential impacts of MSGD activities on surface and ground water.
The State should lay out a plan that describes future ongoing monitoring activities for all HVHF wells drilled in Maryland. (See discussion in (F), (2) and (H))
 
(F), “Personnel and time needed for inspections and compliance activities cannot be determined until we have a better sense of what the regulations will require. Nevertheless, the Department can assess fees adequate to cover the expenses of the program, including inspections.”
During the development of unconventional natural gas there are multiple phases that are completed by multiple subcontractors; roads, site development to include sediment and erosion controls , pad development, pipeline construction, compressor station construction, two to three separate phases of drilling by separate subcontractors, drilling muds collection and disposal, drilling tailings collection and disposal, HVHF, closed loop produced water storage and disposal, production development, post production development to include storm water controls and reclamation of site.
 
Many of the primary complaints from neighboring states (WV, PA) are a lack of inspections and/or a lack of inspectors. There is a strong need for a Comprehensive Gas Drilling Inspection Program (CGDIP) that would:

  • Require special training for inspectors in Maryland to follow for inspection compliance,
  • Show all phases of development and the inspections for each phase,
  • Allow for random visits and spot inspections
  • Mandate compliance with each phase for work to continue,
  • Establish a community/citizen watch program, that would train individuals on how to report incidents and/or violations,
  • Establish a Natural Gas hot line for reporting
  • Mandate the number of inspectors in relationship to the number of permits,
  • Establish a sliding scale penalty for repeat violations,
  • Establish a three strikes and out program that would keep repeat violators from receiving permits,
  • Establish an Ombudsman commission for review of complaints and compliance issues
  • Establish a website for licensure, permitting and inspection, which would include public notification of CGDP planning and permitting. This site could also be used for the CGDP Toolbox.
  • Establish a field office of the Natural Gas division of MDE/DNR in Garrett County.

 Historically MDE’s WMA compliance division in Western Maryland has failed to enforce Maryland law (COMARs), state regulations and federal regulations in association with NPDES permitting. MDE’s failure to enforce these regulations was blamed on staffing and budgetary shortfalls within the department. There is a legitimate concern from Western Maryland residents that MDE will once again fail to enforce regulations due to budgetary issues and lack of trained inspectors. Establishing a CGDIP, would go a long way towards alleviating those concerns, if the above recommendations were implemented and shown as part of the BMPs.
 
(4), Develop, adopt, and implement regulations, programs, or initiatives to address risks to public safety, human health, and the environment related to the drilling and development of oil and gas wells, including the method of hydrofracturing.
This item should include providing for adequate staffing increases for State Police and for transportation enforcement personnel along I-68 and other roadways in the region.

Section VIII:

Miscellaneous Recommendations

A. Zoning
UMCES-AL Report recommendation 1-M
The UMCES-AL report recommended that both counties amend their zoning ordinances to spell out in which zoning districts MSGD would be permitted. Zoning is an excellent way to separate incompatible land uses; however, authority to enact zoning rests with the local jurisdictions. Zoning has been controversial, especially in Garrett County. It is a local matter over which the Departments have no control.
If it is understood by all parties that performance zoning is not politically achievable in Garrett County, the State and the Administration do have a responsibility to consider this reality in their choice to foist MSGD on a community which does not have adequate land use protections in place.
 
It should not be the responsibility of citizen activists alone to educate and convince the county of the need for zoning. If the Administration and the Agencies choose to allow fracking to proceed, they should inform Marylanders who reside in Garrett county of the need for accepting and enacting appropriate land use protections.
 
C. Forced Pooling
UMCES-AL Report recommendation 1-D
The Departments offer the following comments regarding the forced pooling recommendation.
 
At this point of time, consideration of this recommendation is premature. Once the requirements of the Executive Order have been fulfilled, this recommendation could receive additional consideration which would require further study, legal analysis and considerable public/private review.
Once the Executive Order is fulfilled, the citizens of Maryland have no protection from potential harms and violation of rights forced pooling would impose. The State of Maryland should forbid forced pooling as a matter of principle, by asserting that the rights of Maryland’s communities supersede any rights afforded to corporate interests.

Appendix D - Marcellus Shale Constraint Analysis
“This analysis was conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to estimate the potential effect that certain surface and subsurface constraint factors would have on the ability to access Marcellus shale gas deposits.”
Subsurface constraint factors need to be identified and applied to the upward migration of enhanced permeability. There is a deafening silence in the current version of the Best Practices Report.
 
Appendix E - Marcellus Shale and Recreational and Aesthetic Resources in Western Maryland

APPENDIX E–MARCELLUS SHALE AND RECREATIONAL AND AESTHETIC RESOURCES IN
WESTERN MARYLAND

Byways, Hiking, Water Trails, Hunting and Fishing
Maryland has a number of well-developed and nationally-recognized networks of scenic and historic byways and hiking and water trails that provide opportunities for the public to experience nature, cultural and historical features and the outdoors through unique vistas and long-distance travel routes. The location and features that make these routes unique (e.g. vistas, through-trail hikes, canopy cover) should be considered during setback discussions.
The State should be aware that likely the first CGDP to be put forth for permitting consideration is situated along the northern corridor of the Youghiogheny River. The development associated with several of the wells likely to be proposed along this corridor would be visible from the recently-reopened Youghiogheny Overlook on Interstate 68 east of Friendsville. This rest stop, with its commanding view of the Youghiogheny river watershed, is touted by State and local tourism agencies as the Western Gateway to Maryland. If MSGD is permitted along this corridor, it would fragment and destroy the view, and severely damage tourism in the immediate area around Friendsville, in the Deep Creek Lake region, and—by presenting a clear and unflattering view of how Maryland manages its resources—in the state as a whole.
 
In addition to vast scenic values and hiking and water-based recreation, there are also many opportunities for citizens to enjoy hunting and fishing on public lands in Western Maryland. Especially for these groups, noise and other possible environmental effects from drilling and operations can impact the quality of or ability for these activities to be conducted. If wildlife is impacted or scared off from a particular area, the potential exists for the activity to be dislocated entirely. It would be appropriate for the State to include local residents among the people it wishes to protect when considering the impacts of “noise and other possible environmental effects from drilling and operations.”
 
Appendix F - UMCES-AL Report and Cross References
Chapter 1 – General, planning and permitting BMPs
1-A Pre-development environmental assessment should be conducted on a site specific basis and include… (4) collection of two years of pre-development baseline data on underground drinking water, surface water, and both aquatic and terrestrial ecological resources.
The currently adopted pre-development environmental assessment denotes good preliminary action. It needs follow-up. Item-4 measurements, for example, also need to be taken periodically during the production phase and for at least 3 to 5 decades after decommissioning and capping.
 
1-F There is a definite need for an analysis of extant hydrogeological data from western Maryland that could be used to develop flow nets or models and infer groundwater flowpaths and other important features such as recharge areas, discharge areas, hydrologic residence times, and depth of the freshwater zone across the area.
The recommendation to analyze groundwater flow by developing flow nets is more than useful. However, it tacitly presumes unchanging flow conditions and therefore is preliminary. We cannot estimate the response to dynamic events (such as fracking events and also aquifer pumpage by county residents) with static presuppositions. Depending on the available data, it might, however, give a glimpse into the initial regional groundwater flow conditions and directions. Such a glimpse is highly beneficial but is not sufficient.
 
Although knowing a sampling of the present quality of water is necessary, the Departments’ apparent response to this recommendation, namely of their apparent emphasis on collecting existing chemical quality data of the groundwater, seems if I am not mistaken to miss altogether the point of this flow-net part of the UMCES-AL recommendations. If so, missing the point could become a sickening, if not fatal, mistake for some residents of Garrett and Allegany Counties.
 
The mechanics of changes to groundwater flow is key to the entire enterprise of safeguarding the health of citizens and trying to maintain the integrity of our fragile environment. Changes to the quality of water cannot be foreseen or forestalled if the directions and timings of groundwater flow remain unknown and ignored even by the State. Actual measurements and knowledge of already changed chemicals in the water are necessary, but such knowledge may be too late to affect a timely response. Aquifer amelioration, if possible, in response to such knowledge may be too expensive. Accurate and informed modeling of future changing flow patterns is not only critical, it is cheaper.
 
1-H, Since the freshwater/saltwater interface has not been mapped in Maryland, the prudent approach would be to rely on the 2,000 ft criterion to provide an adequate margin of safety.
Specifying vertical depth offsets presumes that the physical characteristics of geological units remain unchanged. Assuming such a statically safe buffer zone is questionable. Changes in the vertical permeability will occur and cannot be ignored. This occurrence is dynamic because the changes migrate upward with time.
 
1-N, Maryland might want to consider alternate mechanisms of covering decommissioning and reclamation costs through a trust fund mechanism.
Establishing financial bonds for the drilling part of the operation is good, but is not sufficient. Bonds for delayed contamination caused by triggering hydro-geo-mechanical events should be added, such as the inevitable upward migration of enhanced vertical permeability.
 
3-G, The UMCES-AL report recommended that hydraulic fracturing should avoid times of peak outdoor recreational periods such as holiday weekends, first day of trout season, and during sensitive wildlife migratory or mating seasons.
The Departments accept the proposed timing on hydraulic fracturing recommendations; however, the State realizes that this could only apply to the initiation of fracturing operations that could be planned in advance or temporarily suspended. Once fracturing operations have begun, it is generally not safe to halt activities. This exception will diminish the State’s ability to restrict the timing of fracturing activities. The driller is essentially enabled to ignore peak recreational periods and wildlife needs, conduct the hydraulic fracturing phase at will, and claim that it is unsafe to halt activities because they have already begun.
 
3-H, Maryland also has what appear to be excellent regulations that are consistent with API recommendation for plugging of wells.
Liability does not end with plugging and decommissioning a well. Contamination of fresh water aquifers occurs when the upward migration of vertical permeability enhancement arrives and intersects a specified aquifer. At some locations, this could occur decades after capping and decommissioning.
 
4-B, Current Maryland regulations require that the applicant identify all water wells within 2,650 feet of the proposed well location. The Department must mail written notice of the decision to grant or deny the permit to all landowners within 1,000 feet of the proposed well.
In accordance with most recent scientific studies, the scope of this required notification should be extended to owners of drinking water wells within one kilometer (3,300 ft) of active development area outlined in the permit.
 
4-K, Maryland should review the relevant regulations surrounding development and use of underground injection wells for produced water from shale gas development…, the Departments recommend deferring consideration of
underground injection wells because it is not likely that any will be located in
Maryland.

From the perspective of aquifer mechanics, fracking IS high pressure injecting!

 ###

On behalf of our over 37,000 member families from across the state, I would like to express Maryland Farm Bureau’s concerns to recent proposed regulations and permitting conditions in regards to possible drilling for natural gas in Maryland.

Thanks to the Marcellus Shale formation, Maryland has a unique opportunity to play a role in the nation’s efforts to decrease our dependence on foreign energy resources, secure an abundant source of cleaner burning fossil fuel, and stimulate local economies with much needed employment.  Along with every Marylander, our farmers and landowners in the westernmost areas of the State stand to gain from the safe and efficient extraction of natural gas through mineral lease payments, royalties, off-farm employment, and the general economic upswing that would accompany drilling operations.

Our members concerns with the proposed regulations deal with the far-over-reaching and strictest requirements they would place on drilling in Maryland. We believe they go above-and-beyond what the Governor has called a "Gold Standard" for drilling for natural gas.  The permitting proposals would add an increase in cost (upfront in particular), and the time consuming process would make it extremely unlikely that any company would be willing to meet all of these requirements, especially under the present market conditions.

No one wants to ensure the safety and productivity of the land more so than the farmers that depend upon it for their livelihood.  As such, our members believe wholeheartedly that the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale formation must be done in a safe and environmentally sound manner.  However, not moving forward, or creating a regulatory bar so high as to be purposefully unattainable, is a policy position our members completely oppose. We would propose an approach that would allow the necessary exploration to take place prior to requiring the full Comprehensive Gas Development Plan. Burdening industry with such a plan prior to allowing any exploration contradicts the concept of maximizing well placement efficiencies; the chances of changes in the CGDP are great and could be a hindrance to moving forward.

We respectfully urge the MDE to withdraw their current proposed regulations and consider a more reasonable approach that would allow Maryland’s farmers to take advantage of this tremendous resource.

 ###

On behalf of the Allegany Coal and Land Company, I am writing to offer our support in favor of the responsible drilling of Marcellus Shale, specifically in Western Maryland, and recognize that safe, reliable, affordable natural gas could be an important part of Maryland’s energy future. Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to comment on the Best Practices draft document.

As a business leader, there are numerous well-documented benefits associated with Marcellus Shale development. Through job creation and increased revenue for both the state and local businesses, the benefits will ripple across the region, providing money for businesses, education, transportation and other important infrastructure needs. Likewise, we would be better poised to retain our youth and college graduates through not only drilling related careers, but ancillary positions, such as testing labs, engineers, surveyors, lawyers, etc., as well.

These points are important to our business and the residents of western Maryland because we must establish new avenues of growth and job opportunity if we are to create any prosperity for our region. As noted recently by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rich Studley in his statewide campaign to “Protect Michigan’s Energy Future”, it has been documented that “more than 12,000 wells have been fracked in Michigan since the 1960s, mostly in the northern Lower Peninsula” and further asserts that “fracking has not been shown to harm Michigan’s groundwater or surface water.”

One specific area of concern is the process in which exploratory vs. permanent wells will be handled in the region. While we appreciate the investment of time by the State and Commission members, it is also important to have the flexibility to be certain a sufficient quantity of natural gas is present. Likewise, we would hope that if a permit is secured for an exploratory site and activity is determined, the permit would effectively translate to proceed as outlined in the then approved Best Practices.

In closing, thank you for your time and consideration of these comments. Michigan is one of many states that confirmed responsible drilling is a proven economic driver that offers the potential to restore prosperity to the poorest part of Maryland through job growth, a stronger economy and the next generation investment.

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Protect Maryland from fracking

I urge you to protect your Maryland constituents by ending this process altogether and banning hydraulic fracturing in our state.  I was one of the people who placed a yard sign on my property promoting your election.  WHAT A MISTAKE.  You have been a colossal disappointment in so many ways!

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On behalf of Grand Central Home Furnishings, representing fifteen employees, I am writing to offer our support in favor of the responsible drilling of Marcellus Shale, specifically in Western Maryland, and recognize that safe, reliable, affordable natural gas could be an important part of Maryland’s energy future.  Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to comment on the Best Practices draft document.

As a business leader, there are numerous well-documented benefits associated with Marcellus Shale development.  Through job creation and increased revenue for both the state and local businesses, the benefits will ripple across the region, providing money for businesses, education, transportation and other important infrastructure needs.  Likewise, we would be better poised to retain our youth and college graduates through not only drilling related careers, but ancillary positions, such as testing labs, engineers, surveyors, lawyers, etc., as well.

These points are important to my business because our region has been dependent on tourism as a primary source of economic development.  Tourism is a GOOD thing for our area, however, in natural gas we have a possible way to stimulate the economy and keep more of our youth local.  Moreover, by allowing natural gas drilling, additional entrepreneur opportunities and workforce employment will naturally occur.  This is MOST important to my business as local residents have opted not to replace furniture due to rising costs of essentials (food and gas) yet a stagnation in personal income (i.e. an increase in the local economy will increase spending – part of which will be in home furnishings).

As noted recently by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rich Studley in his statewide campaign to “Protect Michigan’s Energy Future”, it has been documented that “more than 12,000 wells have been fracked in Michigan since the 1960s, mostly in the northern Lower Peninsula” and further asserts that “fracking has not been shown to harm Michigan’s groundwater or surface water.”

One specific area of concern is the process in which exploratory vs. permanent wells will be handled in the region.   While we appreciate the investment of time by the State and Commission members, it is also important to have the flexibility to be certain a sufficient quantity of natural gas is present.  Likewise, we would hope that if a permit is secured for an exploratory site and activity is determined, the permit would effectively translate to proceed as outlined in the then approved Best Practices.

In closing, thank you for your time and consideration of these comments.  Michigan is one of many states that confirmed responsible drilling is a proven economic driver that offers the potential to restore prosperity to the poorest part of Maryland through job growth, a stronger economy and the next generation investment.

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The League of Women Voters Public Policy Positions support the preservation of natural resources and the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the ecosystem. Policies on environmental protection and pollution control, air quality, energy, land use and water resources support maximum protection of public health and the environment.

Adequate data and a framework within which alternatives may be weighed are the foundation for decision-making.  The League of Women Voters’ policies emphasize energy conservation and the environmentally sound use of energy resources with consideration of the entire cycle of energy production and predominant reliance on renewable resources. Comments on the draft for public comment are made within the context of these policies.

Executive Summary:  Executive Order 01.01.2011.11, The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative, lists the potential benefits from unconventional natural gas extraction: advancing energy independence, lower GHG from burning gas for energy compared to burning oil and coal, and economic development.  The E.O. also lists specific risks of exploration and production using fracking techniques:  injuries, well-blowouts, release of fracturing fluids, releases of methane, spills, fires, forest fragmentation, damage to roads and evidence of contamination of ground water and surface water.

Defining “best” practices for hydraulic fracturing does not guarantee that good practices exist to protect public health and to avoid methane and CO2 emissions during the extraction process. Sound scientific study of the new techniques of deep vertical and horizontal drilling and the new risks to public health and the environment must be completed to determine the external costs to public health and safety (water contamination, methane leakage and heavy truck traffic enhancing GHG emissions, air and water pollution, destruction of the tourist industry and recreational value of the land and local businesses).

The statement that the State has not yet determined whether and how gas production from the Marcellus Shale in Maryland can be accomplished “without unacceptable risks of adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment and natural resources” is reassuring.  However, the promised studies of public health effects and of the economic equation for the public and for industry should be addressed at the same time as best practices for fracking.

Section II - Reference is made to the $1.5 million in FY 2013 appropriations for MDE and DNR to complete the studies required in the EO.  While the “Best Practices” study is out for comment, the economic and public health studies are not.  What is the status of those studies, how are they being accomplished and what are the scheduled completion dates?

How does the increased potential for additional GHG from fracking equate with MDE’s recent release of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan? Studies are beginning to suggest that methane leaks during production may offset climate benefits of natural gas, which is also non-renewable. http://www.nature.com/news/air-sampling-reveals-high-emissions-from-gas-field-1.9982

Section III- Comprehensive Gas Development Plans (CGDP) are recommended for voluntary use by industry by Eshleman and Elmore, University of Maryland Appalachian Laboratory.  LWVMD supports MDE’s position that the CGDPs should be mandatory before permits are issued for any specific well drilling whether for exploration wells, extension wells and production wells.

However, promising MDE review of a complicated plan for multiple wells in 45 days will be a challenge. Promises for reducing the number of public hearings required and streamlining the “fast track” wetland and waterway permit approvals for pipeline networks and road construction could lead to less thorough approvals. The expedited consideration of permits for air quality and water appropriation and use under the CGDP program could be reconsidered.

Section- IV Important restrictions and setback requirements for CGDP sites with multi-well, clustered drilling pads are insufficient to provide for protection of health and safety.  Specifically, private groundwater wells should receive the same setbacks as public groundwater wells or surface water intakes, which should be increased to at least 3,000 feet.

A 300-foot setback for aquatic habitat, (all streams, rivers, seeps, springs, wetlands, lakes, ponds, reservoirs and 100-yeat floodplains) is totally inadequate as are a 600-foot setback for special conservation areas (irreplaceable natural areas and wildlands) and 300 feet for all cultural and historical sites, state and federal parks, trails, wildlife management areas, scenic and wild rivers and scenic byways.  Surface disturbance in areas with sensitive resources should be limited to 3,000 feet.

Section- V The plan for each well should require a list of all chemicals used in fracking fluid.  This information is essential for health professionals and the public. In the event of accidents, spills, or any emergency situation, first responders have a right to know what dangerous materials they have to deal with.  Trade secrets claims are not sufficient for withholding the list of chemicals.

No CGDP plan or permits should be issued for fracking on public land. 

Section VI- We support MDE’s position that no discharge of potentially contaminated stormwater or pollutants from the pad shall be allowed.

According to the report, pipelines present a special safety problem for gas derived from shale in that they are larger and under higher pressures than traditional rural gathering lines.  As the report points out, currently there are no standards for the location, materials, construction or testing of these lines.  The Maryland Public Service Commission should correct this serious problem before MDE approves CGDP plans or issues permits.

The implementation and oversight of transportation and trucking to coordinate the timing of oil and gas activities to avoid conflict and minimize damage to roads on public lands is voluntary and thus unenforceable.

One of the most critical concerns about hydraulic fracturing is the use of millions of gallons of water that then becomes contaminated with hazardous materials and naturally occurring radioactive material and rendered unusable by the process. Current practices and technology do not provide a way to solve the problems of wastewater contamination.  Permanent storage intanks and containers presents unacceptable risks.  

Permits for water appropriation for fracking can include some protective provisions, such as requiring onsite recycling of wastewater.Given the environmental degradation and the permanent loss of water resources, industry should be required to fast track research to find alternatives to the use of water for fracking.

The League of Women Voters of Maryland looks forward to additional studies of the hydrology in Garrett and Allegany Counties, the risk assessment study, and studies of the impact of hydraulic fracturing on public health and the economy of the region. 

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I’m opposed to any step toward fracking in Maryland at this time. It is understandable that with the demand for jobs the government has taken on the policy of promoting natural gas energy development. But the lobbyists have control over our elected officials and therefore have managed to exempt themselves from clean water laws.   I urge you to not be blinded by special interest groups. Our government is promoting natural gas extraction all over our country and the world. The evidence is clear that wells crack and leak and emit pollutants! The byproduct pollutants will be in our air and water supply. You know the rest of the story the ozone layer thins, temperatures rise, the ocean level rises .... life as we know it will be forever changed .Once we are past the tipping point there is no going back.

Wind and solar energy are alternatives but not developed enough for mainstream use today.  (But it can be)

Do the right thing for us, don't give in to big money lobbyists. Our health is more important than the jobs associated with fracking. Why if we are sick we can't work anyway right? and think of the health care costs associated with this ultimately polluting fossil fuel. Show us your backbone gentlemen!

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Please slow down! I’m opposed to any step toward fracking in Maryland at this time. I welcomed Governor O’Malley’s decision in 2011 to place a hold on drilling and to first determine whether fracking would pose “unacceptable risks” to Marylanders. The evidence is stacking up in neighboring states that fracking causes long-term harm to water resources, air quality, health, rural infrastructure and local economies, in addition to worsening climate change.

Your draft "Best Management Practices” report on fracking in Maryland fails to adequately address the full scale and severity of these risks. The report puts the cart before the horse since the state has yet to even begin a thorough analysis of the unique risks of drilling in Maryland. Without this risk analysis, the state is moving blindly in developing “best practices.”

If, after thorough and careful study of Maryland-specific risks, it becomes relevant to discuss “Best Management Practices” for fracking in Maryland, any such recommendations must:

1. Protect the climate: Require gas companies to meet a zero percent leakage rate for methane throughout the fracking process. In light of the Governor’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, it is contradictory to allow one of the biggest climate polluting industries in the US to go unregulated in Maryland. Your report does not go far enough to protect our climate.

2. Protect our water, health, and safety: Setbacks for well pads and infrastructure from private and public water wells, homes, schools, and office buildings should be at least 3,500 feet. A recent Duke study found methane in wells up to 1 kilometer away from drilling sites. Additionally, fracking infrastructure, like compressor stations and pipelines, has caused explosions and fires in communities in PA, NJ, CA, OK, and more. Your current setbacks of as little as 300 feet are not sufficient to protect Marylanders from these risks.

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If we are going to have Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling, the commission must address the questions posed by Professor Ingraffea and Professor Jackson.

Using gas industry documents, Cornell University Professor Ingraffea stated that one in twenty Marcellus gas wells will fail immediately and 50% will fail within 16 years. He, as well as the EPA, referred to the methane emissions from the natural gas industry. On May 28, 2013, Duke University Professor Jackson said that the scientific community must do research into the effects of fracking on human health. I would assume that if you say Marcellus Shale Drilling is safe, you would have answers to what these professors and EPA are saying. I have listed websites below so you can check what I have said.

2-Anthony Ingraffea To Frack or Not to Frack: That is the Question
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhS4RNs_YEc

Professor Jackson
More Scientific Scrutiny into Fracking and health is needed
http://fds.duke.edu/db/Nicholas/eos/faculty/jackson/news.html
 

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As a resident of Maryland, I urge you to reject the deeply flawed fracking "best management practices" plan that supports the natural gas industry's aims and would pave the way for fracking in Maryland.

Even if the "management practices" were effective there will not be enough resources to implement them. Just look at the pitiful record of the state and even federal EPA where the path of least, or no, resistance and no action has been the rule.

When the spills and contamination occur, and they will, it is the local communities that will be left with a carcinogenic environment for their children and animals and undrinkable water amidst the denials of responsibility, as usual, from the oil and gas industry.

Don't you or your staff ever visit Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania? Aren't you aware of the devastation of peoples lives and environments that are continuing to occur in those, and other places?

Why would you do this to our state of MD?  In my view your actions border on socially unjust collaboration with an industry that has shown time and time again their SOLE motivation is corporate profit! They do not care about the people of MD. They certainly do not care about protecting the environment. That is supposed to be why YOU were elected. NOT to sell us out! This is a disgrace! You are a disgrace. I regret voting for you!

If fracking occurs in MD you will be responsible and the results will be a shameful legacy you will leave us.

Best Practices report on fracking is naive, premature, & full of holes

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 On August 4, 2013, we sent you our comments concerning the distance between natural gas fracking well pads and drinking water supplies for our homes and towns. We urged you to increase the 1,000 foot setback from gas drilling pads to private water supplies and the 2,000 foot setback from drilling pads to municipal water supplies to a uniform standard of at least one kilometer (~ 3,300 feet). This increased setback is based on scientific research and actual cases in other States showing widespread methane contamination of drinking water aquifers near gas well sites.

At this time we have completed our review of the remaining draft best management practices and offer the following comments:

Comprehensive Gas Development Planning - On the whole this appears to make sense...unless of course it’s your home and property being directly impacted. How much buffer is enough to protect the water, air, and quality of life for those living near such an industrial zone? Keep in mind that Garrett County is currently a rural area of farms and forests. How will those who live near these areas be compensated for these impacts? If compelled to move due to the insults associated with this industrial zone who would buy their homes and land? Remember, these are most likely people who have not signed gas leases and who will not be receiving any royalties. Yet these are the very people who will be penalized.

Well casing integrity - Based on current well failures in nearby PA that already employ the “best industry standards”, much more needs to be done to insure that water resources near wells are protected. We suggest that there is no acceptable level of risk when it comes to drinking water.

Emissions - All the media hype about natural gas being the “clean energy” certainly does not take into account methane leakage associated with shale gas production. We suggest a zero tolerance level for methane. The practice of “flaring” should likewise be prohibited. In addition industrial shale gas sites should be required to receive power via the electric grid, natural gas or solar.

Seismic Mapping - The draft BMP’s require only one set of seismic surveys for the initial well. We prefer the Appalachian Lab report’s stronger recommendations for seismic surveys.

Tracer Chemicals - We recommend that the final BMP’s require tracer chemicals be added to hydraulic fracturing fluid so that the origin of toxic pollutants accidentally released to ground and surface waters from shale gas development can be more easily traced.

Water Use - High-volume, hydraulic fracturing requires an average of 4.2 to 5 million gallons of water for each fracture stage. The draft BMP’s rely on current regs that are simply inadequate to deal with these types of withdrawals. We support the Appalachian Lab report which recommended that Maryland revise its permitting regulations to address water withdrawal issues, by requiring withdrawals only from large rivers or reservoirs.

Wastewater Storage and Disposal - We are extremely concerned about potential “midnight dumping” of wastewater by trucks carrying fracking wastewater out of state. We recommend that placarding and GPS tracking/logs be required for all waste hauling vehicles. In addition unique tracer chemicals should be included in fracking wastewater, so that illegal dumpers can be more easily tracked.

Infrastructure - The introduction of invasive species and forest fragmentation are just two of the potential environmental impacts associated with shale gas development infrastructure. We recommend that Maryland provide regulatory oversight on the placement of pipelines, compressor stations, and other shale gas infrastructure.

Enforcement - Current regulations do not describe an effective system for inspections and enforcement. We currently serve as volunteers collecting baseline data on local streams in advance of high-volume, hydraulic fracturing in Maryland. As “citizen-eyes-in-the-field” we hope to assist by spotting and reporting accidents before any damage to waters and land occur. But a group of local volunteers visiting local streams once every two weeks is not enough. Who will be watching 24/7 if and when gas development comes to our rural communities?

We have lived in Garrett County for over 30 years. Though repeatedly approached by gas men to sign a lease we refused to do so. We care about the land, the wildlife and the people, so much so that we donated a conservation easement on our property that borders Savage River State Forest so that it can never be developed. In that legal document we added a prohibition against any mineral/gas extraction. We actively manage our land to enhance regional biodiversity. We have done our best to reduce our carbon footprint by installing energy efficient appliances, solar panels and a geothermal heating/cooling system. But everything we have done will be for naught if industrial gas development is allowed to occur in our area, especially on and under public and conserved lands.

Is industrial gas development really about energy independence for America, or simply about the greed of multi-national corporations who will export this energy to the highest bidder? The historic exploitation of natural resources in the Appalachian region is poised to repeat itself with profits privatized and costs socialized, unless YOU take the necessary actions to protect the health of our environment and people.

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The comments below are submitted by the Marcellus Shale Committee of the Deep Creek Lake Property Owners’ Association (POA). These comments are organized as:

  • Selective section-by-section comments on recommended best practices
  • Broader comments which identify related issues and activities viewed as important to development of the August 2014 final report.

These comments are not explicitly prioritized. However, we note that those who treasure the rural character and scenic beauty of the Deep Creek Lake (DCL) area have particular concerns about “industrialization” as well as  environmental and health impacts (traffic, noise, visual/physical profile, etc.).

The general view of the committee is that the MDE/DNR report---and the UMD-CES Appalachian Laboratory report which provided a valuable foundation---are generally comprehensive and represent substantial progress toward a robust set of best practices. These are viewed as deserving the “gold standard” characterization in several areas.

However, there is of course no such thing as “zero” risk.  This begs the question of how to address the levels of risk remaining once best practices are adopted and then to determine whether the remaining risk levels are acceptable (or not), given also a view of the potential gains. We applaud the fact that the state agencies have recently committed to executing a structured risk analysis as part of the Safe Drilling Initiative. This topic is discussed further in the broader comments below.

Section-by-Section Comments

Despite some relevant engineering expertise/experience within the Committee, we are surely not the experts. But, we offer these comments for consideration. Some of the comments below identify best practices found in other sources.  Other comments summarize our understanding of recent scientific and empirical studies, identifying their possible implications on best practices (e.g., setback distances). More specifically, the comments below---and some in our discussion of broader considerations--- reference studies by Duke University, the University of  Texas (Arlington), and the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL); they are offered in the spirit of assuring that the ultimately-adopted best practices take advantage of emerging scientific evidence to the maximum extent practicable.

III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans (CGDP’s)

  • It would appear useful, during both CGDP development and review, to consider the tradeoffs between trucking of water and use of water pipelines (e.g., traffic vs. land disturbance impacts)
  • Regarding the 2% maximum surface development for “high value watersheds”, it would be useful to clarify how multiple CGDP’s impacting the same watershed would be handled.
  • The Shale gas Development Toolbox initiative is applauded.

IV- Location Restrictions and Setbacks

  • In general, we recommend inclusion---in the table and/or the accompanying text---of the rationale for the specified setbacks. Some appear arbitrary.
  • More specifically, there was concern voiced, during the 9 July Garret College session, about the proposed setback distance between a borehole and a private well (1.000 ft.), this contrasted to a proposed greater separation for public wells or surface water intakes (2,000 ft.). We recommend that this difference be reconsidered or explicitly rationalized. And, note that Section V, p. 21, implies that a private well within 2,500 ft. is a potential issue. Surely there should be one, consistent setback specified.

Beyond consistent and explicit logic within the report, there is the important topic of reflecting recent scientific study results regarding possible well contamination. Specifically, a recent Duke University study found---in summary--- that wells within 1 km (~3300 ft.) of gas wells exhibited substantially higher levels of dissolved methane (X6) than those more distant. The detected levels are viewed as unacceptable from a health standpoint. This suggests serious consideration of increasing the well setbacks distance to the observed   threshold of 3,300 feet.(The Duke study sampled 141 wells in PA). At a minimum, the ultimately-recommended setbacks should be rationalized against this empirical data.

It is understood that reasonable setback requirements cannot cover all possible “contingencies”. For instance, we understand that the vertical drilling process itself can---dependent upon geology--- create fractures which can run long distances and create pathways for methane to reach aquifers/wells. This strikes us as among the “threats” that should be identified and calibrated, based on the best data and experience available. This would logically be part of a “risk analysis”.

  • “Noise” is viewed as a potentially significant industrialization issue. We are having difficulty rationalizing the largely noise-driven setbacks appearing in this section with the noise discussion in Section VI.M. For instance, the setback table specifies 1,000 ft. between an occupied building and a compressor station, while Section VI.M seems to call for at least 3,000 ft. unless the only engine/motor source is electric. Something to be changed or explained? Are we misreading?

V – Plan for Each Well

  • pages 20-21 provide a comprehensive list of areas to be covered in an application. Will regulations provide “standards” for most of these, or are the approval criteria viewed as inherently case-by-case?
  • Seems appropriate to also call for coverage of re-fracturing intervals as an indicator of potentially repetitive industrial activity.
  • The Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) has generated an interesting “performance standard” which calls for establishment of an “Area of Review (AOR)---which covers both the vertical and horizontal legs of the planned well”. Among other stipulations, the standard mandates “a comprehensive characterization of subsurface geology, including a risk analysis’’ as related to “confining layers” preventing “adverse migration of fracturing fluid”. [SOURCE: CSSD Performance Standards dated March 2013]. This “practice” is offered for consideration and relates to the controversy about possible migration of “bad stuff” to “good water” even from 6,000 to 8,000 foot depths
  • The CSSD emphasis on “a comprehensive characterization of subsurface geology, including a risk analysis” is re-enforced by results of two recent studies involving field measurements of potential impacts on wells/aquifers. On the “bad news” side, there is the Duke study summarized above which collected field data on methane leakage pathways much longer than often assumed. On the “good news” side, recent press releases have characterized preliminary results of an ongoing (not yet released) DOE NETL study, determining---for only one well with tracers injected into the fracking fluid---that potential contaminants did not reach even the 5,000 foot depth level when released at 8,000 feet as part of the fracking process.(Drinking water supplies are well above the 5,000 foot level). The point here is not to reach broader conclusions about risk to drinking water. Instead, we observe that both studies acknowledge that their results are dependent on the specifics of the geology. This suggests that the mandated plans for each well should be as specific as possible about required geological characterization.
  • See a comment below on Section VI. M (Noise) which suggests that an analysis of noise impacts be part of the plan for each well/well pad.

VI –Engineering, Design, and Environmental Controls and Standards

  • A number of strong provisions are applauded, including handling of wastewater (e.g.,>90% recycled within closed-loop system), prevention of drill pad, etc. ”leakage” (e.g., liners, impermeable berms), and blow-out prevention (redundancy).
  • VI.A.5 – Road Construction---The discussion of road construction standards appears comprehensive. However, the topic of who pays for public road maintenance is not addressed. It may well be that there are plans to address this elsewhere (e.g., the Towson study of economics), but this and similar topics need to be covered at least in the final report.
  • VI. F – Casing and Cement
    • It seems clear that the engineering and design standards in this section are particularly crucial as related to drinking water quality. Well integrity is identified as a key factor in methane “leakage” into wells/aquifers (e.g., the Duke study referenced above). Well integrity surely relates also to hydraulic fluid escape before reaching the deep horizontal “leg”. Further, non-trivial failure rates of  5% or greatercan be found in articles/reports. Such failure rates are not comforting, though admittedly difficult to validate/calibrate. (E.g., New York Times article by Dr. Anthony Ingraffea.)
    • Subsection 1---The specified safety margin of 1.2 seems small; a factor of 2.0 is viewed as more common. Regarding cement strength, shouldn’t testing standards of 500 psi within 12 hours be specified? Require industry to specify the testing method?
    • Subsection 2---The report specifies that the vertical casing extend below the “deepest known stratum bearing clear water” by a minimum of 100 vertical feet. This vertical distance seems small. Casings should extend at least below the brine level, and we’ve seen a study for the European Commission calling for a large distance of 600 meters (1,950 feet).Seems that some reconsideration is warranted and, as for setbacks, the rationale provided.
    • Subsection 3---Seems that required action should be specified when a segmented radial cement bond log indicates a failure. (For instance, grout being inadvertently pumped into a void.)
  • VI. J – Air Emissions
    • VI. J – Air Emissions
      o The March 2013 CSSD standards appear to be particularly stringent in this area. For instance, their performance standard #10 quantifies “green completion” by calling for a methane “destruction efficiency” of 98%. Their performance standard #11 specifies what percentage of drill rig engines should comply with EPA Tier 4 emission standards by what year. Again, we are not experts; we are simply highlighting these “practices/standards” for whatever technical consideration is warranted.
    • The well integrity issue noted above appears to be crucial here, too; casing leaks can allow methane to escape upward outside the pipe
  • VI.M – Noise
    • This appears to be an important but difficult issue, with standards and enforcement largely in the hands of local jurisdictions. However, Table VI-1 lays out state-level standards for noise levels at the “receiving end” for various classes of property. Wouldn’t it be useful to calculate the implied setback distance from, say, active drilling rigs or compressor stations whose noise level at the source is surely known or readily measured?? Has this been done?? Is this the basis for Section IV setbacks though not explicit??
    • Beyond specifying setbacks broadly based on state-level standards as above, one could (1) identify specific residential or commercial facilities around a particular proposed well/well pad, (2) specify maximum noise levels at these specific locations as part of the application for each well (per local standards), and (3) mandate that the plan for each well/well pad include an analysis of how the standards will be met for the specific “noise sources” that are part of the industry application. (Will the well plans include locations and design parameters of compressor stations as well as drilling rigs??)

VII – Monitoring, Recordkeeping, and Recording

  • The emphasis on systematic and comprehensive effort in these areas, and the specific requirement for a 2-year baseline monitoring period, are applauded. However, both the report (point B) and the 9 July presentation emphasize that the specifics of data collection, data analysis, and its application to compliance monitoring are to be developed later. Fine for the details, but a delineation of the fundamental parameters and methods would be in the interest of making the “practice” more complete and building public confidence

X – Implementing the Recommendations

  • The helpful note to the reader indicates that a roadmap for implementing the best practice recommendations will be developed after the report is finalized. Will this roadmap be available by the time of the August 2014 final report or before? Will draft regulations---codifying the recommended best practices---be available as part of the final report??

Appendix D – Marcellus Shale Constraint Analysis

  • Very useful and interesting analysis in terms of illuminating some of the risk/benefit tradeoffs which will ultimately be in the hands of state-level decision-makers (i.e., constraints which reduce potential risks vs. the impacts on potential economic benefits). Can it be assumed that (1) this analysis will be updated as required for purposes of the best practices final report and (2) that the results on natural gas recovery will be factored into the Towson U. RESI economics effort?

Appendix E – Marcellus Shale and Recreational and Aesthetic Resources in Western Maryland

  • The more in-depth look at protecting the identified, vital public resources is applauded. The motivation to protect “recreational and aesthetic resources” of course applies to private land as well (e.g. the scenic beauty and rural character of the Deep Creek Lake area as treasured by our POA members and others). Having said that, it seems that there may be some positive synergy between the DNR effort described and the RESI study of community impacts/interests. Do study plans and schedules account for this?

Broader Comments

Identifying and assessing risks---We are impressed with the progress made on this topic since, for instance, the 9 July Garrett College session. Presentations and discussions at the 26 August Advisory Commission meeting evidenced, in our view:

  • A clear recognition of the need for some form of “risk analysis” to support the ultimate decision of whether deep shale gas recovery can be conducted “without unacceptable risk” (per the Governor’s Executive Order).
  • A state agency commitment to conducting such an analysis in a comprehensive and open way, recognizing resource and time constraints.
  • Adoption of a practical methodology which involves systematic, structured analysis of risk in terms of “bad things” that could occur, their likelihood, and their consequences. (Impressed by Dr. Voe’s presentation of a practical, apparently successfully-used methodology for complex situation with many uncertainties.)
  • Recognition that, given the general lack of “statistically-significant” empirical evidence for many factors of interest, risk assessment results will generally be qualitative (e.g., high, medium, low)---not fully satisfying to some, but still a potentially valuable input to both state decision-making and to public understanding/trust.
    We hope that our understanding of what is being proposed is correct. We will of course follow the effort and, additionally, we offer to play whatever role is helpful in the spirit of the “substantive public engagement” point made during the meeting.

Turning to a couple of specifics from a DCL perspective, we again note that those who treasure the rural character and scenic beauty of the area have concerns about “industrialization” (noise, traffic, “view-shed” impacts, etc.).It is also noted that we would expect the Towson RESI study to identify such issues/stakeholder concerns. This all implies that (1) the Towson study should be a source of risk areas to be addressed, (2) that the risk analysis must address what could be called “soft” as opposed to “hard” risks (e.g., adverse “view-shed” impacts caused by deforestation vs., drinking water contamination linked to well casing failures), and (3) that the ultimate structuring of H/M/L risk levels will have to support deliberations about “acceptable to whom” (e.g., a DCL property owner vs. a Bittinger farmer’s concern about lake “view-shed” impacts).

Required regulatory and compliance resources and expertise---The report notes the issue of building the required “capacity” to implement the proposed best practices regime, presumably including enforcement as well as development of regulations. “Capacity” clearly includes expertise/experience as well as numbers. Some of us have experience with government oversight of complicated projects, indicating a critical need for “industry-matching” expertise on the “government side of the table”. This expertise could be provided in-house or contracted out, the latter option---apparently including contracting through the energy companies themselves---was noted during the 9 July session. Will the required resources, expertise as well as numbers, be laid out in the August 2014 final report and factored into the RESI study of economics?? Will the information provided indicate the role of contracting and any steps needed to assure that there is no inherent conflict of interest in contractor roles?

Returning to the best practices topic after completing other studies---It is assumed, based on the stakeholder interviews/discussions, that the RESI study of “community impacts” will address what we have been calling “industrialization” factors (traffic, noise, visual/physical footprint, etc.). It seems possible that these elements of the RESI study will suggest further or modified best practices.
Analogously, the planned study of public health could lead back to a consideration of additional or modified best practices. For instance, beyond the radioactive material issue addressed in the report, we understand that there may be other toxic substance issues that require special treatment.  As an example, a University of Texas (Arlington) study identified unsafe levels of arsenic, selenium, and strontium when sampling 100 wells “near” drilling sites, noting carefully that the causes are uncertain (e.g., possibly pipe rust dislodged by drilling rather than fracking fluid contamination).
 Do study plans and schedules allow for this “looping back” to best practices in time to influence the August 2014 final report??

Motivating the adoption of “better” technologies/method---There are, of course, a number of relevant technologies being explored by industry and government entities (e.g., DOE labs) which offer increased “efficiencies” (gas recovery cost reductions) and/or “better outcomes” in terms of potential adverse impacts. As used here, the term “better” implies safer, quieter, cleaner, lower physical profile, etc. Examples include CO2 fracking (avoiding the flowback water issue), “valved” piping (incremental fracking in a way which reduces water requirements), new proppants (keeping fractures open longer), and advanced sensors to detect methane leakage into the atmosphere (supporting management of greenhouse gas emissions).

Clearly, improved efficiencies/lower recovery costs are the dominant (though not exclusive) industry interest. Given the view that mandating particular technology is neither appropriate nor necessarily productive, the question becomes how the adoption of “better” as well as more efficient technologies might be motivated. An option for consideration: require industry to discuss their plan for adoption of “better” technology as part of the CGDP’s and/or the individual well applications.

Further, note that the technology and engineering practices employed can, of course, impact system reliability/integrity, another dimension of “better” if you will. These attributes, in turn, impact the likelihood of “bad things” occurring, a key factor in the kind of risk analysis discussed above. In that context, it is important to quantify system and component equipment reliability/integrity for both current and newer technologies. We’ve not found a significant data base addressing things like the probability of well casing failure, but industry surely has substantial knowledge and experience which can somehow be tapped. An initiative to do so would be a valuable component of the “risk analysis”.

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In the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative’s executive summary it states “Shale Gas shall be accomplished without unacceptable risks of adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment, and natural resources.
“Unacceptable Risks” is a vague term.

At present I find the following results of practices by the natural gas industry unacceptable.

1. According to EPA data, the natural gas industry is the worst anthropogenic emitter of methane. The Petroleum Institute representative brought up this issue when he testified before the Gaithersburg City Council. Methane is a strong green house gas (GHG) that is 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide.  Global warming, due to the increase in greenhouse gases, is coming fast. If a storm hit Maryland like the one that hit New York and New Jersey, residents would be disturbed to realize Maryland was allowing fracking and thus contributing to an increase in methane emission.

2. Benzene and other dangerous chemicals are in fracking fluid. Benzene is a carcinogenic compound. These get into both surface and ground water systems when wells fail.  Benzene is so dangerous, it is not allowed in  high school chemistry labs in Maryland. It is disturbing to note that cities and counties in Maryland are required to follow environmental site design to lower water pollution yet the natural gas industry can pump unlisted chemicals including benzene into the ground.

3. Fracking necessitates long-term, spatially intense industrialization with one pad in the center of a square mile. Every square mile above the shale will have a pad with 4 or more wells and all the equipment necessary including compressors, storage tanks, trucks  and with it comes all the traffic congestion, constant noise and light. This process also requires massive use of trucks. Bringing a gas well into production requires more than 1,000 loaded trucks traveling to and from a well site, The Texas Department of Transportation has estimated that maintaining infrastructure impacted by the drilling boom will cost $4 billion a year.

Cornell University Professor Anthony Ingraffea is an expert on hydraulic fracturing. He and Professor Jackson of Duke University raise major concerns about hydraulic fracturing. Dr. Ingraffea states hydraulic fracturing can’t be done safely. He uses natural gas industry documents that show one in twenty wells will fail immediately and half the wells will fail in 28 years. On May 28, 2013, Dr. Jackson said,” The scientific community should ramp up on research into the effects fracking has on human health,” Dr. Ingraffea and Dr. Jackson have nothing to gain by attacking the fracking.
Professor Ingraffea information http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhS4RNs_YEc
Professor Ingraffea at Northwestern University April 17 & 18 pdf
www.civil.northwestern.edu/events/Hydraulic-Fracturing-Industrialization-of-the-Shale-Gas-Operation.html

It would be sad if the present administration were remembered for  polluting Maryland air, land, and water by allowing hydraulic fracturing rather than for bringing renewable offshore wind power to Maryland.

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1. Executive Summary, second to last paragraph- This should include the statement –“minimization of impact on existing human population and existing concentrated human population centers” as part of the considerations. What is meant by this statement is that the report states that it “was established to assist State policymakers and regulators in determining whether and how gas production from the Marcellus Shale in Maryland can be accomplished without unacceptable risks of adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment, and natural resources” from the first paragraph of the Executive Summary.  This implies that it is concerned about minimizing impact on the human population as well as the environment in general.  The summary does not state anywhere specifically, however, what standards should be set to minimize the disruption and immediate affects of these activities to avoid disrupting the lives and threatening the safety of concentrated populations (towns, cities) that exist in the proposed activity areas.

2. Overview, C, (iii)-“No later than August 1, 2014, a final report with findings and recommendations relating to the impact of Marcellus Shale drilling including possible contamination of ground water, handling and disposal of wastewater, environmental and natural resources impacts, impacts to forests and important habitats, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic impact.”  Once again, there is no reference of the consideration of impact to existing population centers of humans in the immediate activity areas.  Everything specifically references impacts on the environment and resources, but there aren’t specific references to the health and safety of concentrated areas of already existing people.  We don’t want to repeat the historical man-made disasters that have turned vibrant, active communities into ghost towns (Love Canal, et. al.).

3. Overview, D, second paragraph note- something in these guidelines should require air sampling at regular intervals for a specific (including multi-seasonal- say, 1 year) time prior to construction at any site where gas emission is a known regular occurrence, such as a compressor station, to establish a solid baseline to which REGULAR air sampling after a site is in operation can be compared to and the company can be held liable if they exceed set limits of emissions based on established levels over baseline.  Paragraph 7 discusses this approach, but somewhere it should be required that it would be done at all proposed construction sites that would involve regular gas emissions.

4. Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans, last paragraph- “By considering the entire project scope of a single company, or multiple companies simultaneously, responsible energy development could proceed while minimizing conflicts and addressing the concerns associated with maintaining the rural character of western Maryland, and protecting high value natural resources and resource-based economies. To cite just one example, land disturbance could be minimized if infrastructure were shared or located within the same right of way.”  There is no reference to minimizing disturbance to existing population concentrations.  The use of existing right of ways would hopefully also minimize impact to populations by not creating more population disruptions.  I know that the natural environment, is a focus of the Department of Natural Resources, but there seems to be more concerned with the survival of small populations of endangered species, than we do about the disrupting the lives of people.  To be fair, this statement mentions it farther down in the paragraph with the use of the word “social”, but this is very general as it is an Overview section- “Proactive, upfront planning at a landscape scale provides the framework for evaluating and minimizing cumulative impacts to the environmental, social and economic fabric of western Maryland.”

5. Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans, Section A, 1 and 4- Why could a CDGP be done for only 5 years (#1), but remain in effect for 10 years (#4)?

 6. Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans, Section B, 2 and 4-2.  “Comply with location restrictions, setbacks and other environmental requirements of State and local law and regulations.” 4. “Preferentially locate operations on disturbed, open lands or lands zoned for industrial activity.”  Absolutely!  If this were enforced right now, potentially dangerous situations such as the issue of the installation of a compressor station within the town limits of Myersville, MD, would not be happening.

7. Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans, Section B, 5-“Co-locate linear infrastructure with existing roads, pipelines and power lines.” Must be cautious about roads, because this statement includes highways and other vital thoroughfares to communities.  Explosions can destroy these roads and cause harm and disruption to people.

8. Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans, Section C, 6- from personal observation, 60 days to review a comprehensive plan such as these with as many stakeholders as these is exceedingly and totally unrealistic.  There needs to be a lengthier period of time.

9. Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans, Section C, 12, first sentence regarding changes in location- add “or compressor station and pipelines”.

10. Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans, Section D, 3- Disagree with how this statement is worded.  It implies allowing the company to do its own baseline monitoring, which allows the potential for the company to shape the results to its own benefit.  It should state that the company can start funding an independent baseline monitoring entity chosen by the DNR which is monitored by a regulatory body- similar to how the FDA monitors foods and drugs to ensure the veracity of the testing results.

11. Section III – Comprehensive Gas Development Plans, Section E, 3- Recommend including a 2 mile “disaster mitigation” set back from existing incorporated town limits to emphasize human population safety.  See data on recent natural gas compressor station explosions and evacuation actions by local public safety authorities- usually a 2 mile radius.

12. Section IV– Location Restrictions and Setbacks, First Paragraph and whole section-Should reference/address setbacks from existing population centers such as incorporated towns. The compressor station set back only references 1,000 feet from an existing building/home, but there should be a “disaster mitigation” setback of 2 miles from the nearest town limit.  This matches routine evacuation areas exercised by public safety organizations when large explosions such as compressor stations occur.  In Section VI, P, it clearly recognizes the need for emergency response and the possibility of explosions, etc., and requires that responders be identified which can respond within 24 hours.  However, the surrounding area would be affected immediately.  Therefore, a “disaster mitigation” setback of 2 miles from a population center town limit is a common sense mitigation to minimize the danger to people from just such an event.

13. Section IV– Location Restrictions and Setbacks, A, 8-This section should also include concentrated population centers, not just “cultural and historical resources”.  Existing communities and populations that are living can be adversely affected by these installations far more than a historical site.

14. Section VI– Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards A, 4, Pipelines, b.-Should include the statement, “Any further plans to modify the engineering or capacity to exceed the designed limits will not be allowed without a plan for a complete upgrade of the pipeline to newer expected maximum pressures.”

15. Section VII – Monitoring, Recordkeeping and Reporting, A- This section “emphasizes that a minimum of 2 years of pre-development baseline data is necessary to evaluate the condition and characteristics of aquatic resources, particularly the living resources,…”.  This should also be required for air sampling for all sites likely to emit gasses.  The air quality and its effect is every bit as important to our natural resources and, just as importantly, to the people in the area.  Some areas are particularly prone to localized weather phenomena due to unique topography, such as prolonged inversion layers, which can trap harmful gas emission components and cause a serious deleterious effect on vegetation, fauna, and people located in those areas.

16. Section VII – Monitoring, Recordkeeping and Reporting, A, second paragraph- in addition to the above #15, add, “and gas transporting installations, such as compressor stations,” to this paragraph.

17. Section VII – Monitoring, Recordkeeping and Reporting, F, (c), 1)-  This should read, “perform and evaluate monitoring data”.  Allowing the companies to conduct their own monitoring allows them to manipulate data in order to report favorable data to avoid an adverse effect on business operations with no oversight.  Independent monitoring not under the control of the company is paramount for ensuring that unsafe levels of emissions are not occurring. The IRS and the FDA perform independent inspections and audits all the time to prevent just such an occurrence form other companies and individuals.

18. Appendix A-There should be more environmental safety experts on this Commission, particularly those well versed in air and water safety levels.  Only the Director of DHMH is on it.  That is one person with this background out of 14.  There is also a concentration of people from those 2 counties, but this can affect the whole state, particularly in the area of pipeline and compressor station production.

19. Appendix E, Recommended Setbacks and Considerations, bullet point 9-The bullet point states, “instances where public safety risks on or around state lands would be most likely 
to be increased on roads, day use or overnight accommodation areas or in surrounding areas as a result of close proximity of infrastructure and people.”  The need for an increased setback in the areas of established populations of people as a “disaster mitigation” for compressor stations cannot be emphasized enough. 

20. Appendix F, UMCES-AL Report Table of Recommendations, Comment 10.B-  Generally agree with this, however, the use of open space/agricultural sites or TRULY ZONED industrial sites for compressor stations should be chosen preferentially over sites within 2 miles of established population centers.

21. Appendix F, UMCES-AL Report-“Our goal was to identify and recommend specific BMPs that would provide maximum protection of Maryland’s environment, natural resources, and public safety.”  Public safety is the most important issue to this reviewer regarding natural gas installations.  Taking EFFECTIVE AND PROACTIVE steps, such as “disaster mitigation” setbacks from existing town limits is essential to protecting citizens, and particularly existing concentrated populations, from the recognized potentially deleterious effects that are a byproduct of this industry.

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Rewrite of fracking report is needed.

Please consider this message as our comment on the "Best Management Practices" report issued in June.  We live in Baltimore County but visit state lands in western Maryland for recreation many times each year.  I am a volunteer trail maintainer on the Tuscarora Trail where it passes through Washington County and the Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area on Kuhns Ridge.

We believe this draft report is premature and ill-advised.  It contains no risk analysis to comply with Gov. O'Malley's mandate to determine "whether or how" hydraulic fracturing can be done without unacceptable risks.  The risk analysis should be completed and subjected to public review before this goes any further.

After considering the risk analysis, the commission should set "best practices" standards as part of any recommendations, including these elements:

- Gas operators should meet a zero percent leakage rate for methane, as a means of protecting the climate and combatting global warming.

- Gas operators should complete and get state approval of stormwater pollution prevention plans to hold toxic runoff and erosion to an insignificant level.  Maryland is now cleaning up its stormwater, as a means of restoring the bay.  Any gas operations should be required to meet strict standards.

- A setback of 3500 feet should be required to keep drillpads and support facilities such as roads, pipelines and compressors away from water wells (both public and private), schools, homes and office buildings.  This is essential to protect clean drinking water and public health and safety.

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I want to make two additional points about the Best Practices Report. These are primarily based on evidence that has come to light since the report was put together and call for more care and attention in two specific areas.
 
1) With regard to the set back from wells and drinking water sources, a recent report from Duke University recommends a greater set-back than the 1,000 feet in your report.  They call for 3,000 feet (or roughly 1 kilometer) distance between a drinking water source and a fracking site.  This would also generally put the fracking well pads at a greater distance from houses which is all to the good.  I was talking with a EMT person who lives in Garrett County but works in Fayette County PA,  who has had countless calls for children unable to breathe, and who says that when that is the case, the drilling rig is sited quite close to the house and the methane and other gasses released in the process of drilling are too much for the underdeveloped lung capacity of the children living there.

2) Recent reports from western US fracking sites call our attention to the possibility of frack hits, blow outs that occur when a second drilling and fracking operation goes off course and leads into a drilling hole already in operation. The combined pressure results in the expulsion of fracking fluids under great pressure and spills occurring over a much wider area than would have happened if the second drilling operation had not "hit' the previously existing one.  This calls into question the wisdom of the Report's siting of many multiple wells on one fracking pad.
 
I recommend that the Commission rethink their recommendations in these two areas.

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On behalf of the Chesapeake Chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Draft Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study: Part II Best Practices. The Chesapeake Chapter would like to thank the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the hard work they have put into producing this document.

The health professionals of the Chesapeake Chapter are concerned about the multiple threats to human health posed by the technologies and processes associated with hydraulic fracturing. These threats to health include industrial scale water consumption and contamination; air pollution, particularly by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and methane ; acceleration of climate change caused by methane leakage; seismic effects, and the generation and management of large quantities of toxic liquid waste.

A small but growing body of literature documents serious threats to human health, animal health, air quality and drinking water quality arising from hydraulic fracturing. In light of these threats, we have outlined below three of the major concerns we have with the draft best management practices, and provided specific recommendations on how MDE and DNR could address these concerns. Our concerns and recommendations are:

(1) There is no scientific basis to support these BMPs

The practices outlined in this report are not based on a scientific assessment of likely impacts of natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale in Maryland. As a result, this report does not fulfill Governor O'Malley's 2011 Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Executive Order (E.O. 01.01.2011.11), in which the Governor directs MDE and DNR to determine whether and how gas production from the Marcellus Shale in Maryland can be accomplished without unacceptable risks of adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment, and natural resources.

These BMPs are a collection of practices that have been gathered -- and sometimes modified -- from other states, and from existing rules in Maryland. MDE and DNR have not established that these practices, if implemented, would allow unconventional natural gas production from shale to occur safely in Maryland. Compounding this oversight, MDE and DNR have published the draft best management practices prior to the development of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's (DHMH) health study on the effects of unconventional natural gas production as well as MDE's and DNR's risk analysis of this type of natural gas production in Maryland, both of which will not be completed until around August 2014. Unfortunately, MDE and DNR have not indicated how the results of the health and risk studies will inform the final draft of the BMPs and have indicated there will be no opportunity for medical and public health professionals to comment on the draft BMPs after September 10, 2013. This process unnecessarily impedes discussion of the underlying rationale that will be used to develop the final BMPs.

Recommendation 1.1: MDE and DNR should finalize the BMPs only after taking into account the findings in the State's health study and the risk analysis. In addition, they should provide the public with an additional opportunity to comment on the final set of BMPs after the public release of the final health study and the risk assessment. Recommendation 1.2: The final BMPs should contain a science-based process to reassess and reevaluate periodically the BMPs to ensure that they reflect improvements in our understanding of the practices used to address the health risks in the hydraulic fracturing process.

(2) These BMPs would hinder the work of medical and public health Professionals

These BMPs would hinder the work of medical and public health professionals to protect Marylanders from harm, in at least two ways. First, they adopt the hazardous communication standard for trade secrets from the

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), effectively establishing a "doctor's gag rule" in Maryland. Secondly, they fail to address the appropriate use of health-related confidentiality agreements between industry and landowners.

The use of OSHA trade secret rules and the use of confidentiality agreements work to keep information from regulators, policymakers, health care professionals and the news media, and make it difficult to assess the effects of gas production on public health and the environment. Exposure data on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing has been difficult to obtain. Without exposure data, a useful risk analysis of a practice or material cannot be conducted. Continuing gag rules and non-disclosure statements makes it even less likely useful exposure data can be obtained to accurately characterize the risk to human health.

Under OSHA's hazardous communication standards for trade secrets, if a treating physician or nurse determines that a medical emergency exists and the specific chemical identity and/or specific percentage of composition of a hazardous chemical is necessary for emergency or first-aid treatment, the company will be required to give the treating physician or nurse the name, identity and composition of the trade secret chemical. However, the medical professional may be required to sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting them from sharing the information with others. In non-emergency situations, the procedures are even more difficult for medical professionals. OSHA standards establish a cumbersome and onerous process that health care professionals must go through in order to obtain the name of a trade secret chemical, and if they succeed in that process, they may also need to sign non-disclosure agreements. This creates barriers to patient treatment that may result in the inability of physicians, nurses and other health care practitioners to safeguard their patients as their professional commitment and obligations require them to do.

In addition to establishing a gag rule in Maryland, these BMPs do not address confidentiality agreements between drillers and property owners. Recent press reports highlight the widespread use of non-disclosure agreements between drillers and landowners, which require landowners to keep quiet about instances in which natural gas production has harmed the landowners' water and potentially caused health problems. [Jim Efstathiou Jr. &Mark Drajem , Drillers Silence Fracking Claims With Sealed Settlements, Bloomberg News, June 6,2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-06/drillers-silence-fracking-claims-withsealed- settlements.html] This barrier to the sharing of information about health and harm may result in the inability of public health professionals to identify threats to health and work proactively to protect the public.

Recommendation 2.1: The BMPs should require that companies provide DHMR and MDE with toxicological profiles and epidemiological evaluations of chemicals and agents used in the production of natural gas to ascertain possible acute, subacute and chronic health effects of exposure to such substances.

Recommendation 2.2: Chemicals and other agents used in the extraction of natural gas should not be subject to restrictions on disclosure under trade secret rules.

Recommendation 2.3: The BMPs should require that drilling operations report chemical releases to the federal Toxic Release Inventory, or to a publicly accessible on-line database managed by the state.

Recommendation 2.4: The BMPs should establish one process that would allow Maryland's health professionals to expeditiously obtain information needed to treat patients in emergency and non-emergency situations, and, in such instances, the BMPs should explicitly state that the recipient of that information is not required to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Recommendation 2.5: The BMPs should prohibit the use of non-disclosure agreements between drillers and landowners that restrict the ability of parties to disclose environmental or health issues associated with natural gas production.

(3)  These BMPs would allow dangerous increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

These BMPs would allow for dangerous increases in methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas that will cause 21 times as much warming as an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period. Climate change contributes to a number of harms to health, including dangerous heat waves, extreme weather events, increases in the range of diseases, decreases in food production, and more.  While the BMPs make a number of recommendations on steps to reduce methane leakage, they do not prohibit methane venting and do not explicitly require a zero percent methane leakage rate.

Recommendation 3.1: These BMPs should require zero percent methane leakage.
Because of the wide-range of health and environmental impacts associated with the extraction of natural gas from shale formations, we would like to highlight our request that MDE and DNR allow the public to comment on a final draft of the BMPs, which should only be issued after completion of the health study and risk assessment.  This will allow our Chapter to make more informed comments on all aspects of the BMPs in light of the findings of those• two studies. While we recognize that these BMPs contain a number of improvements on the practices that are occurring in many other states, they are not currently based on sound science and will require significant revisions for the state to achieve the goals set forth in Governor O'Malley's Executive Order to protect the public's health.
On behalf of the more than 500 health professionals who live and practice in Maryland, thank you for considering the comments of the Chesapeake Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

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1.  Even if the fossil energy in the Maryland Marcellus Shale could be extracted at zero cost, and with no local damage, we should not allow it to be extracted.   

2.  Why not?  Because if it is used, it will add to atmospheric carbon dioxide, and hence accelerate the sea-level, and hence Bay-level, rise. 

3.  A vote for Marcellus Shale extraction is a vote for Bay-level rise.  It is as simple as that. 

4.  O.K.  You can argue "but the direct effect of the Maryland shale-oil and -gas, would be very small, maybe less than an inch", true enough, but the problem is the indirect effect of failing to oppose fossil fuel use.  A clear priority for Marylanders should surely be to slow-down and minimize Bay-level rise.  If we allow new fossil fuel production in Maryland, this is a signal that fossil fuel production is O.K. (world wide) ..... It obviously is not O.K.  (Hopefully everyone on the Commission has seen Prof. David Walsall's video "Arctic Dynamics..." at apollo-gaia.org, that estimates the arctic will have its first ice-free day (no solid ice, just ice-bergs) in 2014 to 2016.  If anyone has not seen it, (it is only 40 minutes) I urge you to do so.)  While the arctic ice sheet was melting, it had no effect on  sea level, but once the melting focuses on terrestrial ice, sea level (and hence Bay-level) will be affected.   

5.  When all terrestrial ice has been melted, sea level will by 240 feet higher than today (at even 6" per year this will take almost 500 years).  It boggles the mind that Marylander's do not seem to see this threat as the primordial policy problem for Maryland (and even appointing a Commission to see if this could be accelerated!).  

6.  I know "economic benefits" are claimed by the fracking protagonists, I have difficulty in believing that property owners who sell their mineral rights for $100,000 will not find the value of their property has decline more than this due to fracking.  Similarly any payments to local authorities are unlikely to cover road and other infra-structure damage.  A few jobs (most of them temporary) seems a poor bargain for destruction of potable water supplies for the general population.

7.  Basically this is a scheme where the benefits will be enjoyed out-of-state, while the costs will be born in-state. 

8.  I have not focused on required safeguards, because the whole scheme is basically a bad idea. 

9.  Again if you have not seen Prof. David Wasdell's presentation, please take time to see it:  Believe me, Bay-level rise is coming shortly to the Bay.    

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 I am concerned about the fracking “Best Management Practices” report released by state agencies in June.  Please do a Risk Analysis!  Please put in place policies that will protect our health as people, and the health of the land!  In the long term, these actions will reflect on you, and are a chance for you to make a difference in our communities: Maryland has a good reputation for environmental awareness, LETS KEEP IT THAT WAY!

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I do not think the potential benefits of fracking out weigh the dangers. How can anyone pump tanker truck loads of dangerous chemicals into the ground and not have an adverse impact on the environment? This has never been done, so the effects are unknown and the risks are numerous and precarious.

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I am just adding to the many voices concerned about fracking in Maryland. I don't think we know enough about the effects on the environment and people to do so safely. Also, if plans were to move forward anyway with fracking, it should include some sort of safety fund that would go towards those adversely affected by it (for example if there was the fracking equivalent to the BP oil spill). 

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No to Fracking in Maryland!

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The Maryland Environmental Health Network wishes to make the following comments on the draft Best Practices report:

1.  BMPs Should be Based on Identified Risks:  A risk analysis should precede the finalization of the Best Practices report; it is impossible to establish best practices when risks have not been identified. By definition, best practices should be created to address identified or anticipated risks and should be informed by an analysis of which populations, communities, and natural resources will be most likely to be affected (probability of impact) and most affected (severity of impact). This analysis should be Maryland-specific; best practices should be informed by data that is specific to Maryland’s populations, communities, natural resources, geology, and geography.

2.  Appearance of Proceeding with Regulations:  The timing of the Best Practices report is either misleading or a poor investment of state effort in defining a process that may never take place. We are assured that the decision to go forward with unconventional natural gas extraction in Maryland has not been made.   However, issuing the BMP report at this stage in the process suggests that current Maryland leaders plan to go forward and are expediting the creation of a basis for strong regulations. While strong regulations to protect people and places are needed in all industrial endeavors, it is a poor investment of limited state resources to develop BMPs to guide regulations that may never be written for an industrial endeavor that may never take place in Maryland.  The issuing of this report gives the appearance of proceeding with regulations.

3.  Natural Gas Industry Life Cycle Impacts on Maryland:  Any state assessment of best practices and risks should encompass the entire life cycle impact of the natural gas industry including infrastructure development such as construction of pipelines, compressor stations, and export facilities.  While the Commission’s charter is explicitly tied to natural gas production in Maryland, we wish to call attention to the need for clarification of the oversight authority over natural gas infrastructure.  We urge the Commission and the Departments to identify this need publicly and acknowledge its relationship to the Commission’s charge to address “the risks of adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment and natural resources”.

4.  Chemical Toxicity and Disclosure:  A best practice in unconventional hydraulic fracturing of shale rock should include full disclosure of the chemicals and other agents used in the fracking fluids and testing of the fluids before and after injection, to establish toxicity or other harms possible from human or animal contact.  No trade secrets can be justified or tolerated in this instance. 

5.  State Agency Capacity to Implement and Enforce BMPs:  The report contains some recommended practices that are well thought through and which, if adopted and enforced, would set up aggressive safety measures and protections.  However, in the event that Maryland goes forward with natural gas production, state agencies will require new resources to assure that best practices are fully implemented and to monitor the BMPs for on-going compliance and completion. This will require significant additional capacity in state agencies that are already strapped.  Thus a best practice report without a mandate to fund implementation and enforcement does not provide Maryland with adequate protection.

6.  Methane Flaring:  As climate change is one of the greatest threats to human health, and given that Maryland is a leader in setting state goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is inconsistent for Maryland to allow any flaring of methane gas from natural gas wells.   The reported level of methane flaring in other states is alarming and suggest that the industry does not have economic incentives to control loss of product.  Eliminating the escape of any methane from gas wells at any time during construction and production, and from any portion of the transportation and distribution process, should be established as a best practice in Maryland.  Maryland should adopt a requirement for zero leakage of methane resulting from any natural gas related activity.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Best Practices report.   We appreciate the extension of the comment period which afforded us adequate time to become better informed about this report.

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I applaud your work and efforts to create a more equitable playing field for landowners in the powerful arena of the fracking industry, but there are still too many unanswered questions and obvious loopholes that do not give the landowner and his neighbors the protection due them.

I have attended recent meetings about hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in Maryland. I continue to have grave concerns about the potential risks. While I have heard some elected officials say "we have studied this long enough," I contend that while "studying" this subject is absolutely necessary, it is certainly not sufficient.

While Maryland has learned some valuable lessons from our neighboring states that have experienced some tragic results in fracking, learning the lessons and leading the nation in reducing potential for hazards in fracking is not enough. The Draft for Best Management Practices is a good start, but finer tuning is needed to assure that Garrett County residents do not suffer at the hands of the powerful gas industry.

For landowners who do not own mineral rights, their vulnerability is an understatement.  I was pleased to learn at the August 7 meeting that a Surface Owner's Protection Act is being considered. Please be timely and thorough in mandating protection for those landowners who do not own the mineral rights of their land. While I understand this Act would not fall under Best Practices, it is never the less crucial and imperative.

At a recent meeting of the Advisory Committee commissioned by the Governor, I was troubled by a comment someone on the committee made about the vulnerable status of a landowner, should problems occur with fracking. The implication was that the gas industry would have their powerful legal apparatus intact, but the landowner would not have the same ability and means to hire legal assistance.  After more discussion, a committee member acknowledged that if the suggested scenario actually occurred, the landowner better hire an attorney– a "good attorney," and then this comment was followed by laughter. Such behavior on this serious, potentially far-reaching financial and environmental devastation for the landowner is not only unprofessional but seems to acknowledge the vulnerability – and disrespects and makes fun of –landowners.

Forced pooling has long been worrisome to me, so I was greatly relieved to hear at the August 7 meeting that Maryland is not considering this practice as an option. Thank you!  I contend that forced pooling is not only grossly unfair, but also unethical.

I am greatly disturbed by the proposed setback regulation.  Given that Pennsylvania reports that in the first year alone there is a 7.2% failure rate on well casings, there is much, much more needing to be done regarding well casing integrity to assure protection for landowners and their neighbors.  What is the rational for drafting and proposing differing distances of setbacks for private drinking water wells and municipal water supplies?  If the rationale were simply because of Dr. Eshleman’s recommendation, then there would really be no need for the Advisory Committee to exist. Given that a recent study (per Citizen Shale) "concludes that contamination can occur as far away as 3,280 feet from gas development,"  how can you in good conscience hold that 300 feet from waterways, 1,000 feet from private wells, and 2,000 feet from public water supplies is safe for our citizens and our environment?  1 am wary that the power and politics of the gas industry influences you more than you admit or even are aware of.  Please, I implore, require 3,300 setbacks in all three scenarios.

There is a verse in the Bible that reminds us, "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" I ask you to consider what we in Garrett County will profit if our water, our air, our landscape, and our peace and quiet is sacrificed for financial gain. Financial gain, no matter how great, cannot buy a wholesome lifestyle and the preservation of our treasured rural legacy and precious natural resources.

 

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The proposed 1000' and 2000' drinking water setbacks in the draft Best Management Practice are not enough.  Based on evidence of methane, ethane, and propane contamination documented by Duke University researchers in June 2013, MDE and DNR should increase the proposed setbacks to 3,300 feet.

All drinking water setbacks in the Best Management Practices report should be increased to 3,300 feet.

Additionally, the vast majority of water contamination from gas drilling has come from fugitive methane, liberated during the drilling process far below the water-bearing strata; yet, time and again, the methane follows fissures in the earth or escapes due to errors in well construction, and reaches the water supply.

Once contaminated, underground water sources are very difficult -- often impossible -- to rehabilitate. This forces those affected to rely on potable water supplied by industry, which frequently fights such orders and often succeeds in ending water deliveries. Alternately, companies may agree to install filtering systems, which often simply do not work.

Fugitive methane in concentrations associated with contamination is explosive and poisonous.

Most people in Garrett County and western Allegany County depend on underground water supplies. Contamination of rural springs and wells may seriously reduce a property's value, or even render it worthless and un-sellable.

Rural property owners who may not benefit in any way monetarily from a well being drilled near them are essentially innocent by-standers who will be required to fight the industry and state regulators for mitigation.

Forcing victimized citizens to fight for an obvious human right, due to industrial activity legally permitted by the state, represents an enormous subsidy to industry. If, as the industry and its supporters are fond of saying, the nation as a whole benefits from increased fossil fuel supplies, those in gas "sacrifice zones" should be protected, rather than subjected to fighting with some of the largest corporations in the world for their very survival.

The most effective way to reduce our society's need to mitigate the effects of shale gas development is to not do it too close to other people -or their water.


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 There needs to be a Surface Owners Protection Act in place before drilling starts in Maryland.  The Act needs to be comprehensive and address reasonable and fair consideration for the surface owner, with monetary compensation commensurate with the highest possible loss the surface owner could suffer as a result of drilling practices and drilling malpractices.  The consideration for problems that are caused by drilling that will be discovered only as a matter of time need to be included.
 
If drilling is allowed in Maryland, then enforcement of best practices and laws need to be guaranteed.  A generous portion of the cost of the permit should be dedicated towards funding possible enforcement actions.  In addition, the cost of the permit should increase each year to maintain enough revenue for oversight.

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Structure the permit fee to include ample resources for enforcement of the law/best practices.

Stipulate an annual, or periodic, automatic increase in permit fee to cover increasing costs of operation for oversight of the companies drilling in Maryland.

Require a robust surface owners protection act be in place prior to the approval of drilling in Maryland.

Allow for the non-approval of permits.  Do not let the process be a rubber stamp for eventual approval for drilling companies.

If the company is required to submit a plan for up to 5 years for approval for a permit, the permit should be in effect for 5 years, not the 10 years as stated in the report.

No waivers should be allowed to the 1000 feet rule for water wells on private property unless the surface owner is also the mineral rights owner.

As to notification requirements, when the drilling company has to notify the surface owners, and the surface owners are part of a Home Owners Association, does the company have to notify the individual home owners or just the Board members of the Home Owners Association?

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I own a home in Garrett County adjacent to the state forest through which flows Maryland’s first “Wild and Scenic River,” the Youghiogheny River. I am just upstream from Swallow Falls and Swallow Falls State Park. For twenty years we have been swimming, fishing and paddling our beloved river and visiting the wonderful state park there to enjoy its beauty. There is a farm right across the river from us and across the road from Swallow Falls State Park. The owner of the farm agreed to lease drilling rights to a natural gas hydraulic fracturing company and I am terribly concerned about the health of my family and the health of our wonderful ecosystem if hydraulic fracturing does come to Western Maryland. I am also concerned for my fellow citizens in Garrett County who will have to live with the fear that comes with such risky extraction processes and who may suffer the consequences when problems arise with well casings, wastewater containment, storage, and disposal, and methane emissions.

I am appalled that the Commission, the DNR and MDE are now examining best management practices without conducting a variety of risk analyses. The experience of other states, most notably our neighboring state to the north, Pennsylvania, makes it clear that hydraulic fracturing presents a significant risk to the environment, to people’s health and safety, and to the future economy and prosperity of the region. There are real and troubling risks involved! How can we be identifying best management practices without identify the risks involved? This is very troubling indeed, and appears from the outside to be putting business opportunity and political ambitions ahead of scientific evidence and the protection of Garrett County residents and visitors.

Below, I will identify some specific concerns I have regarding the Best Management Practices Report that is currently under review:

1. With the vast majority of drinking water in Garrett County coming from private wells, how can you declare it is acceptable that setbacks for private wells be 1000 feet while municipal wells have setbacks of 2000 feet? This amounts to a declaration that a few families are expendable but we ought not harm an entire community. Of course, even this recommendation suggests that there are, in fact, risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. But again, where is the scientific risk analysis? Based on available evidence of methane, ethane, and propane contamination documented by Duke University researchers in June 2013, MDE and DNR should increase the proposed setbacks for private wells and municipal water facilities to 3,300 feet.

2. I live adjacent to a river canyon and can show you how and where a simple tire track off the side of a road, can become a channel through which rain finds its way to an underground spring or drainage field that eventually finds its way to a creek and a river. I consider the 300 foot setback from waterways to be highly problematic and, I have to believe, an arbitrary and uninformed criterion for ecosystem protection. It amounts
to a virtual guarantee that when well casings fail (and, again, it is just a fact that a percentage will fail), springs and streams will inevitably be contaminated with pollutants flowing to major rivers like the Youghiogheny or Savage Rivers.

In closing, I will repeat how appalling it is to be considering these practices prior to scientific risk analyses being conducted. That the state is moving down this path absent the safety and health assurances that our Governor previously promised, is a clear indication that the interests of the international corporate gas industry are more important to the Governor and many Maryland politicians than are the health and safety of its citizens.  This will be remembered.

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1.  All BMPs of setbacks from “occupied building” should be changed to property line.

RATIONALE – Rural areas are sparsely populated and have more land parcels than occupied buildings. Setbacks are more appropriately set from property boundaries to afford equal protection to all landowners, regardless of the extent of the current development and use of their property. Setbacks from property lines are the standard approach in almost all land use regulations.

2.  Compressor station setbacks should be from property lines.

RATIONALE – As drafted, the BMPs provide a 0’ setback from property lines. This creates a safety issue for the adjoining property owner who does not have the benefit of an “occupied building” on their land or near their property line, precluding the peaceful and safe use of their property, as well as limiting future improvement and development of their property.

3.  Provide a BMP setback for pipes, tanks, valves, and related infrastructure after drilling.

RATIONALE – This infrastructure presents significant safety, health and environmental hazards should failure or accidents occur. For example, as recently as last week a landslide in Wetzel County, WV caused a gas pipeline leak which spilled into a stream. Earlier in August, a gas pipeline explosion on Illinois caused the evacuation of more than 75 families in a one mile radius.

Maryland’s proposed 0’ setback provides no environmental or public safety protections for these long term gas infrastructure risks.  To the extent that these regulatory issues are not in the purview of the MDE or DNR, the Commission should issue a strong statement calling for these to be developed in Maryland, by the appropriate entity, and that no drilling should occur until such time as these protections are put in place.

4.   Regulatory gaps – MDE and DNR, working with Garrett and Allegany counties, should evaluate the BMPs and identify gaps that would create regulatory needs on the part of local or other jurisdictions. This should be part of MDE’s overall report.

5.   The BMPs provide minimum setbacks for public drinking water protection - only public groundwater wells or surface water intakes have setbacks. Public drinking water source areas outside of the intake or well setback zone receive only the 300’ aquatic habitat setback.

The 2000’ public drinking water supply setback should also apply to public drinking water tributary streams and impoundment borders. For example, Broadford Lake’s public water intake is more than 1 mile from the mouth of one major tributary.  Gas lease sites were recorded just outside of the impoundment’s boundary and actually straddle this tributary stream.

RATIONALE – Contamination risks apply to all tributaries and aquifers that supply public drinking water. The 2000’ setback should apply to all public drinking water sources and tributaries. Garrett County officials recognized this hazard when the matter was discussed by the local advisory committee. Drilling near impoundments and tributaries requires the maximum protection possible to protect the drinking water supply of thousands of people.

Garrett County’s public drinking water supplies come from a variety of sources – stream intakes, impoundments and wells. For example, the towns of Friendsville and Oakland use the Youghiogheny River as a public drinking water source. Setback protections from the main stem of the Youghiogheny River upstream from Friendsville and Oakland should be the most stringent – 2000’ as a drinking water source and not the 300’ aquatic habitat standard.

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I attended A First Sunday event in Annapolis in July and was conducting a survey on potential Hydraulic Fracturing or "Fracking" in Maryland for Chesapeake Climate. I was amazed by the number of people who knew about "Fracking" and opposed it for Maryland. I spoke with visitors from PA who were adamant. They told me to tell our governor to prevent this practice in MD so we do not have the problems that the people (and farmers) are now having in PA.  They said that Chesapeake Energy misrepresented the risks of allowing fracking on the land and emphasized the money to be made by signing a lease to "frack" on the land.  Now many of these farmers have land that is useless for farming and worthless to sell as there is no viable water on the land.  This is a serious consequence to the lessee and prospective lessees should have the full force of the law behind them. This is just one consequence of "Fracking" that I learned about as I talked to people attending the fair.  I also spoke with attendees from New York who said they are fighting "fracking” in their state now.

PLEASE, do the research before MDE tries to "manage" the risks!

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As a Marylander concerned about fracking, I submit these comments in reference to the fracking "Best Management Practices" report released by state agencies in June.

This report makes a mockery of the responsibility our Governor and legislature have to give due weight to the many known and inevitable environmentally destructive effects of fracking. This irreparable harm to our environment cannot be "managed." That term is ludicrous to apply. I believe the so-called study's findings are inadequate and the report is both premature and inappropriate. The purpose of the Governor's fracking Commission is to determine "whether or how" fracking can happen without "unacceptable risks" in Maryland. And yet, the state has done no risk analysis whatsoever. The Commission should immediately and thoroughly analyze the many well-known and well-documented risks of fracking before taking any action that might open the door to his despicable and ruinous activity.

And then, if it can ever be shown that it is appropriate to discuss "Best Management Practices" for fracking in Maryland, any such recommendations must:

  1. Protect the climate: Require gas companies to meet a zero percent leakage rate for methane throughout the fracking process. That is "ZERO." Any leakage is a show-stopper, period.
  2. Protect our water: Require gas companies to complete Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans that completely contain toxic run off and erosion. No "mitigation" or "minimization" weasel-wording.
  3. Protect our health and safety: Fracking should be prohibited at any location that also is a source of water for human and animal consumption. Setbacks for well pads and infrastructure from private and public water wells, homes, schools, and office buildings should be at least 3,500 feet.

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In addition to the comments above [a form email], I would like to state that I am originally from Williamsport PA.  Many of my friends from high school and college still live back there and many of them work for the fracking companies in north entrap and northeast PA.  The big lure for them was the employment. When they signed up they were getting paid better than the jobs that heir degrees got them. Better benefits too.  Now just four years later, they are worried that any day they will be losing their jobs.  All the wells are dug, there isn't much too do now. My friends thought they were being smart by getting into maintenance of the wells figuring that would be long term.  That doesn't seem to be the case.  There is a need for some maintenance, but not nearly as many maintenance workers as there currently are in PA.

My point is that debates like these always come down to the environment versus money.... The environment doesn't have the best winning percentage in that fight. Here in MD, like in PA, the promise of money is a ruse. With MD having the option to export the natural gas through cove point, MD is proposing to pillage the land in order to export it's resources overseas so that a small few can get rich.  Fracking is obviously detrimental to the environment, but it is also detrimental to the long term economy of the area.... Except for a small few who will reap the enormous benefits.

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As a Marylander concerned about fracking, I submit these comments in reference to the fracking "Best Management Practices" report released by state agencies in June.  First of all, I believe the timing of the study is premature and inappropriate. The purpose of the Governor's fracking Commission is to determine "whether or how" fracking can happen without "unacceptable  risks" in Maryland. And yet, the state has done no risk analysis whatsoever. The Commission should immediately and thoroughly analyze the many risks of fracking before taking any other action.

And then, if it becomes relevant to discuss "Best Management Practices" for fracking in Maryland, any such recommendations must:

  1. Protect the climate: Require gas companies to meet a zero percent leakage rate for methane throughout the fracking process.
  2. Protect our water: Require gas companies to complete Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans that severely limit toxic run off and erosion.
  3. Protect our health and safety: Setbacks for well pads and infrastructure from private and public water wells, rivers, creeks, homes, schools, and office buildings should be at least 4,500 feet.

If these studies are not done and evaluated then fracking should not be
allowed in Maryland.

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In the face of so many severe environmental challenges Maryland has often stepped up. Let's not go the route of Pennsylvania- unlimited drilling, widespread pollution, little or no reward for the people or the state.

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Only by setting very strict standards and vigorously enforcing them can Maryland hope to avoid the severe negative environmental impacts that have plagued every state in our nation where fracking has been allowed.

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Haven't we learned enough from the mistakes of others who have embraced fracking only to regret it?  How much more abuse at our hands can the earth tolerate?

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I do not think Maryland should even consider fracking.  There have been health problems in every area where it is currently being practiced.

I do not want to be able to set fire to my water.  Until the Oil companies tell us what they are putting in the water, this should not be considered.

Did we spend all these years cleaning up the bay only to destroy it.  It will be worse after fracking than it ever was before.

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With apologies to Woody Guthrie‏:

This land was your land This land was my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was ruined for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that smog filled skyway:
I saw below me that burned out valley:
This land was ruined for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the strip mined mountains of her majesty;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land will be taken from you and me.

When Big Oil came fracking, and I was choking,
And the wheat fields dying and the dust clouds hanging,
As the water was poisoned a voice was chanting:
This land was ruined for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And at the top it said "No Trespassing."
And on the bottom it said some legalese ,
That sign was foisted on you and me.

In the shadow of the Capital I saw our senators,
Glad-handing one another and smiling smugly;
As they stood there happy, I stood there asking
Where is the land made for you and me?

Our congressional representatives
And our recent commanders in chief;
Have stolen our heritage just like a thief
This land was raped for Big Oil profits.

From Alaskan drilling to deforestation,
To the Keystone XL pipeline
And fracking throughout the country
This land was ruined for you and me.

Please don't allow this highly toxic process to take place in our state of Maryland.  The fragile ecosystems, including the Chesapeake Bay, will not be able to overcome the detrimental effects of the pumping of millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the earth.  The hue and cry from the public will never cease when our drinking water is no longer potable!

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Require companies to disclose EVERYTHING that is in the fracking solution.  They have been injecting tons of hazardous waste into our aquifers under the guide of "trade secrets."  This is criminal fraud.

###

  1. Protect our air - compression stations create toxic air that has been linked to illness.
  2. Provide for disposal of the water that returns from the well – laden with sand, antibiotics, salts and sometimes radioactive material from miles down in the earth.
  3. Drilling companies should have to purchase the surface water used – much of this water does not return to the surface water cycle.
  4. An economic study should be done regarding the loss in home values in areas where fracking occurs.

 

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Fracking poses real threats to the health and safety of those who live in areas where this practice is used.  It is also a threat to the climate of our planet.

###

I realize fracking is a touchy political issue.  This is where Gov O'Malley has earned my respect for his courage to do difficult things like support offshore wind.  Perhaps this is a tactical move by the Administration but ultimately Maryland must require credible research that answers the serious questions about fracking before approving or rejecting it in Maryland.

Fracking seems on the verge of becoming credible among the vast unwary as America's energy salvation.  That is frightening considering the numerous and troubling unanswered questions that remain.  Be strong, act with integrity, get credible answers and then decide.

###

It's really time to stop going after fossil fuels that are getting dirtier and dirtier to extract - it's a dead end.  It's time to put our money & time on building renewable energy sources - and jobs there have a future.

###

Fracking creates undeniable dangers, including (a) poisoning ground water in drinking wells, (b) polluting streams that flow into our rivers and the Chesapeake, (c) release of methane gases and (d) subsidence.  The nature and effects of these risks must be fully documented and understood before and "best practices" can be devised to manage them.

The MDE report, thus, is sadly deficient:  it skips over identifying and analyzing the risks.  Instead, the report immediately leaps to "Best Management Practices" for risks that have not even been adequately identified.

Only after properly assessing the inherent risks can MDE determine what safeguards are needed.

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  1. Demand that companies engaged in fracking are financially liable for any and all costs incurred by residents including health expenses, legal fees and loss of property values.
  2. Protect our health and safety: Setbacks for well pads and infrastructure from private and public water wells, homes, schools, and office buildings should be at least 1 mile.
  3. Ban flaring during hours of darkness, and also ban lighting that destroys the night sky.
  4. Require that all compressors and other above ambient levels noise-creating equipment be fully enclosed and muffled to normal are ambient levels.

###

I am very concerned about fracking and want to make these comments as to why I am concerned.

First, according to one researcher a small but meaningful percentage of well sites have casing failures right away and an larger percentage will have casing failures during the lifetime of operation.  As such, any review that claims wells will not fail or that the percentage is so small as to not be a problem are misleading.  Even a 5% failure when 1000 wells are drilled is a lot of leaking wells and pose a significant health problem.  We need to keep our water, air, and soils healthy and I think that fracking is a real threat to people who live in the areas.

Second, Maryland's extensive coastal regions (Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay) is threatened by rising sea levels as a consequence of rising greenhouse gas emissions. I once thought natural gas would serve as a bridge energy resource allowing more time to transition away from fossil fuels; but from what I read the methane release from natural gas fracking wells means they are not a benefit at all; but in fact significantly add
to the greenhouse gas amounts.  Fracking for natural gas is not part of the solution to global warming but is part of the problem.

I know there is a lot of pressure to approve fracking because there is a lot of money to be made by the fracking industry; but the well being of the people should not be put at risk.  I urge you to stand firm against the big money interests and do what is best for we the people.

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No fracking! No fracking! No fracking! No fracking!

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The standard email follows - but I want to add the following first:

If fracking were ever allowed in Maryland, it would not only have to respond to the critical points made below [protect the climate; protect our water; protect our health and safety], but also be understood as a necessary evil while we build that bridge to sustainable energy. Therefore any and all fracking companies that may be allowed to do business in MD should have to contribute substantially to a fund that helps significantly increase our renewable energy portfolio. That way at the very least the damage that fracking will inevitably do every step of the way will pave a path toward a green, healthy environment, economy and future.

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First, fracking has been shown to be polluting to water, air and soil. Second, it has caused health problems for people living in the vicinity of its being used.  Third, the use of fossil fuel resources is the wrong way for our nation to grow its energy supplies.  Please do not allow fracking in Maryland.

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Each Commission member should watch "GASLAND 1 & 2' on HBO, then their decision would be Hell No.  Learn from other states on what happened to citizens who signed up for Fracking.

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The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) is the trade association representing the manufacturers of heavy-duty trucks as well as engines that are used to power a variety of mobile and stationary equipment such as trucks and buses, nonroad construction and farm equipment, marine vessels, locomotives, stationary generators, and lawn, garden, and utility equipment. EMA represents our 28 member companies on issues related to emissions and safety with the US Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and federal and state legislative and regulatory bodies.

With reference to the draft report regarding best practices for Marcellus Shale Drilling, EMA member companies manufacture the engines that power the drilling and finishing equipment as well as the gas pipeline compression stations, construction equipment, and on-highway trucks that would be used throughout the State of Maryland. Consequently, any policy decisions, best practices, permit requirements, or regulations developed to address Marcellus Shale drilling that affects the use of such equipment will impact EMA member companies.

EMA has reviewed the draft report, particularly Section VI regarding Engineering, Design, and Environmental Controls, and has the following comments on the report for incorporation into the final document.

1. Engines operating on a site for less than 12 months are federally-defined as nonroad mobile engines, and Maryland is pre-empted by the Clean Air Act from imposing any emission standards on those engines.

Part J (4) (e) of Section VI of the draft report states that engines that power equipment or electrical generators that do not stay on site for more than 12 months are required to comply with the requirements of 40 CFR 60 Subpart IIII or Subpart JJJJ. Quite simply, federal law and US EPA regulations define any engine or equipment that remains at a site for less than 12 months as a nonroad, mobile source engine and not a stationary engine. The State of Maryland is preempted from regulating nonroad engines by Section 209(e) of the Clean Air Act. Consequently, the State cannot define, as proposed in this section, nonroad engines as stationary engines or require compliance to Subpart IIII or JJJJ since those standards apply only to stationary internal combustion engines.

Emissions levels from all nonroad engines are regulated by US EPA nonroad, mobile source emissions limits. Section 209(e) of the Clean Air Act preempts any state from regulating emissions from both new and non-new nonroad engines and equipment. The Clean Air Act defines nonroad engine as:
An internal combustion engine (including fuel system) that is not used in a motor vehicle or a vehicle used solely for competition or that is not subject to standards promulgated under Section 111 (stationary source regulations) or Section 202 (on-highway vehicles).

EPA further clarifies the definition of nonroad engine in relation to stationary sources in the regulations governing emissions of nonroad vehicles in 40 CFR 1068.30 as follows:
(1)        (i) It is (or will be) used in or on a piece of equipment that is self-propelled or serves a dual purpose by both propelling itself and performing another function (such as garden tractors, off-highway mobile cranes and bulldozers)

            (ii) It is (or will be) used in or on a piece of equipment that is intended to be propelled while performing its function (such as lawnmowers and string trimmers)

            (iii) By itself or in or on a piece of equipment, it is portable or transportable, meaning designed to be and capable of being carried or moved from one location to another. Indicia of portability include, but are not limited to, wheels, skids, carrying handles, dolly, trailer, or platform.
(2) An internal combustion engine is not a nonroad engine if it meets any of the following criteria:

            (i) . . .

            (ii) . . .

            (iii) The engine otherwise included in paragraph (1) (iii) of this definition remains or will remain at a location for more than 12 consecutive months or for a shorter period of time for an engine located at a seasonal source. A location is any single site at a building, structure, facility, or installation. . .

Based on the above US EPA definitions, any piece of equipment used in drilling operations that remains at a site for less than 12 months is clearly a nonroad engine under federal law. The State of Maryland, or any government subdivision within the State, is preempted from imposing any restrictions or more stringent emissions standards on any nonroad piece of equipment or engine.

Part J(4)(e) of Section VI needs to be removed from the final report since Maryland cannot impose any restrictions or permit conditions on nonroad equipment used at Marcellus sites. The federal preemption provision applies to both new and non-new nonroad equipment.

2. The final report should not mandate the use of electrical powered equipment or designate a preferred fuel source for engine-powered equipment.

Section VI. E.1 addresses the recommendation of the UMCES-AL Report that Maryland require the use of electrically-powered equipment whenever electric power from the gird could be made available. In addition, the report states that there should be a preference of natural gas or propane-fueled equipment. EMA comments that owners and operators need to have the flexibility to use the equipment best designed for the task and opposes a mandate to only use electrically-powered equipment or gaseous-fueled equipment. Other important factors such as safety, power, efficiency, availability, reliability, and cost-effectiveness need to be considered when selecting the equipment to be used.

First and foremost, the owner or operator needs to be able to select equipment at drill sites and other facilities that are capable of completing the task at hand. In many cases, heavy-duty equipment with sufficient power, torque and reliability is needed for drilling and finishing operations in order to get the job done, and to do so in an efficient manner. In many cases, the electrically-powered equipment needed to get the job done may not be available.

Second, as mentioned by the Department, the environmental impacts and cost of bringing electrical power to remote drilling sites are likely to be significant. The environmental impacts of siting and adding new power lines are likely to be larger and more permanent than using self-powered equipment at the site. Issues associated with rights-of-way, adjacent property owners, vegetation disturbance and aesthetic impacts of power lines will be significant and will only serve to increase costs and delay project start-ups.

Third, today’s nonroad and stationary engines and equipment emit very low emissions with Tier 4 compliant equipment producing over 90% fewer emissions compared to just several years ago. As a result, owners and operators can utilize equipment designed to complete a task efficiently while minimizing on-site emissions. Furthermore, today’s diesel-powered compression ignition engines emit at levels comparable to, or even lower than, comparable engines powered by natural gas or propane. With the options available for today’s very low emission engines, there is no need for the Department to require grid-based electrical power or gaseous-fueled powered equipment. There is no need for the Department to further restrict or limit the choice of equipment available to owners and operators at drilling sites or other facilities.

3. All on-highway and nonroad vehicles are already required to use ultralow-sulfur diesel fuel, so Section IV.J.4.a should be removed as unnecessary.

US EPA regulations already require the use of ULSD fuel by on-highway, nonroad, and stationary compression ignition engines. Those requirements have been in place since 2007 for on-highway vehicles and are now effective for nonroad vehicles as well. There is no need for Section IV.J.4.a, and it should be removed from the final report.

EMA appreciates the opportunity to submit comments on the draft report. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding the EMA comments or if there are other issues regarding on-highway, nonroad or stationary equipment that you wish to discuss.

###

We've read the letters and opinions that extol the practice of fracking and how it benefits the people and that there is no danger at all. They were from the oil and gas people and fracking is there business.

We've read the letters and opinions of people who have had their wells contaminated, etc. by fracking. They were against fracking.

###

PLEASE take the time to do this right!!  Our futures in Maryland depend on your integrity and thoroughness.

 

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We must be sure that our ground water will not be contaminated.  Our Chesapeake Bay is at further risk as well.  Fracking has not been studied enough to ensure either of these two things.

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Watch GASLAND 1& 2 for real info

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Personally I feel that fracking should be banned everywhere!

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AND WE WANT TO SEE ALL THE RESULTS FROM GROUND WATER TESTING, WELL TESTING, TOTAL TESTING OF LOCAL STREAMS, PARKING LOT RUN OFF COMPARED TO WAY BEFORE FRACKING.  COMPLETE STUDIES ON ALL PEOPLE LIVING IN THE AREA DRINKING, BATHING, FISHING, ETC. IN THE WATER.

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As a resident of Maryland, I urge you to reject the deeply flawed fracking "best management practices" plan that supports the natural gas industry's aims and would pave the way for fracking in Maryland.

The O'Malley administration recently released the "Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Best Management Plan," bringing us one step closer to allowing fracking in Maryland.

It is appalling that the administration is set on moving forward so quickly without even examining the impacts that drilling and fracking would have on Maryland's public health and economy. It seems as though the administration has already made up its mind to allow fracking in Maryland.

Several aspects of the report -- which cater directly to the gas industry -- are particularly troubling:

1) The report does little to address how fracking wastewater will be disposed of in Maryland. In other states that fail to regulate wastewater disposal, the underground injection of this toxic fluid has been linked to earthquakes and contaminated drinking water.

2) The state will not require that multiple companies submit comprehensive drilling plans together; rather, it will "encourage" them to work together on drawing up their plans. Asking the gas industry to voluntarily work together and share information about its drilling sites does nothing to guarantee that the public's interest is taken into account during planning.

3) The report also rejects a proposal by one of its own scientists to limit fracking to only 1-2% of Maryland's land surface. No new cap on fracking has been set, likely because the gas industry has intentions to expand fracking to the Eastern Shore, Annapolis, Montgomery County and other regions.

I urge you to protect your Maryland constituents by ending this process altogether and banning hydraulic fracturing in our state.

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A “designated agency” would be set up and maintained through the county or state government for permit issuance, reporting purposes, inspections, and legal action.  All of which would be considered a reimbursable fee to the shale fracking/drilling companies reimbursed on a monthly basis.

If at any time, a land owner wants to cancel their contract, they can.  Even if it is after the company has begun drilling.

Trucks cannot haul anything except during the following times:  8:30 AM-4:30 PM, as not to disrupt the peace of the local community and provide safe travel for school buses.  In addition, the trucks cannot travel through sensitive areas, such as towns and schools, because of hazardous risks.

There cannot be any Non-disclosure agreements with families or governments that have been affected by the drilling.

Any illnesses resulting from the shale fracking/drilling companies for families, and employees of the shale fracking/drilling company, must be reported to the “designated agency.”  All information regarding hazards, illnesses, contamination, road spills, etc. will be a part of public record and maintained by the “designated agency”.

Inspectors are to be hired by our county or state government, through the “designated agency” and the funds to pay for their salaries and benefits are to be reimbursed by the shale fracking/drilling companies on a monthly basis through an invoice provided by the “designated agency.”  This also includes any fees incurred, such as mileage, maintaining and office, etc.  The shale fracking/drilling companies may not be or hire their own inspectors to report to the permitting “designated agency”.

All chemicals that are to be used must be submitted to the “designated agency” prior to permit issuance.  These chemicals cannot include contaminates that would affect any aquifers, rivers, wells, or public drinking water or cause cancers or illnesses.  All of these chemicals will be a matter of public record.  Inspectors will test the chemicals on a bi-monthly basis to ensure hazardous chemicals are not being used by the shale fracking/drilling companies.

All legal fees acquired by a landowner, affected party, or the government will be reimbursed by the shale fracking/drilling companies for any reason.
The Clean Water & Clean Air Act should not be compromised and should be enacted as a part of the Best Practices Policy, even though they have been exempt in other states.  In addition, water usage by the shale fracking/drilling company cannot affect the flow of natural rivers, aquifers, or streams.   Drought considerations will be adhered to as designated by the “designated agency,” in regards to usage.

Our county, state and federal lands and resources cannot be used to drill by the fracking/gas companies, in order to preserve nature, protect our wildlife, and the water that flows through it.

Fracking and or drilling cannot take place within 200 yards of any private well or public water sanitation areas.

Fracking underground of personal property without their express written permission of the landowner, would not be permitted.  In addition, that landowner would also receive a royalty fee from the company and eligible to make claims against the shale fracking/drilling companies, if warranted.

All clean-up will be provided by the fracking/gas drilling company within 3 months of vacating any site.   In addition, the shale fracking/drilling company will be held completely responsible for expenses relating to the clean-up and maintenance of any capped well that may later leak after being closed, as well as any other issues resulting from this leak.  There will be no time limit on this maintenance.  A designated trust fund is to be set aside to cover these expenses and is to be used only for the purpose of maintaining closed wells.  This amount will be provided by the “designated agency.”

Any and all hazards, such as well contamination, explosions, death, crop destruction/contamination, hazardous fuel transportation accidents, business loss, etc. that are directly associated with fracking/drilling will be paid for by the company.  This includes, but is not limited to emergency personnel costs, funeral costs, loss of income, land devaluation, legal fees, injuries, and any costs associated with the hazard.

All legal hearings related to fracking/drilling will be held in the court system of that county.  However, if it involves federal issues, it may be heard in the federal court system.

Contracts that have already been signed, will also adhere to the Best Practices Policy and any legal rights therein.

Any intimidation or bribes on the part of the shale fracking/drilling companies or their subsidiaries will result in a direct cancellation of permits immediately and in the future.  In addition, steep fines will be placed on the shale fracking/drilling company, along with possible incarceration of any and all parties involved in the intimidation or bribe.

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My name is _________. I live at _____ Old Morgantown Rd West in Friendsville Md. with my wife ______. We own, I say own, NO DEBT, a small 3.5 acre home across the road from a proposed frack site. I believe one of the first sites to be drilled in Maryland. Another words one of the guinea pigs in one of the sacrifice zones the state of Maryland is proposing. I am not thrilled with that possibility. You will be directly affecting our quality of life here in a negative way. I guess you can call it takin' one for the team. I moved to Western Maryland in 1981 to take advantage of the awesome opportunities the clean, wild mountains had to offer. Garrett County was a different place back then. I watched it change from a small, rural community of hard working modest people to another extension of wealthy, second home tourists changing the whole character of the county. Now you want to industrialize what is left of that original part of the county while protecting the areas around Deep Cr Lake where the wealthy second homes are. We live a simple but very satisfying life here. I am not at all happy about taking one for the team by destroying my way of life to provide more energy so those with money can heat their massive second homes. DO NOT FRACK IN MARYLAND!

I have attended meetings about drilling for Marcellus Shale gas, the most recent just this week at Allegany College in Cumberland.  It is important to look at Best Practices, should drilling occur in Maryland, but unless we know what the risks are, how can we know what should be established as Best Practice?  In every meeting where reports are given, the language says, "We will do . . .." or "We will recommend . . .."  I do not hear that "IF fracking is allowed in Maryland, we will require. . .."    Here I see two major problems:  It appears that the state is assuming that fracking will be done, and it is plain that there are not adequate regulations that can be enforced to ensure the safety of those who live where drilling may occur.
 
I do understand that the focus of the Best Practices study is not on whether fracking can safely be done, but I'm wondering WHY the state is not first requiring a professional risk analysis.  It seems only feasible that risks should first be carefully studied, and that Best Practices would then be established to eliminate those risks.
 
Concerning the BMP Draft Report, one major concern for me is the proposed distances for setbacks.  How was the determination made to have different standards for setbacks for municipal water supplies and individual wells?  Not only does that show a blatant disregard for the safety of individuals who have their own wells, but Duke University's recently released study shows that neither of these setbacks is adequate protection for a water supply.  I ask that the regulation setback be changed to at least 3,300 feet.  The provision which I see (in Section IV of the report) for a waiver "if a well location closer than 1,000 feet is necessary due to site constraints" is also problematic.  That waiver should be removed.  Why grant waivers and bend the rules created for necessary protection?

Issuing fines to a gas company after a well is destroyed does not compensate for poor health or loss of water supply of a town or an individual family; and I wonder how adequate monitoring would be accomplished, let alone the enforcement of regulations.  Simply reporting problems does not eliminate them.

We cannot assume that the gas industry will follow Maryland's recommendations for doing safe drilling.  It is absolutely essential that Maryland take time to study the possible negative effects on our geology, our atmosphere, our health and safety.  Before drilling is allowed, we need specific regulations that can be enforced to ensure quality of life -- and life itself.  At this point we don't have that, even if we follow the recommendations of the current Best Management Practices Draft.
I do appreciate the fact that Maryland is making an effort to avoid some of the horrible consequences of drilling that have occurred in other states.  Thank you for working toward better results for Maryland, but I fear that we are still far from avoiding major problems unless we look more carefully at the risks and find ways to regulate and enforce better practices than we now have on the books.

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Foreword

I have retired from a number of scientific research centers and institutions of higher learning.  They are: The U.S. Geological Survey (15 years as a research hydrologist in the USGS Water Resources Division), the University of California System (6 years as Group Leader of the Geohydrology and Environmental Studies Group, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (6 years as Head of the Geohydraulics Section of the Geomechanics Division of CSIRO – Australia’s premier scientific research institution); University of Nevada, Reno (7 years as Professor of Geosciences and concurrently Director of the Las Vegas Office of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology – which serves as the state geological survey). Fellow of the Geological Society of America; Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Australia (College of Civil Engineers). Only American Honoree among the Shanghai Geological Survey’s “Subsidence Advisors in Perpetuity” (Chinese Geological Survey).  For more information, please refer to Who’s Who in America or Who’s Who in the World

Introduction

Hydraulic fracturing (or hydrofracking) is a decades-old technique and can be used for extracting methane gas from tight geological formations such as shale or coal seams.  In short, the permeability of the host rock is enhanced in order for the trapped resident gas to be released to the land surface.  This is accomplished by introducing such highly pressurized water and additives into a wellbore that the target formation becomes fractured.  This increases the permeability immensely where fractured.  When the water is subsequently depressurized to let the methane escape, solid-particle proppants, which were introduced along with the water, remain behind to keep the fractures propped open, which maintains the immensely enhanced permeability.  Otherwise, the fractures might close upon depressurization and undo the very purpose of the effort.

The disciplines of Geomechanics and Geohydraulics are central to understanding and predicting the initial hydraulic generation and propagation of fractures within the host rock.  Multiphase Flow is central to understanding the initial inrushing movement of the proppants and the subsequent non-movement of proppants in response to depressurization within the newly formed fractures.  Aquifer Mechanics is central to predicting the gradual upward migration of zones of enhanced permeability that will bring methane and possibly other contaminants into the overlying freshwater aquifers.  The author of these Comments is recognized internationally as a leading authority on this interdisciplinary area of inquiry and especially in aquifer mechanics.

General Comment

There is a deafening silence in Maryland’s Best Practices Report (Draft) regarding the likely eventual contamination of fresh-water aquifers by the hydro-geo-mechanisms mentioned above.  For example, Departmental Response 4-K (p. F-10) says that consideration of underground injection wells is deferred because it is not likely that any will be located in Maryland.  This is suicidal.  Hydrofracking wells inherently function as injection wells.  Seismic events may be triggered; chemical pollutants are introduced; there is a powerful hydro-geo-mechanical response as described above. “Hydrofracking” wells might not be included in what gas producers and some agencies may label as “disposing of waste material” type of injection wells where the specified waste material is restricted to that material which is collected at land surface as refuse from a separate and distinct drilling site.  However, the initial response of the subsurface geologic beds to quantifiable injection stresses would be identical.  The likely time-delayed deformational effects on overlying aquifers must be addressed whether the wells inject waste materials in Pennsylvania that are collected at a well site in Maryland or, even more drastically from the mechanics point of view, whether the Maryland wells simply inject water, proppants, and undisclosed chemical additives within a concurrently expanding and extending new fracture at depth.

Section-by-Section Comments

Section III E 4:  "… natural resource mitigation … to address unavoidable impacts."

An item 4b should be added here that 1) discusses the gradual upward migration of newly formed fractures in massive rock and the correlated upward migration of zones of enhanced permeability in saturated particulate-based beds such as aquifers,2) identifies possible mitigation techniques and amelioration responsibility for any polluting effects/events that stem from this gradual, probably unavoidable, and definitely time-delayed process of the upward migration of permeability enhancement, and 3) identifies who should pay for this mitigation or amelioration.  Laboratory tests indicate unequivocally that any slight change of porosity of particulate-based aquifers (sand, clay, sandstone, claystone, etc.) changes the corresponding permeability exponentially.  This enhancement, in turn, directly affects the upward density flow of gas into and through any aquifer towards the land surface and into the overlying atmosphere.
Aquifer mechanics and the upward migration of fractures have been studied, measured, and modeled in the American southwest.  This is because such features and their results are more observable in arid regions.  The water table is often hundreds to thousands of feet below land surface and an upward migration of a crack can be identified through the brittle unsaturated overburden.  Initially, arid zone hydrogeologists borrowed concepts and equations from the mining industry who appropriately use a bending beam analogy.  But a crack in a bending beam that is applicable to underground mines migrates from the top downwards, contrary to hydrogeological observations in the field.  A breakthrough came with the publication of the award winning 1994 paper entitled “Hydraulic forces that play a role in generating fissures at depth” by D.C. Helm, published in the Bulletin of the Association of Engineering Geologists.  These same mechanisms, empirically corroborated in the American southwest, are applicable to hydraulic fracturing anywhere and to the likely unavoidable gradual upward migration of these fractures, especially when proppants remain in place.  Another 1994 paper entitled “Displacement discontinuity modeling of fissuring caused by groundwater withdrawal” by Z.P. Sheng and D.C. Helm and published in the Proceedings of the 8th International Conference of the Association for Computer Methods and Advances in Geomechanics describes the application of a widely-used standard computer code to a case in Arizona where a vertical fracture intercepted the land surface along a line many miles long after having migrated upwards from depth.

It is important that the required microseismic and tiltmeter data gathered early at each well be made available to State authorities, MDE, MDNR, the academic community, and to the general public, along with any interpretations. 
While gathering this microseismic and tiltmeter data, the operator can use other early data in order to determine the principal directions of in situ regional stresses at MDE and MDNR designated locales of interest.  Such a determination can be made by the operator from a well-known standard procedure while inducing an initial or a more modest pre-initial hydraulic fracture.  This information will help greatly to map in advance the direction of fracture propagation induced from any specified horizontal line or vertical borehole.  After reaching a reasonably short distance from the borehole or line, the direction of propagation becomes controlled by the pre-existing regional stress field.

Section IV A:

The “Location restrictions” discussion ignores the effects on wetlands, fresh water aquifers, etc., of the upward migration of induced zones of enhanced vertical permeability. Unfortunately, criteria for “setbacks” are applied only to the pad and to other activities and events taking place at the land surface.  These applications are necessary, but are not sufficient.  Though one can expect historic gas wells (and environs) to mark locations where vertical upward flow of gas and pollutants may occur, they do not mark the only locations where one can expect to find sooner or later zones of enhanced vertical permeability that eventually will reach the land surface and hence will introduce future upward flow of methane gas not only to fresh water aquifers and wetlands, but also to the atmosphere.  One should also consider the effect that formation-to-formation geologic heterogeneities have on the mapping of where zones of enhanced permeability may be expected to migrate. Ditto for the locations and geometries of deep coal mines. 

Item 7)  The currently specified setback from any drinking water well presumes that contamination comes from pollution events that occur at or near the land surface (on the pad, in collection ponds, whatever).  Events that are inevitably occurring beneath the land surface are ignored.  Ignorance is no excuse when protection of natural resources and the health of citizens are involved.

Section V:

Item 1)  Environmental assessments should include the determination of in situ principal stresses and the mapping, specified location by specified location, of the most likely direction(s) of uncontrolled future fracturing and enhanced permeability*.
Item 6)  The upward migration of enhanced permeability* needs to be added.
Item 17)  Ditto.

*The term “permeability” as used in the draft Best Practices Report is defined in terms of the units of speed, namely length/time (L/T).  This (L/T) usage coincides with the definition of the term “hydraulic conductivity” (as used by hydrogeologists) when water is the moving fluid of interest.  The L/T term is actually a hybrid.  A different fluid’s flow relative to the geological frame, such as methane gas, would yield a different value for the L/T term even for the same geological frame.  The term “permeability” is reserved by hydrogeologists for that part of the L/T term that pertains exclusively to the fabric of the frame, whether the frame is geological or a plastic liner.  The units for the geohydrological usage of the term “permeability” are L2 (length squared).  This latter definition is implied in the present Comment whenever the term “permeability” appears.

Section VI:

A) It would be extremely beneficial to select key locations and to test at the field scale if possible for the pre-fracturing vertical permeability of the geological units of interest.

D)  Methane gas WILL enter the drinking water.  The only question is when, where, and at what rate.  The answer to this question is location specific.  Polluting chemicals may well follow the gas.  The physical and chemical characteristics of these pollutants will determine if, when, and where.  For Congress to exclude gas companies from EPA regulations is inexcusable.  It simply means that Maryland must shoulder the responsibility to set and enforce regulations that safeguard the health of citizens, our environment, and our natural resources.

E 5 g)  The statement is too weak.  An experienced and intelligent driller has probably developed his or her own seat-of-the-pants method of estimating answers to (a) through (f) and may be good at it.  If these logs are desired, they should be required.
R)  Responsibility and monitoring of gas and chemical contamination of aquifers should continue for three to five decades after decommissioning of the well.  The entirety of all horizontal lines are likely sources of vertical-flow contamination.  The burden of scientific proof and empirical corroboration lies with the gas company to demonstrate that aquifer pollution will NOT occur over the next several decades due to the gradual upward migration of permeability enhancement.  Opinion or poor physics cannot be tolerated or excused.

Appendix D:

Subsurface constraint factors need to be identified and applied to the upward migration of enhanced permeability.  There is a deafening silence in the current version of the Best Practices Report.

Appendix F:

1-A)  The currently adopted pre-development environmental assessment denotes good preliminary action.  It needs follow-up.  Item-4 measurements, for example, also need to be taken periodically during the production phase and for at least 3 to 5 decades after decommissioning and capping.

1-F)  The recommendation to analyze groundwater flow by developing flow nets is more than useful.  However, it tacitly presumes unchanging flow conditions and therefore is preliminary.   We cannot estimate the response to dynamic events (such as fracking events and also aquifer pumpage by county residents) with static presuppositions.  Depending on the available data, it might, however, give a glimpse into the initial regional groundwater flow conditions and directions. Such a glimpse is highly beneficial but is not sufficient.

Although knowing a sampling of the present quality of water is necessary, the Departments’ apparent response to this recommendation, namely of their apparent emphasis on collecting existing chemical quality data of the groundwater, seems if I am not mistaken to miss altogether the point of this flow-net part of the UMCES-AL recommendations.  If so, missing the point could become a sickening, if not fatal, mistake for some residents of Garrett and Allegany Counties.  The mechanics of changes to groundwater flow is key to the entire enterprise of safeguarding the health of citizens and trying to maintain the integrity of our fragile environment.  Changes to the quality of water cannot be foreseen or forestalled if the directions and timings of groundwater flow remain unknown and ignored even by the State. Actual measurements and knowledge of already changed chemicals in the water are necessary, but such knowledge may be too late to affect a timely response.  Aquifer amelioration, if possible, in response to such knowledge may be too expensive.  Accurate and informed modeling of future changing flow patterns is not only critical, it is cheaper.

1-H)  Specifying vertical depth offsets presumes that the physical characteristics of geological units remain unchanged.  Assuming such a statically safe buffer zone is questionable.   Changes in the vertical permeability will occur and cannot be ignored.  This occurrence is dynamic because the changes migrate upward with time.

1-N)  Establishing financial bonds for the drilling part of the operation is good, but is not sufficient.  Bonds for delayed contamination caused by triggering hydro-geo-mechanical events should be added, such as the inevitable upward migration of enhanced vertical permeability.

3-H)  Liability does not end with plugging and decommissioning a well.  Contamination of fresh water aquifers occurs when the upward migration of vertical permeability enhancement arrives and intersects a specified aquifer.  At some locations, this could occur decades after capping and decommissioning.
 
4-K)  From the perspective of aquifer mechanics, fracking IS high pressure injecting!

Conclusion

This Comment describes a crucial and sometimes overlooked physical process that occurs in nature.  Facing this very real process shifts the question from “WILL the overlying freshwater aquifer(s) become contaminated?” to “WHEN and WHERE will these aquifers FIRST become contaminated?” The important follow-up question is “Does having about 30 years of an abundant supply of methane gas with its concomitant profits and revenues outweigh the eventual unavoidable loss of freshwater aquifers in Garrett and Allegany Counties?

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The proposed 1000′ and 2000′ drinking water setbacks in the draft Best Management Practice are not enough.  Based on evidence of methane, ethane, and propane contamination documented by Duke University researchers in June 2013, MDE and DNR should increase the proposed setbacks to 3,300 feet.

All drinking water setbacks in the Best Management Practices report should be increased to 3,300 feet.
Thank you for your consideration.

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With all due respect, fracking is a water-intensive process where millions of gallons of fluid - typically water, sand, and chemicals, including ones known to cause cancer - are injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock surrounding an oil or gas well. This releases extra oil and gas from the rock, so it can flow into the well.

But the process of fracking introduces additional industrial activity into communities beyond the well. Clearing land to build new access roads and new well sites, drilling and encasing the well, fracking the well and generating the waste, trucking in heavy equipment and materials and trucking out the vast amounts of toxic waste - all of these steps contribute to air and water pollution risks and devaluation of land that is turning our communities into sacrifice zones. Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend. That's why over 250 communities in the U.S. have passed resolutions to stop fracking, and why Vermont, France and Bulgaria have stopped it.  Maryland needs to pass resolutions to stop fracking period and invest in clean sustainable energy such as solar and wind.

Fracking is inherently unsafe and we cannot rely on regulation to protect communities' water, air and public health. The industry enjoys exemptions from key federal legislation protecting our air and water, thanks to aggressive lobbying and cozy relationships with our federal decision makers (the exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act is often referred to as the Cheney or Halliburton Loophole, because it was negotiated by then-Vice President Dick Cheney with Congress in 2005.) Plus, the industry is aggressively clamping down on local and state efforts to regulate fracking by buying influence and even bringing lawsuits to stop them from being implemented. That's why fracking can't be made safer through government oversight or regulations. An all out ban on fracking is the only way to protect our communities.

I will not vote for anyone who thinks that fracking is an acceptable practice nor will any of my friends and the numbers are growing.

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As a citizen concerned about the future health of the environment as well as of my children and grandchildren, I protest loudly the idea of fracking in Maryland (or anywhere else) and refer you to the documentary film "Triple Divide."

I realize you members of the Advisory committee are sincerely and honestly concerned about the future of our state as well, but I fear that, as happened in Pennsylvania in one place after another, Maryland's government will have difficulty enforcing its well-written and well-intentioned guidelines

In addition to wishing to register my opposition in general, as I will express to politicians at the correct time, I believe citizens have not been made aware as we should have of how the process of writing proposed regulations has been proceeding. I appreciate a Baltimore hearing, but I am sure most concerned citizens were not aware of it, though fracking may affect all of us for the remainders of our lives.
My last comment (hoping I have written before the final deadline) is that the fact that the regulations are written seems to indicate that the State government, which has chosen to pay salaries to develop them, intends to proceed. This is very frightening for many reasons, most of which we expressed at the Public Meeting of July 16.

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I have to admit that I have not gone through the proposed Best Management Practices in any detail.  However, I noticed that the Practices were delivered in February, 2013 and apparently were developed in isolation from similar performance standards (https://www.sustainableshale.org/performance-standards/) released in March, 2013 by the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (https://www.sustainableshale.org/).  The latter standards, the product of a collaboration among environmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, and energy companies, are the closest thing available to an "industry standard" for fracking in the Appalachian Basin.

Given the economic and political advantages of conforming to industry standards, I recommend that:

  • Maryland adopt the Center for Sustainable Shale Development performance standards as a baseline.
  • Deviations from those standards, if any, be limited to those necessary to reflect conditions that are unique to Maryland.

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I am writing to request that fracking not be permitted in western MD.  I believe that fracking will have a very negative impact on the environment.  Over the years mining and other industrial efforts have destroyed much of the terrain and environment in western MD.  Please count my opinion among those in opposition fracking in western MD.

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Please increase the distance between well pads and private drinking wells to 2000 feet and the distance between well pads and municipal wells to 3000.  These are recognized distances for best preventing polluting of water.  You have all the scientific information available that backs these extensions.  Please do what is right.

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 I am a college student currently at American University. I am a weather and climate enthusiast, and I do extensive research on past weather events around the continent. I was in attendance at the public hearing on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) Best Practices in Baltimore, and I spoke up about storm water catchment standards. This is a follow up in writing respectfully submitted for your consideration.

The presentation featured a mention from the report that it recommended a closed loop drilling system on a “zero discharge” pad. To my understanding, this calls for the containment of storm water that would otherwise be discharged from the pad in heavy rains.

The presentation in Baltimore indicated that the report calls for the closed system to be able to handle 2.7 inches of rainfall in 24 hours. While there may be some fracking sites in the arid West that have a very low chance of ever experiencing this amount of rainfall in twenty-four hours, this is an inadequate standard for western Maryland. A report available online, released in 1986 by the US Soil Conservation Service entitled ‘Urban Hydrology for Small Watersheds’ indicates that the return rate for 3 inches of rain in a 24 hour period in western Maryland is about 2 years. What that means is that on average, the storm water catchment system would fail every 2 years, spilling any waste from the drilling site into the surrounding ecosystem.

While one study can be convincing, it is obvious that conclusions can be subject to human error during interpretation of results. So I looked at several years of detailed daily rainfall data from NOAA recording stations in and around the mountains of Western Maryland to get a picture of the nature of rainfall patterns in the area.  All data found are located on the NOAA website at weather.gov.

Since 2009 alone, 2.7 or more inches of rain has fallen in 24 hours between two and six times at several rain gauges which share similar rainfall patterns to that of western Maryland districts. These locations include Hagerstown, MD, Martinsburg, WV, Morgantown, WV, Dulles International Airport, and Reagan National airport. While four years may be considered a momentary snapshot in the study of climate norms, it remains that storm water catchment systems would have failed two to six times since 2009, if fracking been occurring in western Maryland from 2009-2013, following regulations based on these best management practices.

The election to use a standard of 2.7 inches in 24 hours as a capacity requirement reveals that inadequate research was done in preparing this report. It appears to me as if this standard was drawn from existing framework rather than studying local conditions and identifying potential issues such as this. Only local area studies can address potential issues in a process as complex as this. Identifying general best management practices based on existing research is a step in the right direction, but this report should not be considered sufficient to address the numerous contingencies involved with the process of hydraulic fracturing.

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I have a map on my wall in my office showing all the Marcella gas wells drilled around Garret County in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.  They are to the north.  They are to the West.  They are to the south.  I also travel into these areas and see the growth that has come from the natural gas industry.  For every well in operation each of these states are seeing tax revenue and income for that area.  I see and hear of no adverse environmental situations that would give me pause to drilling in Garrett County Maryland.  Please log my voice as one that would like to see all gas drilling types, including fracking in my county.
Just east of Garrett County the state has supported a Casino to open its doors.  One of the arguments was that it would bring jobs and lots of tax revenue.  Natural Gas fracking will bring more revenue than the casino and do a lot more good.

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I just saw GASLAND II
 
It shows what the problems are with this Fracking process.
 
There is no good way to do fracking.

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I offer the following comments on the study. I think there are some gaps in the study that fully protect Maryland’s natural, cultural, historical and recreational resources, the environment and public safety.

Section III Comprehensive Gas Development Plans (page 8)
According to the Study, the Comprehensive Gas Development Plan, should address “lands on or under which the applicant expects to conduct exploration or production activities over a period of at least five years.”  According to the UMCES-AL Report, well pads will be in place for at least 30 years (UMCES-AL Report page 1-11 and text on reclamation planning).  Given the expected 30 year lifespan, the five year period appears to be insufficient for impact analysis.

Application Criteria and Scope (page 9)
A. Application Criteria and Scope
• Item #1 Recommend that the period of time examined in the Study be extended from five years to ten years. According to the UMCES-AL report the average well pad will be in place for at least 30 years. According to this report, the plans will remain in effect for 10 years.  Five years does not seem sufficient given the long-term nature of this activity.

B. Planning Principles (page 9)
• Local Laws Item #2 The State is proposing a planning principal that the drilling activities comply with local law and regulations.  Since the plan is reviewed by the State, how will this determination be made?
• Traffic Impacts Item #10 (a) add underline text.  Identification of travel routes and other traffic impacts.
• Local Considerations Item #10(c) add underline text.  Consistency with local zoning and land development ordinances and comprehensive plan elements.
Comment:  Since the plan is reviewed by the State, how will they determine compliance with local zoning ordinances? There are recommendations throughout the report and UMCES-AL Report for compliance with stormwater management and erosion and sedimentation control regulations. These types of regulations may not always be in the zoning code. In addition, there may be local nuisance laws that regulate impacts of glare, light, noise and vibrations.

Other planning principals to consider:
• Provide a comprehensive review of environmental considerations. While the setbacks address many environmental considerations this is not an exhaustive list.
• Establish an underpinning baseline to guide future reclamation and or environmental remediation activities.
• Reduce land use conflicts with adjacent properties.
• Protect Maryland’s prime agricultural soils and prime farmland.
Recommendation 10-B, which was accepted by MDE and DNR, recommends that prime agricultural soils and prime farmland protected by Maryland’s existing land easements should not be disturbed for well-pad siting, road construction, or any ancillary gas development activities.  Current State regulations discourage use of reclaimed mines for farming and grazing activities.

C. Procedure and Approval Process (page 10)

• Past Land Uses Item #2 The Comprehensive Gas Development Plan should also include a review of all past land uses, local and State Comprehensive plan consistency analysis and relevant information about local zoning and land development regulations.
• Local Review Timeframe Item #4 The report provides 45 days for local and state review.  The time provided should be similar to timeframes allowed to review land development plans (at least 90 days). The information in these studies will be very technical and additional time may be needed for review. In addition, local governments will want to have their comments reviewed and accepted for submission by the local governing authority and or Planning Commission. The nature of these reviews should not be solely completed on a staff level.
• General note Since this plan will be shared with a number of parties, it is suggested that it be submitted in a format that can be easily shared such as in a digital format.
• Item #10 Add underline text, “If the State determines that the CGDP conforms to regulatory requirements and best practice guidance, and to…”  The Best Practice report outlines a number of initiatives that are currently not in State regulations.

D. Benefits of a Comprehensive Gas Development Plan (page 11)

This section should be moved up to be subsection A.  Providing this information at the beginning will set the context for the remaining sections. Consider adding:
• Allow applicants the opportunity to provide opportunities for meaningful public input in pre-development stages.

E. The Shale Gas Development Toolbox (page 12)

• Item 2(e) add underline “National Registry sites and eligible resources.
• Other datasets:  Information should be supplemented with information from the local comprehensive plans or other local studies.
• Would there be State datasets available for water or air quality?
• Is there data on existing agricultural land easements?
• The UMCES-AL Report noted that the state has not digitally identified underground aquifers or groundwater sources that need to be protected (Recommendation 1-F). Protections should be provided for future as well as existing wells.

Section IV Location Restrictions and Setbacks
Table I-1 Setback Recommendations form UMCES-AL Report and Adjustments Recommended by Departments

• Aquatic habitat For aquatic habitat (riparian), the UMCES-AL Report cited recommended varying setbacks based on biodiversity.  The lowest setback was 330 feet and the greatest was 1,240 feet (Table 5-2 and page 6-4).  Why are the Departments recommending a setback of 300 feet?  Does the setback provide adequate protection?   Usually riparian areas are protected by vegetated buffers.  Will these buffer areas be factored into the setback calculation?
• Groundwater Wells For drinking water wells and surface water intakes, the UMCES-AL report recommends “extended” setbacks from on-site storage areas, hazardous materials and collection tanks for produced water.  Should additional setbacks be proposed?  The report also notes that the setbacks for private groundwater wells, public groundwater wells or surface water intakes should be from the edge of well pad.  (Pg. 4-5 and Recommendation 3-a) Table 1-1 measures the setback from the borehole.  Which setback is correct?  Why are the Departments recommending a setback from the borehole instead of the well pad site?
• Underground Source of Drinking Water The UMCES-AL report recommends vertical setbacks from aquifers. Does a vertical setback imply that mining activities should also be setback below an underground drinking source?  We do not want factures to penetrate upwards to the freshwater zone.
• Local Setbacks Table 1-2 should also note that additional setbacks may be required by local land development codes or federal environmental regulations.
Table 1-2 is followed by a narrative of uses and setbacks. This narrative section generally does not reference from where the setback is measured. While the setback is identified in the table, it is important to clarify the setback in the narrative portion as well. Measuring from the borehole or well-pad site can make a huge different. Since setbacks offer the primary protection, it is extremely important that they are correctly identified.
• Soil Page 17 Item#2 The setbacks for steep slopes and highly erodible soils should be from the well-pad site. Is “highly erodible soils” defined in state regulations?  Is this referring to farmland?
• Caves Page 17 Item#4 The report should note from where the setback is measured. The borehole site? Page 17 Item #5The UMCES-AL Report stated “Complications from encountering a cave or deep coal mine during drilling can jeopardize the integrity of the well, leading to an increased chance of leaks, methane contamination of underground sources of drinking water, even blowouts.” (page iii).  The report focuses on the complications.  How did the Departments determine that pilots can be “safely cased through” coal mines?
• Underground Coal Mines Concerning the setback for mapped underground coal mines, the supporting information on in the UMCES-AL Report page 1-20 recommends a setback of ¼ mile (1,320 feet) yet the proposed setback (Recommendation I-J) and in Table 101 is identified as 1000 feet.  What were the reasons for reducing the setback requirements?  In addition, horizontal and vertical setbacks are proposed.  Should a vertical setback be considered?
• Floodplains Setbacks from floodplains should increase and be based on a minimum distance and elevation, whichever is greater.  Development should be elevated at least 2 feet above base flood elevation.  Many communities in Maryland have a freeboard requirement and require development to be built above the base flood elevation. Because the operation involves the storage of toxic materials, I recommend well-pads be sited way outside any potential flood boundary.
• Occupied Buildings The setback for occupied buildings should be 1,000 feet from the well site and compressor equipment (if located off-site) instead of the proposed borehole. Should a structure holding livestock be defined as “occupied?”  Noise, vibrations, odors and light will impact adjacent buildings. In addition, setback consideration should be made for unoccupied agricultural buildings (such as hay storage).
• Critical Facilities Greater setbacks for critical facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations should be considered.  A hospital would be hard to evacuate if needed.  Police and fire stations will need to remain operable if there are problems. Are there existing setback requirements from a cemetery?
• Infrastructure Are there no setbacks proposed for “infrastructure improvements” such as access roads and pipelines?  Road and pipeline construction could impact critical and sensitive areas.
• Compressors Are compressors on or off-site?  If compressors are off-site, they will need setback requirements as well.
• Livestock Why does the report not recommend a setback for livestock?  Setback protections are provided for wildlife. Information in the UMCES-AL Report provides information from a study that indicates a higher mortality rate for livestock living near well-pad sites (pages 5-4 and 5-5). There appears to be a need for a setback.

B. Siting Best Practices (page 19)
• Flooding Add: Stream crossing will be designed to avoid flooding.
• Thermal Impacts Item#6 are there existing regulations for thermal impacts to cold water streams?  How will this determination be made?  The recommendation in the UMCES-AL Report is that water not be re-introduced into the watershed.

Section V Plan for Each Well (page 20-12)
• Environmental Assessment Item #1 Are there regulations for basic requirements for an environmental assessment?  Are the requirements similar to NEPA?  The Environmental Assessments should include an analysis of alternatives and past land uses.
• Clarify list The list of items from 1 to 26 is incomplete and is basically a list of terms.  The list should specify what is required such as:  locations of; project plans and specifications, plans, procedures and schedules. Requirements should be clear about the level of detail expected for each item.
• Photographs The permit should include photographs. This information will be very helpful for reclamation assessments later on. Because mines operate for such a long timeframe, very few people remember what the conditions were 30 years ago. While the adjacent property owner will remember not all decision makers, including the Reclamation Committee will.
• Local zoning approval Items to consider:  Certification of local zoning and land development approvals.  Should proposed pipelines be part of the review?  There may be other local laws that should be considered. Typically nuisance laws, which are different from zoning laws, regulate items such as excessive noise, vibrations, glare and light.
 Notice to well owners The Report recommends that owners of any drinking well within 2,500 feet be notified. From where is this measurement?  How will they be notified?  How will the applicant document that the notice requirements were completed?  When will they be notified?  Such as: within five days of filing and by certified mail.  Local jurisdictions should be notified as well so that they can assist well owners as needed. What information should be in the notice?  Should the letter include baseline air and water quality data from pre-construction monitoring activities?

Section VI Engineering, Design and Environmental Controls and Standards (page 22)
The UMCES-AL Report mentioned considerations for Site Construction and Sediment and Erosion Control and Stormwater management.  Does Subsection A on Sediment and Erosion and Control cover both aspects?  Most mining operations use sprayers on equipment, vehicles and ground to control dust.  Will this be the same for well pad sites? 

4. Pipelines (pages 23-24)
How long would it take the Departments to develop new guidance or regulations for pipeline construction that would address the nature of pipelines used in this report? If Maryland is going to accept pipeline designs outside of regulations, they will need to find ways to determine if the design is safe. How will Maryland determine if “recognized design practices of the Industry” are proposed? Do the Departments have staff capable of reviewing such plans if they are submitted?  Perhaps, at a minimum, project plans and specifications should be signed by a design professional. The International Code Council uses a collaborative process to develop the model building codes. The process gathers the latest studies, data and input from stakeholders and experts.  Because of their process the model building code provides a solid model that protects the health, safety and welfare of the public.  Is there similar vetting process in the mining industry? 

5. Road Construction (pages 24 to 25)
In this section, the Departments suggest that the impacts of private road construction can be adequately regulated by sediment and erosion control and stormwater management plans. While these regulations can provide assurance from erosion, they do not provide adequate guidelines for the construction of safe, well drained, and properly surfaced roads. Given the levels of traffic and the size of equipment used, even gravel roads will need to be planned and engineered to be safe. Additional design standards are needed.

The report indicates that there are a number of technical bulletins available from other states that provide standards for the design, construction, and maintenance of unpaved roads such as the standards used by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry. Because the roads are constructed on State lands, the Forestry department reviews and approves the road construction. As the property owner, they are afforded a level of flexibility when reviewing roadway designs that might not be available to Maryland during permit review. In Maryland, who would be reviewing roadway designs? How would this review be coordinated with stormwater and erosion and sediment reviews? What regulations or design standards would be needed for proper design?  Providing a “level of protection” might not be sufficient for permit review.  While flexibility may be needed to address topography, it might be better to have guidelines and design standards and provide the ability for variance if needed due to site conditions or constraints.

B. Transportation Planning (page 25)
The UMCES-AL study briefly reviewed rail transportation options and concluded that rail transportation was not viable without improvements. The State of Maryland should consider preparing a rail feasibility study. Typically, feasibility studies review a number of options and could explore what could be done with low, medium and high levels of improvements. State and local governments will spend a considerable amount of additional funding to support road and bridge maintenance activities due to increased truck traffic. A benefit cost analysis could determine rail improvements as a viable option.

The report recommends that the applicant enter into agreements with the local government and or public land managers to maintain roads which it makes use of, in the same or better condition prior to mining operations. Is this permitted by State law?  Would it be acceptable for the applicant to make repairs on public roads? What options might be available for the community to collect funds from the applicant and make the repairs themselves?

The report also recommends that the vehicles use GPS tracking systems. Is this permitted by State law?  How are vehicles transporting liquid or solid wastes for other industrial activities currently monitored?  Are there existing state regulations?

The report recommended that local jurisdictions develop adequate transportation plans. Zoning and land development regulations could assist local governments in making decisions on operational considerations to protect the public and transportation infrastructure. What would “adequate transportation plans” look like? Would local jurisdictions be responsible for determining the traffic impacts? Would this review be required before issuing a state permit? If a local community requested time restrictions for truck traffic, how would this agreement be incorporated into the State permit?

2. Water Withdrawal (page 27)
The report indicates that there are existing regulations for water withdraws and that a water appropriation permit would likely be required. What is the average water withdraw use of HVHF? How would this permit be coordinated with the mining permit? Would this be a concurrent review?  Does the permit take into consideration that the mining activities may occur for 30 years (the average life of a well pad site)? 

1. Use of electricity from the Grid (page 29)
What data and information should be included in a power plan? How does the applicant document that electric transmission lines are unreasonable? The power plan should address environmental considerations and potential impact on sensitive areas (such as the potential to on-site fuels storage).

M. Light
Lighting is a concern both at the well-pad site and along roadways accessing the site. Technology exists to control the impacts of light and glare even for exterior lighting needs. The types of fixtures and direction of light can play a huge role in reducing negative impacts on improved safety and adjacent land uses. This section should include the potential role of zoning and land development regulations and or nuisance laws in controlling light pollution. Technology does exist to control light pollution.

Recreation is not the only light sensitive use.  Additional light sensitive uses include residential units, educational facilities, hospitals, critical facilities and agricultural uses including livestock.  Maryland should consider developing light standards for pre and post curfew time periods when sensitive land uses are near-by.

N. Noise (pages 39 to 41)
The report recommends that noise standards be enforced at the local level.  Applicants should be encouraged to use all feasible engineering and administrative controls to reduce noise exposure. Since noise will be enforced at the local level, how is this review being coordinated for the mining permit?
Does Maryland have any occupational regulations that control noise exposure to workers?  These standards may also provide guidelines for consideration. Typically, these regulations provide information on levels and exposure to noise that could cause hearing loss.  Does Table VI-I Maximum Allowable Noise Levels for Receiving Land Use Categories comply with regulatory standards for workers?

Do existing state regulations include requirements for a noise control and monitoring plan?  Many other states have regulations that provide guidance on what should be addressed and included in these items.  Requirements for a monitoring plan are particularly important as it provides ways for the local communities to monitor noise levels such as requiring the placement of monitoring equipment on-site and the submission of reports to the local community.

Comments on: Table VI-1 Maximum Allowable Noise Levels for Receiving Land Use Categories (page 40)
Instead of using “residential” consider using “noise-sensitive locations.”  This would allow expansion to incorporate a number of other non-residential noise sensitive areas including areas identified for environmental considerations in this report. Noise sensitive uses may include uses such as hospitals and parks.

Add:  Sound levels should not exceed 115 dBa at any time.

O. Invasive species (pages 40-41)
While the focus on the report has been on air and water quality, invasive species is an important consideration as mineral extraction activities is a primary facilitator of invasive species spread. While the Invasive Species Plan review and approval is important, all construction of well-pads and associated uses should be prohibited in areas that are dominated by invasive species.
• State Regulations The report should include a summary of existing regulations or authorities?  Does the State maintain an invasive species list?
• Goals of Report The report should identify the goals or objectives of the invasive species plan.
• Pre-construction Inventory Item #1:  This requirement requires an inventory prior to operations.  The UMCES-AL Report notes that Pennsylvania requires the inventory prior to construction.  Why was this change made?
• Construction Materials Item #2:  Keeping equipment clean is important but it is also important to monitor construction materials such as any soil, gravel or fill dirt that is brought to the site for construction. If there are existing invasive species, what pre-treatment activities are necessary before construction starts?
• Monitoring Item #3 Annual monitoring should occur at the appropriate time of year to identify early infestations.  Annual monitoring should occur throughout the entire lease cycle plus one year.  Because many plants have seasons, it will be important to have the last inspection in the growing season after activity has stopped.
• Seed and Plant Materials Item #5 This item requires that post-activity restoration use seed that is certified free of noxious weeds. In some cases, grading and plantings will be needed to return the site to pre-construction conditions. For example, a formerly forested area might be re-planted with trees. The use of seeds should be expanded to include soil, mulch and plant materials.

Consider adding:
• Management options Should the applicant be required to identify management options as a plan element?
• Consideration of Water Sources Recommendation 6-H-1 from the UMCES-AL Report:   “A description of water sources to be used to fill any impoundment, including analysis of any invasive species that might be present at the withdrawal site but absent from the watershed where the impoundment will be located.”

Section VII Monitoring, Recordkeeping and Report (page 44-45)
Indirect and Direct Monitoring and Enforcement This section of the report needs to be divided into sections. There is direct monitoring which conducted by Departments responsible for mines. There is also indirect monitoring, such as environmental conditions, which will be monitored by other Departments. There were ten different monitoring recommendations made in the report. All direct and indirect monitoring activities should be identified in the report.  Maybe this section can contain a table outlining the issues and Department responsible.  Are Maryland’s existing environmental laws referenced in this report adequate enough to allow the Departments to translate violations into enforcement?

Record Keeping and Reporting There are a number of record keeping and reporting recommendations throughout the report. The design of reports and records are important and can help streamline enforcement activities. Digital records help share information with the many stakeholders involved in this process. In addition, residents can help with monitoring activities and identify problems early on by reviewing information in the reports.

Enforcement The Report mentions that it will take considerable manpower to monitor mining activities.
There are studies that have examined violation data from existing mines in other states.  Many of the environmental problems that were reported were the result of sloppy mining practices. It will be important to develop enforcement options to encourage operators to comply with the terms of their permit. It should be easier to stay in compliance than to deal with enforcement issues or pay a huge fine, pay for the environmental restoration or clean-up. The report does not provide information on enforcement options when deficiencies are found? Does Maryland have the ability to fine an applicant if needed? Are Cease and Desist orders or permit revocation options available until issues are addressed?

Section VIII Miscellaneous Recommendations
A. Zoning
New mining technologies allow mining activities to be closer to other land uses than they have been in the past. Zoning may be the only way communities can protect their residential neighborhoods, public facilities and local infrastructure improvements. Best practice land development regulations are catching up with these changes.  Developing appropriate regulations can be difficult without studies and data about the proposed risks to a community. Besides well-pads, many communities many not have adequate zoning regulations for pipelines.

The report makes specific recommendations concerning local zoning controls for noise, light, dust, vibrations, setbacks, visual impacts, and transportation impacts.  These should be repeated in this section.  Other changes to land development regulations should also be discussed in the report.  The community could address some issues though land development plan review. Other issues could be addressed by improved nuisance laws.

Comprehensive Plans When the state adopted statewide comprehensive planning regulations, including mineral, sensitive area and water resource planning, one goal was to use these plans to help direct state resources and decision-making to ensure appropriate development. The plan can be a resource to identify sensitive areas, historic and cultural resources or other environmental considerations.  Transportation planning concerns might also be identified. Why not use information in comprehensive plans for review of Comprehensive Gas Development Plans and mining permits?

General Comments:
There appears to be many moving parts to the permit review process.  It might be helpful to create a chart that outlines all the approvals needed and when items need to be completed. It is suggested that the appropriate state or local stakeholder be identified.  It would also be helpful to identify items that need to be submitted during the operation for monitoring purposes.

Transportation of Chemicals The proposed activities will introduce and involve the handling and transport of new chemicals within Maryland. While the report addressed the storage of chemicals at the well-pad site there was little if any discussion on the transport of chemicals. Does Maryland need updated transport and handling rules?  Does Maryland require the use of secondary equipment such as drip pans, beneath chemical transfer operations?

Chemical Use The Departments are recommending chemical disclosure after activities have been completed.  While disclosure is important, are there chemicals that Maryland should limit or ban from use?  Has Maryland reviewed disclosure reports from existing operations to review the types of chemicals used? This might give Maryland a better idea of the amount of chemical used and how toxic the chemicals can be.  Some chemicals may also be benign at smaller does and toxic in larger doses.  The scale of this mining activity may not be adequately addressed in existing Maryland regulations for the transport, handling and storage of toxic chemicals.

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A few suggestions/questions for the Committee and Staff considerations:

1)  Have all members and staff of the Marcellus Advisory Committee spend 30 days in one of PA's Fracking communities and communities impacted by frackings infrastructure..   Live there, eat there, participate in community activities, observe the fracking processes, and evaluate how the industry is actively engaged in community life.
   
    For example:
    How many Fracking/LNG industry executives and their families purchased homes, actively participate in community life, and send their children to school in the fracked community or in communities where fracking's infrastructure is making an impact?

2) How will the Fracking/LNG Industry assure payment of all lifetime medical costs and full life insurance benefits associated with those working and/or living in the community and/or within a 50 (250?) mile radius of any fracking activity and/or infrastructure activity?

3) How will the Fracking/LNG Industry assure payment of any and all relocation costs plus multi-million dollar damage settlements for any and all incidents associated with fracking and its infrastructure.

We don't want fracking or its infrastructure in the State of Maryland...cheap energy promises with what long-term climate and health costs? 

Reduce Maryland's Carbon Footprint NOW!

A Climate Plan without Climate Action is a HALLUCINATION!

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Please do not subject MD to the problems of fracking, ample evidence has shown this to be a mistake

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I want to start my comments by recognizing and commending the Commission and its members for the hard work, time and effort that is required to complete the mission set forth by the Governor. A special recognition should also go to the supporting staff of the agencies for their contribution to this effort.

I offer the following comments and suggestion on the Marcellus Advisory Commission draft report:

The stated purpose of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission is to assist State policymakers and regulators in determining whether and how gas production from the Marcellus Shale can be carried out in Maryland without unacceptably and negatively impacting public health, safety, the environment and natural resources. This in itself seems to imply that there in an inherent danger in drilling for natural gas that should be avoided.

The magnitude of the effort to prevent drilling using the technique called horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing until the report is completed and recommendations adopted leads one to believe that there is a presumption  that this activity is much more destructive than any other industrial activity that takes place in Maryland. No other industrial activity in Maryland has ever been singled out for this degree of scrutiny.

There are, however, two classes of people who appear to be overlooked during this entire process: landowners and holders of mineral rights. These individuals have a right to use or dispose of their property as they see fit or to exercise their freedom of choice to contractually sell their gas. Unfortunately, there seems to be very little concern about the clear message that Maryland is sending to those who would desire to do business in Maryland. The message currently is simply that they are not welcome in this state.

If  all of the recommendations of this study and report  are implemented in law, regulation, or permit conditions it is highly unlikely that any drilling will occur in Maryland (at least in the foreseeable future). If it is the intent of those that commissioned the study to prevent the development of natural gas in Maryland, then their mission has truly been accomplished.

A few years back, a Texas pioneer named George Mitchell, the son of Greek immigrants, discovered over the course of more than two decades how to combine horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to capture natural gas efficiently from shale formations, which abound in the United States, the Marcellus Shale is reported to be the largest formation in the US.  Less than 2% of the Marcellus shale formation is located under a portion of Western Maryland.

Reportedly, as of 2012, approximately 2.5 million hydraulic fracturing jobs have been performed on oil and gas wells worldwide. More than one million of those fracturing jobs have occurred in the United States. Not one case of any migration of fracking fluids upwards into groundwater resources has been confirmed or documented in the US. In the one highly publicized case in Pavilion, Wyoming, the EPA drilled and  tested the  well  that was widely circulated to be proof of contamination from the fracking zone. The government agency has since acknowledged that the results from the test well that they drilled probably was from previous well drilling activity in the area.  Fracking activity was done at a very shallow depth in this area.

A recent federal study concluded that fracking chemicals didn't contaminate water:

PITTSBURGH - A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western  Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.

After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.

This is a statement from further down in the news story: "The boom in gas drilling has led to tens of thousands of new wells being drilled in recent years, many in the Marcellus Shale formation that lies under parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. That's led to major economic benefits but also fears that the chemicals used in the drilling process could spread to water supplies."

Did you notice that something is missing here? In this news article, like in nearly every Marcellus news report, Maryland is not even mentioned as one of the states where the shale deposit is located. Why would that be? Is it simply that thousands of news stories that have been written regarding this economic benefit to other states merely overlooked Maryland? Or, is it more that Maryland has already sent the message that they would rather let this opportunity pass us by?

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have led to an energy boom in natural gas and domestic oil production. Elected official in other states have embraced the practice and have seen dramatic growth in jobs and investments in their states. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce projects that by 2015 shale and unconventional energy will be responsible for 2.5 million jobs. While Maryland has idled the procedure, it is receiving the benefit of much lower prices for natural gas.

New techniques and innovative technology has unleashed huge reserves of energy resources that will be a real game changer for the United States. A tremendous reduction if not the elimination of our dependence on foreign sources to supply our energy needs, while once a mere dream, may soon be a reality. New drilling technology is again making America the most powerful oil and gas producing country in the world. The Energy Information Administration recently reported that natural gas reserves in the U.S. have expanded to 348.8 trillion cubic feet The EIA said this 9.8% annual jump ranks as the second-largest increase on record.

Our neighbors to the North and to the South, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, are reaping the benefits of natural gas extraction. The Marcellus Shale formation potentially contains more natural gas than any other formation in the US. Less than 2% of the formation is under Maryland and located exclusively in Garrett County and a portion of Allegany County, but while we study our neighbors are reaping huge economic benefits.

Western Maryland's energy history is a proud one.  No one will deny that there have been many negative environmental impacts from more than a century of energy extraction activity. However, the economic benefits and the necessity to satisfy the country's energy needs cannot be denied. Hundreds of thousands of Marylanders have built their livelihoods, homes and schools on the region's bounty of energy resources. Let's not power down the region's energy legacy and economy over dubious politics. Instead, let's make energy a part of its bright future.


I offer the following general comments on the draft report:

o The report portrays a very negative viewpoint toward the natural gas industry. If every new applicant for permits to engage in any new industrial development in Maryland was required to meet every stringent requirement outlined in this report, there would undoubtedly be a complete lack of interest by any person, firm or company to do business in Maryland.

o I would encourage the Commission to keep in mind that less than 2% of the Marcellus shale formation is located in Maryland and most likely only hundreds of wells would be drilled under optimal conditions over a period of many years  even after drilling is permitted  in Maryland. As such, the Commission, in adopting rules and regulations, should endeavor to take a broader regional approach.

o If the Commission adopts requirements substantially more restrictive than our neighboring states, and those requirements become the framework for issuing a permit for natural gas exploration and development in Maryland, it is unlikely that any company will set foot in our state for decades. If laws and regulations to control shale gas development are much more restrictive than neighboring Marcellus shale states and permitting requirements in other states with shale formations, what possible reason would any company want to operate in Maryland?  Even though this may well satisfy the desires of some on the Commission, it will deprive our region of the state of the opportunity   of  significant  potential  for economic development and job creation as well as take away the ability of the property owners to exercise their property rights.

o It has been five years or more since the first gas company applied for permits to drill a horizontal well using hydraulic fracturing. This was followed by two other companies that voiced a desire to engage in drilling into the Marcellus Shale in Garrett County. None of the permit applications were approved and no permits have even been issued by MDE. All three companies have pretty much given up on doing business in Maryland and have not renewed leases on thousands of acres. No applications for permits are pending review or approval by MDE.

o The report requires the preparation of a comprehensive development plan by any and all companies that seek to get a permit when and if the Commission report is completed and a path for obtaining a drilling permit is established for Maryland. The timeframe for getting approval of the development plan is two years. Even if a company is successful in navigating the path to get approval of a CDP, the process then requires a permit application for each well, which is again subject to an extended review and public comment period.

o While I can support the requirement for a development permit and find this to be a reasonable recommendation, the whole process as outlined in the report takes way too long. The timeframe needs to be greatly shortened. Realistically, if the report is completed by the August 2014 date, the recommendations will have to be placed into regulations that will need to be adopted before any permit applications will be processed.

o Governor O'Malley or next Governor must review the report and make requests for enabling legislation to implement the recommendations and the General Assembly will need to pass the legislation during the 2015 general session to move this process along. The effective date of any new legislation is likely to be October 1, 2015. Regulations would need to be prepared and adopted to implement the legislation. This takes the process well into 2016.

o At this point the gas companies will finally know what is required of them to get a permit. Should a company then desire to seek a permit in Maryland, there would be another time delay as the departments review the application and issue instruction on how to proceed. The first step would be the development of the CMP, which will take two years at a minimum including baseline water testing. Realistically, this takes the process to at least 2018. After that, it is anyone's guess as to how long it will take to get a permit to drill a single well even if the CMP is approved.

o After reviewing the content of the draft report I conclude that it will be 2020 or later before any drilling for natural gas can occur if all of the recommendations   are accepted to create the "GOLD STANDARD" in Maryland.

o Permits are being processed and drilling is taking place in our neighboring states. The process to get a drilling permit in our neighboring states and other states in the Union takes weeks or months, certainly less than a year. Is there anyone on the Commission who realistically thinks that with this timeframe to get a permit to drill that there will be any interest by any drilling company to come to Maryland to do business as long as there are states with the welcome mat on their doorsteps?

o The timeframe to work through the permitting process needs to be greatly condensed. At the end of this whole study procedure, if this report is the framework for the "Gold Standard" to regulate the industry, there is very little likelihood that there will be any immediate interest by any gas company to seek to do business in Maryland. We may have the gold standard but it is highly unlikely that there will be any gold at the end of the rainbow.

Specific comments on report recommendations:

1. Replace the recommended 500 foot setback from private groundwater wells to the borehole with a 1,000 foot setback.

Current regulations, COMAR 26.19.01.19G, are more protective and state that an oil and gas well cannot be closer than 1,000 feet to a drinking water supply. Private groundwater wells are considered a drinking water supply.

Comment: The recommendation should provide a provision that the owner(s) of leased property, the lessor, can allow the well to be located closer than 1000 feet to his own water supply.

2. Expand drill pad location restrictions and setbacks listed in Table 1-1 to all gas Development activities resulting in permanent surface   alteration that would negatively impact natural, cultural and historic resources. This includes permanent roads, compressor stations, separator facilities and other infrastructure needs. This expansion applies to aquatic  habitat,  special conservation areas, cultural and historical sites, State and federal parks and forests, trails, wildlife management areas, wild and scenic rivers and scenic byways.

Comment: This is severely restrictive for roads and infrastructure. This provision could make it impossible to put in gas pipelines through or along county roads in state parks and lands and perhaps even difficult to construct a road from public right of way to a well site. This provision conflicts with the intent of the report to limit development impacts and forest bifurcation.

3. DNR will develop new maps of public outdoor recreational use areas to establish additional recreational setbacks and mitigation measures for minimizing public use conflicts. DNR will initiate the first of a series of participatory GIS workshops to develop these new maps in the fall of 2013, focusing on the recreational amenities of Savage River State Forest. The results of this workshop will be weighed against the alternative option of expanding the setback to 600 feet.

Comment: The State already owns more than 20% of both counties with Marcellus Shale gas deposits and there are conservation easements on many family farms and forest lands. This restriction would give the State control over massive amounts of private property and restrict landowner's ability to lease or have natural gas development on their property that borders on state land if these setbacks include all aspects of natural gas development.  Savage River State Forest has a number of natural gas wells on state property where infrastructure improvements created a number of well-developed networks of scenic and historic byways and hiking and biking trails that provide opportunities for the public to experience nature.

4. In the past, gathering lines were generally small diameter and did not operate under high pressure. PHMSA has recognized that lines being put into service in shale plays like the Marcellus are generally of much larger diameter and  operating  at higher pressure than traditional rural gas gathering lines, increasing the concern for safety of the environment  and people near operations.

Comment: This statement is incorrect.  The rural gathering lines from the Accident Dome underground storage wells are under very high pressure when gas is being injected into the wells during warm months and extracted during the winter months.  The standards for material and construction adequately addresses this activity:

a. The owner and operator of any pipeline shall participate as an "owner member" as that term is defined in the Maryland Public Utilities Code, Section 12-101, in a one-call system, which in Maryland is generally known as the "Miss Utility" program. Upon the request of someone planning to excavate in the area, the locations of these pipelines could be marked so that the digging could avoid them

b. All pipelines and fittings  appurtenant  thereto  used in the  drilling, operating  or producing of oil and/or  natural gas well(s) shall be designed for at least the greatest anticipated operating   pressure or the maximum regulated relief pressure  in accordance with the current recognized design practices of the industry,

5. Road Construction: The UMCES-AL report makes several recommendations about roads.  Wherever possible, existing roads should be used. Where new road construction for Marcellus shale activities in Maryland is necessary, it should follow guidelines issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Comment: Why use Pennsylvania road specification?  The State of Maryland has been very critical of natural gas operation in Pennsylvania. It just seems strange that we would rely on their standards, especially since Maryland has been so critical of Pennsylvania's management of Marcellus gas development. Allegany and Garrett County have standard specification and roads department personnel to review and approve plans for roads. Let the two counties determine road requirements as they do for all need development in the counties.

6. Encourage maximum movement of heavy equipment by rail to protect road systems and prevent accidents.

Comment: This provision has no practical application for gas well development in the two Maryland counties. This requirement would require construction of rail line that would be much more disruptive than roads.

7. 2. Water withdrawal:

Comment: The report should include a provision for encouraging usage of acidic coal mining discharges and or treated acid mine water for drilling purposes.

8. Initiation of drilling:
UMCES-AL Report recommendations 5-D.l, 8-I, 9-D.2
The UMCES-AL report recommended that drilling should avoid times of peak outdoor recreational periods such as holiday weekends, first day of trout season, and during sensitive wildlife migratory or mating seasons.

Comment:  This provision is unreasonably restrictive.  What purpose is served by restricting drilling on first day of trout season verses any other day of trout fishing? Not likely that  the trout  will quit biting in the Potomac  River if a gas well drilling operation starts near Keyer's Ridge.

9. Indirect discharge means the introduction of pollutants from a non-domestic source into a publicly owned wastewater treatment system ... EPA plans to propose a rule for shale gas wastewater in 2014. Until these regulations are in place, MDE has requested that POTWs not accept these wastewaters without prior consultation with MDE.  MDE does not intend to authorize any POTW facility that discharges to freshwater to accept these wastewaters.

Comment: Just like any other industrial activity, Maryland should prepare to permit and regulate treatment and pretreatment of industrial waste from natural gas drilling activity. I do believe that every POTW and public WWTP is required to have pretreatment requirements for any industrial discharge into the WWTP. The EPA rule for shale gas wastewater if available by 2014 should be used as the standard for pretreatment if discharges are to occur into a POTWs or public WWTPs. Until these regulations are in place MDE should require that POTWs and WWTPs not accept these wastewaters without prior consultation with MDE. MDE indicates that it does not intend to authorize any POTW facility that discharges to fresh water to accept pretreated industrial waste from natural gas drilling activity. If the degree of pretreatment is in compliance with the soon to be formulated EPA standards and/or standards established by MDE, then like any other industrial activity in the State it should be permitted so we can take care of our own industrial waste without a requirement that it be transported out of state.

10. M. Light:

Comment: The Commission should add a provision that nothing in this section should be construed to compromise safety of operation at the drilling site.

11. References to the UMCES-AL Report incorporated into the BMP Report

Rather than referencing the UMCES-AL Report recommendations, example 1-A, 3-A, 4-86, etc. the final report should list what they are to eliminate necessity to reach back to that UMCES report to understand what is recommended.

Again, I commend the members of Marcellus Shale Commission for your service on the Commission and express my appreciation for the opportunity to comment on the Commission's work. I offer these comments with the expectation and hope that they will be given ample consideration as work progresses to complete the final report.

###

The Commission is recommending a Comprehensive Gas Development Plan even for exploratory wells.  Can MALPF be notified of the proposed plan if it holds easements within the plan area, or within so many feet of a plan area?

Please add MALPF to the planning principles (perhaps add to item B.4 “avoiding state preserved lands”).

When a MALPF preserved property will or may be impacted by a project, name MALPF as a stakeholder in the “stakeholders” group under C.6.

Shale Gas Development Toolbox – Please add MALPF easements as a layer for the mapping application.  Also, please add MALPF easements as one of the items restricted on the Planning Elements list on page 12.

The Table 1-2 chart should indicate buffer or setback requirements from MALPF-eased land, perhaps in the section for “cultural and historical sites…”.

###

I am a Pennsylvania resident, but I attend Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. Almost everything that I have heard about fracking is negative. There are very serious and clear results of the fracking industry, and some of these have occurred upstate of me. I do not want to see the same thing happen to the state of Maryland, especially when the western Maryland area is so unique and important for the state.

###

Should hydraulic fracturing be allowed in Maryland?  I still would not want my children to grow up in a state that allows hydraulic fracturing and we will not support any representatives for it. We will put all of our tax dollars in someone or someplace else.  For my ancestry in Maryland as well as my current family always enjoyed the environment and still wish to do so. There are enough poor environmental standards in favor of business in Maryland. In which has drastically changed our water quality. Until they have fixed what already has been destroyed I will not stand for more destruction.

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This may be of some help from the union of concerned Scientists and U of CA Law conference on Fracking Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking forum that took place on July 25 in Los Angeles.
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLr5_Es1BB0&feature=youtu.be&t=39s
 
http://www.ucsusa.org/center-for-science-and-democracy/events/community-decisions-on-fracking.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mLr5_Es1BB0

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I don't need to receive your boiler plate fracking letter. We in New York have already had to deal with this bureaucratic obfuscation. You, as might be expected, are not responding to my specific comments. At your peril, you ignore the experiences of the citizens across the United States who are experiencing the destruction wrought by hydrofracturing. You, like the majority of short-sighted politicians, only see the possibility of raising some immediate revenue, while the citizens are left to cope with the long-term damage to our communities and our environment. Shame on you.

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Ban fracking.

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It does not matter to me what the rumors are nor what the report says - there should be no fracking in Maryland. Period.  The wholesale use of herbicides and pesticides both in lawncare and farmland have already taken their on the water table and the Chesapeake Bay.  Fracking would only compound that problem by untold multiples.  If fracking is permitted, Maryland should just let the tar sands from Canada come through Maryland as well.

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Thanks for taking the time to respond to the concerned Marylanders regarding fracking.  There is a lot of political and scientific debate pertaining to best practices and so forth, but the inevitable truth is obvious: In the long run, this is not a sustainable solution and indeed will result in a negative impact environment. This is obvious to everyone involved and any attempt to obfuscate the truth is merely short-term deception. Again, I encourage you to support a “no fracking” position and to spend efforts looking into more eco-friendly solutions – like using the tides of the ocean to generate power.
 
Thanks again for doing what is right for the future of Maryland.

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While I am glad that an intensive study with high standards is being done by Maryland, I do object to every negative aspect of "fracking" being reported as anecdotal. Part of the reason there are not more negative reports as to environmental degradation, water supply contamination, wildlife loss of habitat, erosion due to access roads and pipeline installations, flaring, and the health of local citizens is that the oil and gas companies involved in most if not all lawsuits by citizens affected include an attendant gag order. The aggrieved parties have only been paid for the loss of their homes, impaired health of their children and themselves, or contamination of their fields and their water supply if they agree not to discuss the settlement. If there is so little environmental concern associated with fracking, if it is as "clean" an energy source as indicated on TV ads and American Petroleum Institute literature, why not disclose what has been found to justify buying homes and land, supplying drinking water, and finally forcing people to move from their property? EPA pursued many of these incidents, and then suddenly dropped the studies. Why, when they are the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes clean air and clean water?
 
I work with a not-for-profit water company and know how stringent the water testing standards are which are administered by MDE and the EPA, and rightly so. Therefore I confess that I find the setback from private and public groundwater wells nothing short of frightening.  Only a 2000' setback from a public water supply well and only 500' from a private drinking water well, that is, the setback from the drill site, not from the horizontal deep well which would supply the gas, is ludicrous. The well will be drilled through the confinement layers which hold drinking water supplies, and anything can and will happen. A failed casing, which only needs to withstand 1.2 times the maximum pressure to which we think it will be exposed, can and will fail.  We had a recent earthquake. What happens to that .2% cushion during that event? That .2 % cushion seems very small indeed where drinking water is concerned. Drinking water is a component necessary to life, and an ever-more precious commodity which is endangered by fracking, even with best practices. Fracking is performed by people, who make mistakes, as we all do. 
 
A note about flaring, which seems very reasonably restricted in the study: I suggest looking at the recent report by Continental Resources Inc. which indicates that $100,000,000 worth of their stockholders natural gas per month in North Dakota is flared due to too-small pipelines and poor planning. This number represents 10.8% of their total production, or 266,000 MILLION cubic feet per day. Don't you think they would stop it if they could? How does that benefit the environment?
 
While natural gas is certainly environmentally cleaner than oil and coal as a fuel, its effect on carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not. If we continue to burn petroleum products as a primary energy source, then we will have condemned our children to a much different planet than we were left.  Recent studies indicate that climate change may result in a 2' rise in sea level as soon as 2050. That would shrink Maryland quite a bit, and flood my home and the homes of thousands of citizens of our state. I am glad I won't live to see that, but my son and my grandchildren will. Maryland needs to find ways to fund renewable energy sources. I know how difficult a thing that is, but necessary for our future existence.
 
Finally, I find it reprehensible that Section IIID has a list of benefits of CGDP, when almost every item listed, such as "Fast tracking of wetland and waterway permits", and " Expedited consideration of other environmental approvals and permits, such as air quality and water appropriation and use" are quite obviously designed to cater to the profits of oil companies, not protect our environment. Do you honestly believe that "Reduced need for multiple public hearings" benefits the public? I think those items noted are so important to our existence that fast-tracking and expediting would be the last thing Maryland needs if protection of our environment and our people is the true concern. It is quite obvious that profits, not the people of Maryland, are the concern here, and the drivers which negate all the precautions which you have rightfully planned.

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You can cite all the technical info in the world but I am still very concerned that allowing Fracking in Maryland will be harmful to the air and water. Natural gas profits should not take precedent over the air and water here in Western Maryland. We are not Pennsylvania protect us from the drill at all costs fossil fuel industry!


I appreciate your response e-mail addressing some of our concerns about fracking in Maryland. Let’s please consider the following.

Even if every best practice is observed, nothing in this world is perfect nor are rules followed perfectly. There is however a law that follows from the above true statements, and that is 'Accidents Happen'. This is true for every process throughout history that any human has ever undertaken.

Let’s please weigh our options carefully here. All it takes is for one accident to happen to ruin lives and possibly end lives of men, women, and children; citizens of Maryland that didn't get the chance to decide the path of their own lives in the name of 'progress'. This will happen if fracking is allowed in the state of Maryland as we know that accidents are inevitable. I don't want the sickness and death of innocent citizens on my head which is why I send this today. If you don't want the unavoidable burden of people's sickness and possibly deaths on your heads please head the following sentence.

Do not allow fracking to occur in Maryland and stop proposing best practices for a process that will inevitably be doomed to fail periodically.

We need to concentrate on clean energy sources with little environmental and human sacrifice to ensure a life for future generations in Maryland and around the globe.

###

I appreciate your letter in response to my own concerning the inherent dangers of fracking. You do a good job of correcting some errors found in the emails sent to you. However,  I am fearful that the economic study will prove so enticing that your department will move ahead with fracking under the false assurances of safety codes and procedures that others (including your own department) will give you.

Please use common sense…..if you pump anything underground and fracture strata with it, this "stuff" will end up where you did not intend. It's that simple. Natural gas is great energy, but only when extracted in a responsible manner.

I fully support our State's initiatives to promote wind, solar, and geo-thermal. It's in these areas that more needs to be done. My wife and I are making financial arrangements to power our home with a solar array. We would have done this long ago if somehow there was more financial support. Our installation will cost about $25,000 after incentives. Thank goodness there are incentives, but still, $25,000 is a huge undertaking for our family. Why can't the federal and state governments act to make these energy sources affordable?

Making solar, wind, and geo-thermal affordable for everyone (sliding scale?) is the true answer that responsible stewardship will find.

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My concern is simply this: Why are you considering shale development at all. You say you are making tougher standards than any other state when there is so much to consider as so much is unknown. I want to see a complete ban on this development until more is known. You are writing a rule book when it's obvious the rules favor the oil industry. Thanks for allowing me to speak. I am a voter.

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To the members of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission:
We appreciate the 30 day extension that you have granted for comments on the draft Best Management Practices for shale gas development in Maryland. We are still examining these BMP’s and will be sending additional comments by the September 9th deadline after we have completed our review. However, we think it’s best to immediately state our deep concern on the distance between natural gas fracking well pads and drinking water supplies for our homes and towns.

We urge you to increase the 1,000 foot setback from gas drilling pads to private water supplies and the 2,000 foot setback from drilling pads to municipal water supplies to a uniform standard of one kilometer (~ 3,300 feet). This increased setback of one kilometer is science based (new research from Duke University). According to this research and many actual cases in other States showing widespread methane contamination of aquifers near gas well sites, it is clear that Maryland’s currently proposed well setback does not provide sufficient protection for drinking water supplies.

Most people in Garrett County depend on wells and springs to provide them with safe drinking water. Once a drinking water supply is contaminated it’s virtually impossible to clean. What does a family or town do when their drinking water becomes polluted? Who would buy a property with contaminated wells or springs? Would you want to rely on a water buffalo for your family water supply? Where does a farmer obtain the large quantities of water needed for crops and livestock?

Even with “state-of the-art” BMP’s accidents can and will happen. People and wildlife need clean, safe drinking water. We urge you to be proactive and increase these setbacks between gas well pads and water supplies to a minimum of one kilometer.

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Please do not, I repeat, DO NOT allow fracking to be allowed in the state of MD. Fracking has destroyed ground water supplies in Pennsylvania and other parts of this country so bad to where people can literally light their tap water on fire as it comes out of a tap. For each frack they inject over 500 chemicals into the ground, not to mention the thousands of gallons of water used in each frack. There is no way, no way possible, that anyone can justify injecting over 500 chemicals into the ground and not have an consequences to take responsibility of. Facking is bad news. I love this state, please please do not allow the destruction of fracking to damage/destroy the state I love and am from.

###

Let me say at the outset that the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Department of Natural Resources are to be commended for including most of the best management practices (BMPs) for Marcellus Shale gas development recommended in the UMCES-AL study submitted in February 2013.

As we all recognize, fracking can cause serious damage to our environment.  If the yet-to-be-completed but vitally important risk analysis of fracking in Maryland determines the benefits of properly-regulated fracking justify the risks, then the MDE and DNR regulations will play a critically important role in protecting the health and welfare of our citizens and state.

Let me mention at the outset that I was particularly pleased to see the proposed regulations would require development and approval by the state of comprehensive gas development plans (CGDP) before well permit applications can be made.  Other important requirements worth noting are that zero fluids discharge from pads may occur during drilling and completion, on-site recycling of all wastewater and its immediate reuse is required, and permit applications must include lists of chemicals to be used on site plus appropriate toxicological data and spill clean up procedures.

Because the proposed regulations are quite lengthy (as they should be), I will confine my comments to the areas where I believe changes to the proposed regs. are needed most.

The setbacks for wellpads and infrastructure from all drinking water supplies including private wells should be at least 3.500 feet.  Setbacks from all occupied buildings and recreational facilities should be at least 2,000 feet.

The regulations specify methane leak detection monitoring, reporting and recordkeeping is required.  That's good but not enough.  There needs to be a prohibition of methane leakage throughout the fracking process, with appropriate fines and cancellation of the fracking permit if a serious violation occurs.

Monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting of air emissions including hazardous air pollutants and gamma and alpha radiation is required. Again, that's good but there also needs to be prohibition of unsafe levels of specific emissions and radiation if such prohibitions don't already exist in state regulations.

The regulations recommend pressure testing of Marcellus shale gas wells.  That isn't sufficient.  The BMP practice recommended in the UMCES report to require pressure testing should instead be adopted. Doing so would greatly increase the likelihood that all wells would function as they should. 

Finally, public participation during the development of CGDPs will be helpful for all parties.  Ideally, the CGDPs will include the lists of chemicals to be used at well sites plus appropriate toxicological data on them.  If not, the public needs access to such information too.  The lists of chemicals and approximate quantities used of each will be in permit applications as well as in site-specific emergency response plans that gas developers are required to submit, so such information is readily available.  Assertions by gas developers that such info is proprietary is a smoke-screen for their reluctance to let the public know what potentially harmful chemicals are being used to limit their potential liability if chemicals leak and the public is harmed.  Transparency in government helps ensure government functions as it should and the public is protected.

Thank you for your consideration of my concerns.

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Several identical emails were received with this message:

The proposed 1000' and 2000' drinking water setbacks in the draft Best Management Practice are not enough.  Based on evidence of methane, ethane, and propane contamination documented by Duke University researchers in June 2013, MDE and DNR should increase the proposed setbacks to 3,300 feet.

All drinking water setbacks in the Best Management Practices report should be increased to 3,300 feet.

Additionally, the vast majority of water contamination from gas drilling has come from fugitive methane, liberated during the drilling process far below the water-bearing strata; yet, time and again, the methane follows fissures in the earth or escapes due to errors in well construction, and reaches the water supply.

Once contaminated, underground water sources are very difficult — often impossible — to rehabilitate. This forces those affected to rely on potable water supplied by industry, which frequently fights such orders and often succeeds in ending water deliveries. Alternately, companies may agree to install filtering systems, which often simply do not work.

Fugitive methane in concentrations associated with contamination is explosive and poisonous.

Most people in Garrett County and western Allegany County depend on underground water supplies. Contamination of rural springs and wells may seriously reduce a property's value, or even render it worthless and un-sellable.

Rural property owners who may not benefit in any way monetarily from a well being drilled near them are essentially innocent by-standers who will be required to fight the industry and state regulators for mitigation.

Forcing victimized citizens to fight for an obvious human right, due to industrial activity legally permitted by the state, represents an enormous subsidy to industry. If, as the industry and its supporters are fond of saying, the nation as a whole benefits from increased fossil fuel supplies, those in gas "sacrifice zones" should be protected, rather than subjected to fighting with some of the largest corporations in the world for their very survival.

The most effective way to reduce our society's need to mitigate the effects of shale gas development is to not do it too close to other people -or their water.

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Do you not read the science of climate change - investing in dirty fossil fuel methodology is inhumane and should be criminal--- There is no safe and effective and environmentally sound fracking, it is proven that it causes earthquakes, is very invasive  and polluting to all that is nearby and is a foolish and horrible waste of money, energy, time, resources --invest in green energy the planet is at risk and it must be you that has false information or lobbyist money.

Wait! Do the risk analysis! Look at what is happening in other states, e.g. PA.  If you are interested in the health of Marylanders you really really want to take your time with this and look hard and long.  We do not need methane water in western MD.

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For 36 years I lived in Texas, and worked for an oil company that did "fracking" to complete its wells on a regular basis.  What they are not telling us is that when the well is drilled to a depth in which the signs of oil or natural gas are present, an explosive charge is sent down to the bottom of the well.  This explosive charge is then detonated, fracturing the surrounding rock strata.  This is where the slang "fracking" comes from. The oil and/or natural gas will seek the path of least resistance and then can be easily pumped out.  In Texas, fracturing a well has been a commonplace well completion technique for decades.  In our part of the country, the rock strata are somewhat different, as are the completion techniques.  When the explosive charge is detonated in the Marcellus Shale, for instance, various chemicals and sand are hydraulically injected into the well to further force open the fractured rock strata, and to help move the natural gas to the surface.  Unfortunately, these chemicals, which include lead and barium, will leach out into groundwater in just about every situation.  This poisons the well water not just for human consumption, but for livestock and agriculture as well.
 
I had to write you because the damage done by this "fracking" is permanent.  There is no way to clean up these underground aquifers after they have become polluted.  The consequences of unregulated and unlimited fracking have already had dire results in New York and Pennsylvania, and we don't want that here in Maryland.
 
Thank you very much for your attention to my letter.

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But as a person who attended the Hearing [on July 16], I must say that despite all the science, I see little in the way of proof that fracking is safe.  There is plenty of evidence pointing to the possibility that it is not however. At this point and considering the way fracking is done today, the above recommendations are not possible.

Given the uncertainly, we must not make ourselves into a big experiment.  That is common sense - until it is proven safe, it must be banned. As the "Mom" at the hearing said, there is no fracking done anywhere that has been shown to be safe.  The health and lives of the citizens must be made more important than the wishes of the big corporations.  It must consider more important than cheap fuel.  Once the damage to land and water and homes is done, it is done - there is no going back - not for decades and decades, if not more.

This country is to be of the people, by the people and for the people, and no matter what the law says, most citizens do not consider corporations with all their money and power to be people.  They have too much power to be considered in that way.  Again, that is common sense.

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I attended the last half of the 9 July meeting.  Below are my comments based partly on my 7 years experience as a surface mine inspector with the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) plus serving on the Garrett County shale advisory committee (now defunct).  The meeting went well except at the end a shouter in the rear.  The BMPs were explained clearly.  Civility was maintained.

Comments:

I. The reports ordered by the commission will there be or has there been a peer review of them?
II. I see no need to accelerate the process but there comes a time for studies to be turned into regulations which I assume the General Assembly will pass.
III. We at OSM already knew where the strip mine sites were located since MSHA had locations mapped.  For fracking there will be sites in the unknown future.  It might be prudent to recruit several competent state inspectors to be ready to inspect or if contract inspectors hired make sure they are maintaining efficiency and quality.  The state can pass all manner of regulations but if there are not enough competent inspectors in the field enforcing these regs the system breaks down and regs become ineffective.  Frequent inspections by competent inspectors are the key to maintaining minimal damage to the environment and the quality of life of workers and citizens living in the fracking area.  Obviously politics should have no place in the inspection process.  That’s the ideal.
IV. Permitting fees should cover the cost of permit review and inspections.  Fines should cover the cost of reclaiming abandoned sites and damage resulting from non-compliance instead of being the cost of doing business.
V. Public health issues are sufficiently covered by the proposed BMPs and present MDE regs.  Baseline data need to be collected before fracking so as to discover any deleterious effect after fracking.
VI. When it is all said and done, maintaining WATER QUALITY and quantity will be the main issue as it has been for mining lo, these many years.

We live in an imperfect society since all humans are sinners so we might as well keep in mind:

I. Be careful what you wish for
II. Beware of the Law of Unintended Consequences and
III. Murphy’s Law: Fracking provides a perfect application for Murphy’s Law

P.S.   In the Wall Street Journal occasionally the question arises, “Should the federal government take over regulating fracking?”   It happened in the mining industry in 1977 when OSM was established because the states were doing a terrible job regulating mining.  That is a warning to the states regulating fracking—do a lousy job regulating fracking, the feds take over.  My opinion is that the feds will take over.

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Please make a 3300 foot setback between drilling pads and drinking water resources a Best Management Practice. This was found to be a best practice by Duke University.
Many thanks,

     # # #

Good day,

As a concerned and involved citizen with property in Garrett County, I want to echo the sediments of many that set backs for any planned wells be increased from the current proposal of 1,000 feet to what is being reported as adequate by researchers at Duke University of 3,300 feet.  It is also striking that the standard for municipal water sources is 2,000 feet.  Our future home at [address omitted] was part of the water study by the state to get the baseline information since our water source is a well.  We have and are spending a significant portion of our life's accumulated wealth for this future retirement home.  Anything that would make it unlivable would be extremely unfortunate and we are taking precautions such as being in the study to protect our interests.

In the larger context, we are also concerned about the use of existing infrastructure throughout Garrett County for any proposed drilling.  The traffic to facilitate the infusion of water at the wells is enormous, and in my opinion at odds with a Smart growth vision of land use.  People who are "down state" tend to view the events in Garrett and Alleghany counties from the Washington Post or the Baltimore Sun or similar news sources.  The presentation at Garrett County College of the best practices report gets into technical issues and location discussions with I do not believe are even perceivable by people filtering their view of Garrett and Alleghany counties through the news.  All that they will experience if fracking gets going will be the sensational headlines that are reported.  The huge investment in capital that collectively the second home market in Garrett County is producing will be a "dry well".  People will disinvest, and this will be significant. 

The state has a dilemma with the county.  The property investment around Deep Creek Lake funds over 60% of the Garrett County budget according to reports in local papers.  This investment is from a group of owners of property which by in large do not live or vote in the county.  I have heard that 80% of the homes around the lake are second homes and not full time occupied.  My wife and I are Frostburg Alumni and plan to retire to Garrett County in a couple of years.  The dilemma for the state and county is that voting for elected county councilmen comes from residents only who may just be viewing the offers for drilling leases as opportunities for funds, and frankly may not care as much about the investment at Deep Creek Lake. 

The difficulty as I see it in all of this is that land use is a permanent change or relatively permanent for years and years to come. Hence, one of the linchpins of Smart growth. The state needs to take the long view on this because I think the decision making at the county level is too embroiled in politics.  If I were to draw a comparison, it would be akin to leaving the fate of the Chesapeake Bay in the hands of the counties abutting the bay.  This is similar to just allowing Garrett and Alleghany county elected officials to make the decision on land use.  Over the years, we have all experienced what run off has done to the bay.  A natural resource and land once changed is changed for a long time.

As I mentioned, my wife and I are graduates of Frostburg.  Frostburg was founded in response to miners in the area seeking a better life for their children.  After over 100 years, it seems that the extractive industry still has a grip on the views of folks in decision making positions, and certainly throws significant money into campaigns to be persuasive that new extractive efforts are the best thing to happen.  The pitch is normally dollars and jobs.  However, as a CPA, let me tell you directly that such a pitch depends on what you use for criteria to measure.  In the upcoming economic study you need to include both current and future costs in any planned cost benefit analysis and this is difficult to project.  The cost involves dependency on the extractive industry and what happens when the well dries up.  For just 2% of the available dry gas, in my opinion it would be a bad investment to put the current tourist industry and future of Garrett and Alleghany county development at risk.  Do not throw out what you currently have for a promise of a dubious future.

Thank you for your consideration.

    # # #

There are reliable reports that CO2 leakage from fracking is unacceptably high, and reduces any carbon pollution benefit (http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/01/02/1388021/bridge-to-nowhere-noaa-confirms-high-methane-leakage-rate-up-to-9-from-gas-fields-gutting-climate-benefit/). Fracking should be evaluated in light of environmental and public health concerns as well as climate implications before the state moves to any discussion of best practices.

     # # #

I have been a citizen of Maryland for over five years now. My wife and I moved here from Michigan for work. We both love our adopted state and one of the reasons we decided to live in MD as opposed to southern PA, the District or Northern VA, was because of the diverse environment and clean atmosphere.

I have been very concerned with the idea of "fracking" since the technique was first making news in the western states several years ago. My trepidation about this style of drilling has only increased as more and more companies have turned to it and prospectors have turned their sites on the mid-west and eastern states.

It is high time that a government body, such as MDE, stood up to these mining and gas companies and resisted their fast payouts and questionable science to actually get some real answers about this drilling technique and its long term affects. Playing fast and loose with the environment is what this country has been doing for over a century now and look where that has got us? Record storms, heat waves, floods and droughts depending on where you are in the country. Drinking water that can catch fire and a dependence on fossil fuels that is only adding to these problems.

Let’s get the facts now, do our best to determine the long term effects, beyond the state coffers and bank accounts of big businesses and see how this will affect not only us, but generations to come.

     # # #

As a life-long Marylander concerned about fracking, I submit these comments in reference to the fracking “Best Management Practices” report released by state agencies in June.

First of all, I believe the timing of the study is premature and inappropriate. The purpose of the Governor’s fracking Commission is to determine “whether or how” fracking can happen without “unacceptable risks” in Maryland. It is my opinion there is no acceptable risk that justifies allowing fracking.  I and my MD Corporation are in the process of conversations with the Howard County (MD) Economic Development Authority to get their assistance in developing a real 21st Century energy source that will move Maryland to the Global forefront of energy

Even with that development, until the state of Maryland has done a full and comprehensive risk analysis addressing the environmental risks of fracture well gas recovery there is no need to complete a study of how dangerous we can let this process be.   The Commission should immediately and thoroughly analyze the many risks of fracking before taking any other action.

     # # #

Make Maryland a FRACK FREE ZONE -- NO FRACKING -- NO FRACKING INFRASTRUCTURE....

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Future generations are at risk.

Best Practices do not assure safety -- our health and the health of future generations are at risk.

Maryland has sued PA for Fracking -- How many more suits are necessary?
Thank you!

     # # #

First of all, I believe if is incredibly premature to be writing regulations for fracking before fully studying the probable and possible risks.  The purpose of the Governor’s fracking Commission is to determine “whether or how” fracking can happen without “unacceptable risks” in Maryland. And yet, the state has done no risk analysis whatsoever. The Commission should immediately and thoroughly analyze the many risks of fracking before taking any other action.  Once these risks are fully understood, the legislature should decide WHETHER there should be fracking AT ALL in Maryland.

We are all very dependent on water--to drink, to irrigate, for recreation, for a healthy ecosystem that is healthy for its people.    How much of our precious water are we willing to sacrifice to gas development?  That's a question for us all, not for MDE alone.

     # # #

Alarmingly, it appears that the state of Maryland, along with most of the country, is rushing into the highly dubious fracking technique as a panacea to our demand for energy.

The MDE report detailing recommendations for managing the risk of fracking has been done without an intensive study of just what those risks are. There already appears to be ample evidence of potentially dire consequences of fracking from poison water to earthquakes.

     # # #

If you also look at the issue from an economic impact perspective, it only makes sense to wait to even begin drilling or thinking about drilling.  Right now there is a huge glut of supply of natural gas nationwide because of the mad rush to drill into the Marcellus Shale, causing a significant decrease in the price of natural gas.

If Maryland strategically waited until prices started rising in the future, we could cash in on a much more valuable resource while also having the benefit of time and hindsight perspective to see what the true impacts of this kind of drilling are, based on real life research in real drilling sites.  Being a part of the mad rush could only endanger our other precious resources while selling any natural gas we have to an oversupplied market.  It doesn't make any sense.

As Warren Buffet famously said: "When others are greedy, be cautious.  When others are cautious, be greedy".

I think we need to follow Mr. Buffet's advice.


     # # #

Potential impacts from fracking:  POLLUTED AQUIFERS, UNHEALTHY AIR, EARTHQUAKES, NOISE POLLUTION AND ROAD DAMAGE FROM HEAVY TRUCKS, ETC!!!

     # # #

I am very concerned about fracking as a result of reading about how it has affected the states that allow it.  Groundwater pollution and earthquakes are but two of the issues Americans in these states have been dealing with.

     # # #


I BELIEVE THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH FRACKING MAKE FRACKING DANGEROUS TO OUR ENVIRONMENT.  I THEREFORE BELIEVE THAT FRACKING IS UNACCEPTABLE.

     # # #

We have already seen the horrendous impacts of fracking in other states on the land, the water and people's health. Though people are still working on making the direct links to fracking, it is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE to move forward if there is even a chance that fracking is causing these horrible effects.  The truth is, there is a strong circumstantial case that these impacts are caused by fracking.  And while fracking can always happen later if these effects are proven to be caused by something else, once fracking happens there is no way to undo the illness and death of community members or cleaning up water that can now be lit on fire.

I love Maryland and am deeply invested in the community here, but I feel so strongly about this that I would definitely look into moving out of the state if this practice began here.  I have no confidence that the practice can be conducted safely or appropriately.  If the record of the oil and gas industry for safeguarding against negative environmental and health impacts is any indicator, allowing fracking will truly doom Maryland to future sickness and disaster.

It is appalling that the administration is set on moving forward so quickly without even examining the impacts that drilling and fracking would have on Maryland's public health and economy. It seems as though the administration has already made up its mind to allow fracking in Maryland.

    # # #

Please DO NOT ALLOW fracking in Maryland!!!!! I am so proud that thus far we HAVE NOT been fracking in Maryland. Please continue to keep our state free of this practice!!

    # # #

A whole town blew up in Texas, a town blew up in Canada, a Nuclear Power Plant is leaking radiation into the Pacific Ocean, and Wall Street Firms destroyed the economy, all while "regulated". Honestly, the government can't regulate anything with any efficacy.

Now you want to destroy our drinking water?   Where's the line? Fracking is not safe.  It's can't be made safe and, in addition to contaminating underwater drinking reservoirs, it contaminates MILLIONS of gallons of FRESH WATER to draw out gas.  That water has to go somewhere.  Like Nuclear Radiation, it has to have a home.  Sure, we can trust that companies won't save a quick buck and will dispose of it properly, but already, people are balking at storing it and there are stories of trucks just dumping into local streams.  We don't have enough state employees to prevent that from happening, never mind an MDE willing to go after polluters with any big fines.

Can anyone stop being a shill of big business and just do what's right? It's not "right" much less sane to drill into shale horizontally to get natural gas to ship all over the world.  We are polluting our own backyards with frack waste water to give China and India cheaper fuel.  Is our health and safety worth that much money?

We live in a liberal state so that we don't end up being PA or VA. Yet, the only state with the guts to stand up to big oil is NY.  Sad we were looking for a vacation home in MD.  Not looking in Western Maryland anymore.  I'd rather be in high taxed New York than a place where I have no drinking water in Maryland.

    # # #

We have waited long enough. We see drilling all around Garrett County and we are not allowed to take advantage of it. Reasonable controls are appropriate. The proposed requirements are too restrictive and designed to slow or stop drilling. PA WV seems to do ok. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. Follow their experience and parallel their regulation.

    # # #

I strongly concur that a Drilling Plan be mandatory prior to any issuance of a permit.  In the draft I did not find an area that discusses measures for correcting any leakages in areas outside the wellhead to the pipe.  For example, if the gas flows into someone’s home or into the air from an area in the gas field, how is that issue handled?  We do not need a "Gasland" movie made in Maryland.  What are the requirements for restoration of trout streams should fluids pollute the water?

    # # #

Our water and environment are more important than natural gas profits. You will no longer have my vote if you continue to support the current method of natural gas extraction in MD or anywhere else. It will be my personal mission, as well, to inform every politically active person I know and communicate with of your intentions on the matter and how important it is to vote against you!  There is too much at stake when it comes to hydraulic fracturing to make a mistake.  NO TO FRACKING!!!

    # # #

 Fracking has been an unmitigated catastrophe. Yes, we can talk about best practices, but the fact is that a technology that intentionally creates cracks in the Earth cannot be locally contained. These dangerous chemicals will travel ... into our ground water and back up to the surface. Fracking is a monstrous technology. We need alternatives like wind, sun, tidal, geothermal and biogas from agricultural and even human waste, not this genocide in the waiting.

    # # #

 
With respect, I urge you to resist the temptation to allow fracking to come to Maryland.  Please understand that more than 30% of all these wells have cracks and fissures, allowing the chemicals and gasses to get into the aquifer.  Once that happens, it's game over. I support you and have supported and voted for you in the past.  But this is a deal breaker for me and many many others.
Thanks very much for listening.

    # # #

Fracking is an unacceptable risk for Maryland families like mine! As a young person about to start my own family, it makes me rethink plans of staying in Maryland.

    # # #

I voted and supported you because I thought you best represented Marylanders. Do not give in and allow fracking in Maryland. It's a bad idea. Think of the future. You are supposed to care about this state. Don't undermine the people of Maryland.

    # # #

Bad idea. There is no isolated place that is safe to frack. Everything we put into our ground water will migrate to other areas including streams, rivers, and ultimately the bay. With our prime resources for water recreation and marine industry, fracking will eventually have negative economic impacts on other sectors of our state economy. Fracking as an economic boom is simply shortsighted; and no matter how one talks around the issue of fracking impacts over time, the outcomes are inevitable...they are guaranteed.

   # # #

It is extremely disconcerting that you would actually be considering allowing fracking in Maryland.

I have a request for you, please watch Gasland and Gasland 2. It is so dangerous to allow what fracking may do to the people of Maryland and our beloved Chesapeake Bay!

e are already surrounded by states that are allowing fracking and if your thought is to just go with the flow.... don't expect much support from my family in any future endeavors.

t is bad enough that fracking is excluded from the Clean Water Act, that is just dumbfounding, but I thought you had more concern for our environment than this.

    # # #

I have seen what has been happening in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and would hate to see it happen in Maryland.  Our children and grandchildren will be better off with a sustainable future.

    # # #

It is appalling that the administration is set on moving forward so quickly without even examining the impacts that drilling and fracking would have on Maryland's public health and economy. It seems as though the administration has already made up its mind to allow fracking in Maryland. Scientists now say that the released methane from cracks in the pipes and inadvertent venting makes this type of gas recovery more productive of greenhouse gases than even coal. The potential damage to our water supply is very great since so much of this drilling would occur in the Potomac watershed.

We have the opportunity to embrace off-shore wind power as a safe and clean mode of energy production. Let us be prudent now and invest in
renewable energy.

     # # #

HOW COULD YOU DELIBERATELY PUT OUR BEAUTIFUL AND OBVIOUSLY FRAGILE ECOSYSTEM AT SUCH EXTREME RISK, ESPECIALLY WITH ALL THE EVIDENCE OF THOSE RISKS? I HAVE LIVED IN AND OUT OF MARYLAND SINCE I WAS 5 YEARS OLD AS A NAVY KID SO THE CHANGES MAY BE MORE ACUTE TO ME THAN OTHERS. WE CAN'T DESTROY OUR NEST AND EXPECT TO LIVE OR PRETEND THAT WHAT WE DO DOESN'T AFFECT OTHER STATES WHO MAY HAVE MORE COURAGE THAN WE DO TO RESIST WHATEVER SEEMS WORTH MAKING THE WRONG CHOICE RIGHT NOW.

     # # #


It is outrageous that given the proven health risks of fracking that you are creating public policy that will risk the lives and health of MD citizens by allowing fracking in MD.  PLEASE DO NOTHING TO ALLOW FRACKING IN MD.

     # # #

This is crazy.  There is no safe way to extract shale gas.  You are threatening our water supply.  Think of life without shale gas--wind power, solar power. Now think of life without water.

     # # #

I've been a fan of O’Malley’s March for years.  I appreciate your stance on same sex marriage.  I appreciate your stance on off-shore wind.  I appreciate your stance on Rural Legacy Grants.  I appreciate your stance on undocumented immigrants.  Please don't blow it all on allowing fracking, even limited fracking, in Maryland.

     # # #

How can you even consider this?!?  Fracking in Maryland or any other state is a HORRIBLE idea and an even worse reality.  We have rich topsoil, sometimes good air, and water that need a lot of help.  How can you consider selling out our most basic resources for oil money!?!
We do not need their money or their oil.

     # # #

If you and your administration are not willing to live within the area where fracking is taking place then you should not vote in favor of this plan. More needs to be researched.  Perhaps a conversation with the people in Pennsylvania who are living with fracking in their back yard would give you some more information. The population of our state needs to be educated on the pros and cons before a decision is made.

     # # #

As a mother, grandmother and more importantly taxpayer and voter, I urge you to halt fracking in Maryland.  I'll be watching to see how you handle this.

     # # #

It seems to me that the threat to drinking water is too great just to get more energy to make rich companies richer. We have abused our environment for too long and will pass on a barren landscape to the next generation. At what point do we say no, enough is enough? Please stand up for the future of Maryland and say no to the gas and oil industry

     # # #

Here is a simple question outside of the environmental catastrophe to our groundwater by the release of lethal chemicals into it through Hydraulic Fracturing: Does a Democratic Governor who is moving toward running for president want a vote of confidence to the gas industry, alienating his environmental constituents? After all of these years are you showing the truth around your politics? We are talking about the Chesapeake Bay water shed as well here. Let 'em eat silica could be your new slogan.

     # # #

I voted for you and support almost everything you do, but Fracking is a mistake.  The initial money and gas obtained is followed by ground water pollution and, in some cases, earthquakes.  Please eschew the carrot by thinking about the stick that follows.

     # # #

I supported you in the past because you seemed to be the more long-sighted candidate. I believed you would put the welfare of people over corporate greed. Our state and country need to work towards energy sources that do not have the potential to contaminate vital water supplies and the air we breathe. Please do not allow Maryland to end up like other Fracked communities who have had to abandon their homes due to water sources becoming contaminated beyond repair and deadly chemicals in the air, silently and slowly killing those who have to stay.

     # # #

Having witnessed the impact of Hydraulic Fracking in PA and having heard stories of people impacted by Hydraulic Fracking in Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and elsewhere, I find it deplorable that Maryland is considering allowing Hydraulic Fracking and its infrastructure in Maryland.  Are we really intent of damaging our health, our air, our water, our lives and the lives of future generations?

How do politicians and other people in Maryland and elsewhere sleep at night when they are knowingly planning to harm our health and the health of our natural environment for quick profits for the oil/gas industry?  How are public health planners, hospitals, medical insurance/Medicaid (some LNG industry workers are not insured) institutions and other health providers included in the planning of hydraulic fracking in Maryland?

We don't know what is coming down the Susquehanna or other rivers impacted by Hydraulic Fracking.  How will the Chesapeake Bay and those consuming water from these rivers/the Bay be impacted by proprietary chemicals used in the fracking processes elsewhere?  What is known and what is unknown?  Where are the scientific studies to prove known’s and unknowns?

Best Practices are context specific...  Best Practices do not guarantee a risk-free environment.  Best Practices are continually reviewed and updated.  Where is the plan for how Best Practices will be planned for, implemented, and continuously evaluated?  How will the State insure and assure the taxpayers that NO MARYLAND tax dollars, natural resources and/or other properties/entities shall be expended or harmed in ANYWAY -- and if there is harm -- who pays?

Let's slow the process of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative.   Let's make sure that Maryland scientifically investigates what is already happening to our air, water and health because of surrounding states' drilling -- before launching any plans to provide infrastructure, to drill or to exploit any more of Maryland's Natural Resources and People through Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiatives..
Thank you.

     # # #

 
I am appalled that the state now has no control over the noise and light pollution from 24/7 drilling operations.  Like one of the speakers that evening, I live close enough to the PA border so that I have some experience of the disruption to daily life that the drilling operations make.  Aside from any question of water or environmental pollution, it is very hard to live with the lights and the noise of diesel drilling twenty-four hours a day for the month that it takes to drill one well.  And with the Best Practices' recommended "up to 18 wells per pad"  that means we will go through this eighteen times.  Eighteen months is a year and a half of constant drilling.  These may not be consecutive, but a year and a half is a long sentence to impose on a neighbor of a drilling site who does not stand to gain anything from this imposition (I do not own the gas rights under my land).  My only protection is from the State of Maryland, and I surely do want as much protection from you as is possible.
 
I am also appalled that the state has no control over the sitting of compressor stations and gathering lines.  Compressor stations also run on diesel fuel, are noisy, and are in general the largest contributor to air pollution of the entire gas production process.  I bought this piece of land in the country so that I could have clean air and clean water.  Like many Americans my age, I grew up in a household where both my parents smoked.  I also began to smoke as a teen ager, and only quit in the 1960s when the first reports about the danger of smoking appeared.  Consequently, my lungs are already compromised. I contract pneumonia easily. I will not be able to withstand much air pollution before I will have to leave the area.  If gas production is permitted in my area, I can foresee only limited options for myself.  Since land values in a drilling area decrease, and since banks are loath to make loans in areas where drilling is occurring, I may be forced just to abandon my house and farm for reasons of my health, an outcome I do not wish, but cannot control.

     # # #

 Twenty years ago, my beautiful daughter created a message song, a message from God. I will include the words to her song. Feel free to make copies, and give them out. The message is from the children as she put it. [My daughter] is in heaven now, and left behind a daughter. This is why I am writing, as it is very sad that 23 years have passed and our world is and has been allowed to worsen. The water is rising, the government is searching ways to prepare. What ever happened to Prevent. I am writing in request to BAN FRACKING! in which is the worst Greenhouse Gas! I saw on HBO Gasline II, and to see large areas of land become contaminated from the fracking, land that can no longer bare our food, water contaminated that community’s can no longer drink, shower. Community owners forced from the home they loved to relocate and told to Keep quiet. In Texas the fracking personal slaughter wild horses, was it because they did not want the media to show the dead horses everywhere, dead, from contaminated water. Earthquakes, occurring from the fracking. If Fracking is allowed to continue, a bottle of water will cost 100 times more than a tank of gas. Food, just imagine no land to grow, no water to feed the crops and livestock. I am beyond words that we are in times that we know better, we all want it better for our childrens, children. We cannot ignore the destruction Fracking has and will cause. Please BAN all Fracking now and forever. Sun and wind has been given to us, it’s clean and free, and hopefully always there. Thank you, and please send a return response.

  LYRICS: IT’S ALL UP TO YOU AND ME ©

Intro
Verse 1: IS YOUR HEART BROKEN OR DON’T YOU CARE
  THAT OUR WORLD IS IN SUCH DESPAIR
  THIS COULD BE HEAVEN OR PARADISE
  PEACE ON EARTH AND EVERYTHING NICE

Chorus: IT’S ALL UP TO YOU AND ME TO CARE
  TO SAVE THE TREES AND SAVE THE AIR
  EVERYONE LENDING A HELPING HAND
  IT’S ALL UP TO YOU AND ME

Intro
Verse 2: GIVING A CHANCE TO A CHILD LIKE ME
  I COULD GROW UP TO BE TALL AS A TREE-
  BUT IF OUT LAND IS ALL TAKEN AWAY
  WHEN I GROW UP I’LL REMEMBER THIS DAY

Chorus
Bridge:  ARE YOU A ROBOT OR A MACHINE
   WHY ARE YOU BEING SO MEAN?
   WON’T YOU PLEASE HELP US AND ANSWER THE CALL
   BY SAVING THE TREES IT WILL HELP US TO BREATHE
   AND THE WORLD WOULD BE BETTER FOR ALL

Verse 3: IF YOU WANT EARTH TO BE PARADISE
   -WHY DON’T YOU TAKE GOD’S ADVICE
   STOP POLLUTION AND SAVE THE TREES
   IT’S ALL UP TO YOU AND ME

Chorus


    “PLEASE CARE”

I am sorry that I missed the July 16 public meeting at MDE headquarters concerning the above draft report.  I would like to submit the following comments.

I want to thank the advisory committee for holding a meeting in Baltimore and providing an opportunity to comment on the draft report.  I have read sections of the Appalachian Laboratory report and the Advisory Committee report. 

I am in support of a moratorium on natural gas hydro fracking in Maryland until all scientific studies and regulations are in place so that Maryland does not repeat the mistakes that occurred in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  I believe that if hydro fracking is done correctly in Maryland it will be far environmentally cleaner than extracting and burning coal.   If not done correctly, there will be no environmental gain, and an economic loss of Garrett County and Maryland will ensue. 

1.  I urge that the final report as well as any regulations that are promulgated use the words “shall” and “are required” where many recommendations in the draft report use “should” or “is encouraged to”.
2. Perhaps the most important comment is no matter what regulations are promulgated, the State must conduct frequent on-site inspections of hydro fracking operations either by State MDE staff or expert consultants hired by and reporting directly to MDE.  Industry self-reporting or self-monitoring is no substitute for agency inspections. 
3. The discussion of rural gathering pipe lines ignores the need to ensure proper regulation of rural compressor stations that may not be regulated by the federal government.  A rural natural gas compressor station exploded near a school in Pennsylvania.  These stations should be located a safe distance from other buildings. 
4. I did not find mention of the concern that blasting or hydro fracturing could cause earthquakes.  In a few places geologists showed that hydro fracking operations did cause earthquakes.  While not a common problem, this issue should be covered so that known earthquake prone areas in MD are excluded from hydro fracking. 
5. If hydro fracking is permitted, there should be a clear mechanism for citizens to report violations of the law or of permits.  Compensation to private parties who experience loss should be provided.
6. There should be a sharing and coordination of environmental monitoring data by the Maryland environmental agencies with their counter parts in Pennsylvania and W. Virginia as well as coordination of emergency management drills.

# # #

I live in New York State where we have created a grass roots opposition to hydrofracturing. The movement has grown so large that our Governor Cuomo and other elected officials, who previously were supportive of fracking have now changed their positions or have become silent, waiting to see in which direction their political futures lie. Many of our towns and villages have voted in bans or moratoriums. We have successfully defended Home Rule in our courts. Fracking is a threat to our entire country. What happens in NY affects what happens in MD, and vice versa. We need to put our efforts and funding into alternative energies to protect our water and our environment. You have the opportunity to be a planet saver. Don't make the same errors Governor Cuomo has made.

# # #

I was stunned to see that you have done this study.  It is both premature and inappropriate.  The governor's commission is still determining whether fracking can happen in Maryland.  I am deeply troubled by your putting the proverbial cart before the horse and by the fact that there was little notice of your meeting.

Your setback recommendations are not far enough.   The press has reported widely on problems with 1000 feet at drill sites across the country.  Do you really want to allow drill pads that close to schools and people's homes with the noise and light, to say nothing about the potential for ground water contamination, methane leakage, and flaring?

I was also troubled that your visual about one-percent land impact left out such things as waste water storage tanks. Hydraulic fracturing is an industrial enterprise and the public should be made fully aware of what it is actually going to look like.

I am very concerned about the impacts we are already seeing from global warming.  Maryland should be a leader as it is in so many other areas.  If the commission decides that drilling is to proceed, will you include a mandatory limit of zero percent methane leakage?

# # #

We have waited long enough. We see drilling all around Garrett County and we are not allowed to take advantage of it. Reasonable controls are appropriate. The proposed requirements are too restrictive and designed to slow or stop drilling. PA WV seem to do ok. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. Follow their experience and parallel their regulation.

# # #

As a resident of Maryland, I urge you to reject the deeply flawed fracking "best management practices" plan that supports the natural gas industry's aims and would pave the way for fracking in Maryland.

No Fracking in Maryland as long as the Haliburton Clause exists!

I am your constituent and will be deeply disappointed in you if you allow this!

How can you support this when you don't even know what is in the water to be injected into our water table???

You will never see another vote of mine if you go through with this, I promise you. Nor will I give any further money to your campaigns.

I urge you to protect your Maryland constituents by ending this process altogether and banning hydraulic fracturing in our state.

# # #

My beautiful young 12 year old daughter will be directly impacted by the negative effects of fracking. She is not acceptable collateral damage. She is a bright young person of Maryland and deserves the bright future she is headed for. I find it hard to believe that a Presidential candidate could successfully run on a flawed environment policy. Please stand up for what is right and lead the way to a truly clean energy future.

# # #

I have been a Maryland resident since relocating from NY in 1979.  I've always been a big fan of the tap water and the well water in Maryland. I am not a big fan of the earthquakes.  Though turning my garden hose and faucet taps into flame throwers may sound really cool, it's probably not the healthiest thing for me and my family.

Look, I know their money is huge and you will need it to run for President in 2016 but if there is any way to resist their influence and not allow fracking in MD.  I'd certainly appreciate it.  I think most fans of the Chesapeake Bay would too.

Fracking may provide a few jobs in America in the short run but it's one more step towards privatizing our most basic resource.   Water. And like Lewis Black, I do not want to drive to get my water.

Thank you for your service.

# # #

This administration is running headlong into opening the state to fracking.  I worked on this issue while I was at the US EPA.  Despite the administration's giving a green light to fracking, it was obvious that there major environmental issues that were getting swept under the rug by the Obama leadership.  We need to thoroughly study these issues before we endanger the health and an environment of our citizens.

I urge you to protect your Maryland constituents by ending this process altogether and banning hydraulic fracturing in our state.

# # #

As a resident of Maryland, I urge you to reject the deeply flawed fracking "best management practices" plan that supports the natural gas industry's aims and would pave the way for fracking in Maryland.

Hopefully this is just a political move to keep everyone "happy".  I live in NY state, but am concerned about this issue at a national even worldwide level.  You cannot ignore what is happening in PA right now with well contamination and waste disposal problems.  You have such beautiful and diverse countryside.  Do not allow greedy, short-term opportunists to spoil it and your life-sustaining water supply forever.  Invest in renewables!

I urge you to protect your Maryland constituents by ending this process altogether and banning hydraulic fracturing in our state.

# # #

Why was slick water hydraulic fracturing exempted from the Clean Water, Clean Air and Clean Drinking Water Acts? Because the criteria cannot be met and if it was, it would be too expensive with no profit margin.

Renegade methane at every stage of production of natural gas is BAD for Climate Change.

# # #

A new risk has come to light within the past week. The connection between fracking and earthquakes! I have read three articles online: "Energy Risk: Sharp Rise in U.S. Earthquakes Directly Linked to Fracking," The Energy Collective.  "Study raises new concerns about earthquakes and fracking fluids." Sharon Begley, Reuters. "Josh Fox in Gasland Part 2, The Fracking and Earthquake Link and the Natural Gas Industry's Use of PSYOPs", Democracy Now. In light of this new danger, it is very premature to consider fracking in Maryland.

# # #

The risks of fracking are clear throughout other parts of the U.S., and these examples indicate that we should approach the fracking process with extreme caution and respect for the dangers it poses to us and the environment that we depend on.

# # #

To the Advisory Committee:

I strongly concur that a Drilling Plan be mandatory prior to any issuance of a permit. 

In the draft I did not find an area that discusses measures for correcting any leakages in areas outside the wellhead to the pipe.  For example, if the gas flows into someones home or into the air from an area in the gas field, how is that issue handled?  We do not need a "Gasland" movie made in Maryland.  What are the requirements for restoration of trout streams should fluids pollute the water?

# # #

This identical email was sent by multiple persons:

As a resident of Maryland, I urge you to reject the deeply flawed fracking "best management practices" plan that supports the natural gas industry's aims and would pave the way for fracking in Maryland.

The O'Malley administration recently released the "Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Best Management Plan," bringing us one step closer to allowing fracking in Maryland.

It is appalling that the administration is set on moving forward so quickly without even examining the impacts that drilling and fracking would have on Maryland's public health and economy. It seems as though the administration has already made up its mind to allow fracking in Maryland.

Several aspects of the report -- which cater directly to the gas industry -- are particularly troubling:

1) The report does little to address how fracking wastewater will be disposed of in Maryland. In other states that fail to regulate wastewater disposal, the underground injection of this toxic fluid has been linked to earthquakes and contaminated drinking water.

2) The state will not require that companies submit comprehensive drilling plans; rather, it will ask them to "voluntarily" provide this information. Asking the gas industry to volunteer information about its drilling sites does nothing to guarantee that the public's interest is taken into account during planning.

3) The report also rejects a proposal by one of its own scientists to limit fracking to only 1-2% of Maryland's land surface. No new cap on fracking has been set, likely because the gas industry has intentions to expand fracking to the Eastern Shore, Annapolis, Montgomery County and other regions.

I urge you to protect your Maryland constituents by ending this process altogether and banning hydraulic fracturing in our state.

# # #

As a conscious human being and Marylander concerned about fracking, I submit these comments in reference to the fracking “Best Management Practices” report released by state agencies in June.

First of all, using the term best practices shows that the state intends to frack.  This is wrongheaded and needs to be re-thought.

Secondly, the public and the environment should not bear ANY negative consequences of hydro fracking since it is not possible to make it safe.  This is not a difference of opinion, this is basic physics.  Gas when released goes straight up.  Therefore, gas in a distant fissure far from the bore is not going to make its way into the pipe.  It will be released into the air.

Thirdly, fracking releases more methane and other green house gasses into the environment than any other kind of drilling.  Methane is worse than CO2 where global warming/climate change are concerned.  Fracking will only make the situation worse.  WE have a responsibility to not let fracking happen.

Fourthly, there needs to be a comprehensive economic study that reveals the high cost inputs of fracking--more energy and resources goes into extraction than is netted.  Please see Deborah Rogers, economist for more details.

Fracking is wrong-  Let's not do.  If you wouldn't drink benzene, why would you put in the ground to pollute your water.  You cannot drink money.  Fracking is not a forgone conclusion.  The people say no.

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As a property owner in Garret County I am very interested in responsible use of our natural resources in Maryland.  I realize that we need to find a way to provide energy and maintain our environment.  I am concerned with two aspects of the Best Management Practices draft report.

  • The setback requirements from table I-2 are too low.
    • 300 feet as a setback from historic sites would certainly destroy any historical site or park.  The industrial nature of a drilling operations is in direct conflict with the goal of preserving cultural and historic or scenic and wild byways.  These unique resources need protection of at least 2000 feet if not much further.
    • 500 feet from a private groundwater well would endanger the drinking water of citizens who are not benefiting from the drilling operation.  Most of the residences of Garret Co are on private wells, approximately 80%.  The distance from a public well is listed 2000 feet and this should be extended to private wells.
    • The department should consider the newest information available from Duke University that recommends for setbacks for 1km.
       
  • Surface disturbances
    • The total disturbance limit to 2% on high value acreage should be extended to all extraction zones
    • A different limit might be appropriate but no limit is not reasonable.

Thank you for your consideration and I trust that Maryland will lead the nation in responsible use of our natural resources.

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As a resident of Maryland, I urge you to reject the deeply flawed fracking "best management practices" plan that supports the natural gas industry's aims and would pave the way for fracking in Maryland.

There is not sufficient data to prove that fracking is safe.  There is a growing body of evidence that shows it is lethal.

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Having witnessed the impact of Hydraulic Fracking in PA and having heard stories of people impacted by Hydraulic Fracking in Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and elsewhere, I find it deplorable that Maryland is considering allowing Hydraulic Fracking and its infrastructure in Maryland.  Are we really intent of damaging our health, our air, our water, our lives and the lives of future generations?

How do politicians and other people in Maryland and elsewhere sleep at night when they are knowingly planning to harm our health and the health of our natural environment for quick profits for the oil/gas industry?  How are public health planners, hospitals, medical insurance/Medicaid (some LNG industry workers are not insured) institutions and other health providers included in the planning of hydraulic fracking in Maryland?

We don't know what is coming down the Susquehanna or other rivers impacted by Hydraulic Fracking.  How will the Chesapeake Bay and those consuming water from these rivers/the Bay be impacted by proprietary chemicals used in the fracking processes elsewhere?  What is known and what is unknown?  Where are the scientific studies to prove knowns and unknowns?

Best Practices are context specific...  Best Practices do not guarantee a risk-free environment.  Best Practices are continually reviewed and updated.  Where is the plan for how Best Practices will be planned for, implemented, and continuously evaluated?  How will the State insure and assure the taxpayers that NO MARYLAND tax dollars, natural resources and/or other properties/entities shall be expended or harmed in ANYWAY -- and if there is harm -- who pays?

Let's slow the process of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative.   Let's make sure that Maryland scientifically investigates what is already happening to our air, water and health because of surrounding states' drilling -- before launching any plans to provide infrastructure, to drill or to exploit any more of Maryland's Natural Resources and People through Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiatives..

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I am appalled that the state now has no control over the noise and light pollution from 24/7 drilling operations.  Like one of the speakers [at the July 9 public meeting], I live close enough to the PA border so that I have some experience of the disruption to daily life that the drilling operations make.  Aside from any question of water or environmental pollution, it is very hard to live with the lights and the noise of diesel drilling twenty-four hours a day for the month that it takes to drill one well.  And with the Best Practices' recommended "up to 18 wells per pad" that means we will go through this eighteen times.  Eighteen months is a year and a half of constant drilling.  These may not be consecutive, but a year and a half is a long sentence to impose on a neighbor of a drilling site who does not stand to gain anything from this imposition (I do not own the gas rights under my land).  My only protection is from the State of Maryland, and I surely do want as much protection from you as is possible.
 
I am also appalled that the state has no control over the siting of compressor stations and gathering lines.  Compressor stations also run on diesel fuel, are noisy, and are in general the largest contributor to air pollution of the entire gas production process.  I bought this piece of land in the country so that I could have clean air and clean water.  Like many Americans my age, I grew up in a household where both my parents smoked.  I also began to smoke as a teen ager, and only quit in the 1960s when the first reports about the danger of smoking appeared.  Consequently, my lungs are already compromised. I contract pneumonia easily. I will not be able to withstand much air pollution before I will have to leave the area.  If gas production is permitted in my area, I can foresee only limited options for myself.  Since land values in a drilling area decrease, and since banks are loath to make loans in areas where drilling is occurring, I may be forced just to abandon my house and farm for reasons of my health, an outcome I do not wish, but cannot control.

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As a resident of Maryland, I urge you to reject the deeply flawed fracking "best management practices" plan that supports the natural gas industry's aims and would pave the way for fracking in Maryland.
 
I am absolutely disgusted to hear that the O'Malley administration recently released the "Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Study Best Management Plan." 

We have already seen the horrendous impacts of fracking in other states on the land, the water and people's health. Though people are still working on making the direct links to fracking, it is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE to move forward if there is even a chance that fracking is causing these horrible effects.  The truth is, there is a strong circumstantial case that these impacts are caused by fracking.  And  while fracking can always happen later if these effects are proven to  be caused by something else, once fracking happens there is no way to  undo the illness and death of community members or cleaning up water  that can now be lit on fire. 

I love Maryland and am deeply invested in the community here, but I feel so strongly about this that I would definitely look into moving out of the state if this practice began here.  I have no confidence that the practice can be conducted safely or appropriately.  If the record of the oil and gas industry for safeguarding against negative environmental and health impacts is any indicator, allowing fracking will truly doom Maryland to future sickness and disaster. 

It is appalling that the administration is set on moving forward so quickly without even examining the impacts that drilling and fracking would have on Maryland's public health and economy. It seems as though the administration has already made up its mind to allow fracking in Maryland. 

Several aspects of the report -- which cater directly to the gas industry -- are particularly troubling: 
1) The report does little to address how fracking wastewater will be disposed of in Maryland. In other states that fail to regulate wastewater disposal, the underground injection of this toxic fluid has been linked to earthquakes and contaminated drinking water. 

2) The state will not require that companies submit comprehensive drilling plans; rather, it will ask them to "voluntarily” provide this information. Asking the gas industry to volunteer information about its drilling sites does nothing to guarantee that the public’s interest is taken into account during planning. 

3) The report also rejects a proposal by one of its own scientists to limit fracking to only 1-2% of Maryland's land surface. No new cap on fracking has been set, likely because the gas industry has intentions to expand fracking to the Eastern Shore, Annapolis, Montgomery County and other regions. 

I urge you to protect your Maryland constituents by ending this process altogether and banning hydraulic fracturing in our state.

# # #

Light pollution as well as noise pollution should be addressed because light pollution corrupts the wildlife cycles and destroys the sense of solitude for residents and tourists.

Is it possible to get reports from states that already have fracking that would describe the issues or problems they have encountered?

Monitoring compliance and enforcing the regulations – What will happen when the companies do not follow regulations? How long will it take to make them comply? Will litigation be necessary? What about the time and cost to do this? These may be hidden but great costs. I think that companies with bad records in other states should be banned from Maryland.

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The setbacks from streams and rivers should be more than 300 feet – maybe 1,000 feet from the drilling pad.

You should address noise from drilling rigs and compressor stations and idling trucks, especially at NIGHT!

Money for state inspectors and independent inspectors should come from higher permit fees, not tax payer dollars.

# # #

Please offer the meetings via Webinar/Skype/live feed for the public who cannot physically attend.

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How can we think that the gas industry can hire independent experts to conduct monitoring and enforce regulations? Anyone who is hired by the industry will surely be influenced by the industry.

I appreciate the effort to protect remote areas like Savage River State Forest from noise and light pollution.  But what about the people who have lived in the countryside for all their lives, whose families have been here for generations? Do they count for nothing?

The report proposes a setback of 2,000 feet for public water supplies but only 1,000 feet for private wells. In essence, you are saying that safety and health is not important for the few or if only a few families are adversely affected. Protecting town water supplies does matter, but protecting water for everyone is of major importance, along with preserving quality of life.

# # #

I am horrified at the potential eventual consideration of forced pooling!

If the horizontal part of the well could be drilled as far as 8,000 feet, property lines are not protected if the setback is 1,000 feet!

To think that the gas company could find/hire unbiased monitors is ludicrous.

It is appalling and shameful to propose different setback standards for municipal waters and for private wells.

# # #

My primary concern is the possible contamination of aquifers - and any possible effect on our groundwater. There is a vast "network" of groundwater supplies and no one can say with absolute certainty whether or not the chemicals used in the "fracking" process can migrate to groundwater sources hundreds of miles away from the drilling sites.  One small crack in the casing could result in contamination of an entire "network" of aquifers.

There is also the problem of disposal of thousands of gallons of wastewater as a result of the "fracking" process - where is this wastewater disposed, streams, lakes or sewage treatment plants?  If disposed at sewage treatment plants, are the chemicals removed prior to discharge into rivers and streams and if not, what protections are in place to protect the millions of people who obtain their water from municipal systems (WSSC for example), that withdraw from those rivers?

Last but not least are the thousands of gallons used for "fracking" - is it groundwater or surface water and if private wells are adversely affected with groundwater declines, are those citizens provided with potable water via deeper wells and if those deeper aquifers are contaminated with the chemicals used in the "fracking" process, from where will they obtain potable water, especially if there is no access to municipal water??

We should all be concerned because Maryland may someday allow "fracking" in the mountainous counties in the state.

# # #

I say NO to fracking in Maryland. As a life long resident of Maryland I have come to love my Mountains and Streams and Lakes. I do not want to look at gas wells 100 feet from my favorite fishing or camping spot. Fresh drinking water is not something that should be gave away for a few dollars of profit. Each well requires a million or more gallons of water which cannot be reclaimed. The dangers to the ground water supply is simply not worth the risk. The gas companies lie and say natural gas will power our country into the next century. That's a straight up lie. Most of Americas infrastructure is not set up to run on natural gas and most of the natural gas being produced in America right now is being sold to China because we simply don't have the need for it. I know that my words won't sway your opinion in anyway because I know this is already been decided behind closed doors and this public opinion thing is just something you have to do to make it look legitimate. However I will say this, the politicians in this state as well as the whole country have sold their moral souls out for a quick easy buck. They are all a "Special Kind of Stupid" and their reign of power is coming to an end in the near future. The people of this country are waking up in mass numbers to the corruption of the politicians and you all will be ousted from office in the near future. I just hope it happens before you idiots mess up the environment anymore then you already have!     

# # #

Companies permitted to conduct a fracking operation in Maryland should be required to post a bond sufficient to cover penalties for any violations that might occur in the course of their work, regardless of any showing of negligence on their part.  These penalties need to be sufficient to cover the costs of restoring the environment to a safe and livable condition.

Environmental standards for which the companies would bear responsibility should include those that apply to air, water and soil contamination; and reduced property values and quality of life in neighborhoods during and after their operation

# # #

As a Garret County resident and homeowner, I am concerned about fracking.  I am concerned that the home that I have worked for all my life will become contaminated, unlivable, and un-sellable due to fracking practices that have not been evaluated or monitored.

I worked at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and I know how often rules are broken and how few mine operators ACTUALLY pay the fines they receive.  I know how many operators appeal penalties and how these appeals are bottle necked in court so that few fines or restitution is paid.  I suspect that such practices will be common among oil and gas companies.

I am not naive enough to believe that these companies have our best economic interests at heart but rather THEIR best economic interests to the extent that they, like most companies, will take as many shortcuts as possible to be as profitable as possible.  It's just that when some companies practice this, they do not endanger the lives and homes of everyone within miles of their operation.

I submit these comments in reference to the fracking “Best Management Practices” report released by state agencies in June.

First of all, I believe the timing of the study is premature and inappropriate. The purpose of the Governor’s fracking Commission is to determine “whether or how” fracking can happen without “unacceptable risks” in Maryland. And yet, the state has done no risk analysis whatsoever. The Commission should immediately and thoroughly analyze the many risks of fracking before taking any other action.

And then, if it becomes relevant to discuss “Best Management Practices” for fracking in Maryland, any such recommendations must:

1. Protect the climate: Require gas companies to meet a zero percent leakage rate for methane throughout the fracking process.
2. Protect our water: Require gas companies to complete Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans that severely limit toxic run off and erosion.
3. Protect our health and safety: Setbacks for well pads and infrastructure from private and public water wells, homes, schools, and office buildings should be at least 3,500 feet.

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This identical email was sent by multiple persons:

As a Marylander concerned about fracking, I submit these comments in reference to the fracking “Best Management Practices” report released by state agencies in June.

First of all, I believe the timing of the study is premature and inappropriate. The purpose of the Governor’s fracking Commission is to determine “whether or how” fracking can happen without “unacceptable risks” in Maryland. And yet, the state has done no risk analysis whatsoever. The Commission should immediately and thoroughly analyze the many risks of fracking before taking any other action.

And then, if it becomes relevant to discuss “Best Management Practices” for fracking in Maryland, any such recommendations must:

1. Protect the climate: Require gas companies to meet a zero percent leakage rate for methane throughout the fracking process.
2. Protect our water: Require gas companies to complete Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans that severely limit toxic run off and erosion.
3. Protect our health and safety: Setbacks for well pads and infrastructure from private and public water wells, homes, schools, and office buildings should be at least 3,500 feet.

# # #

Please do not allow fracking in MD
We know what it is doing to communities, their water and health thru out the country
MD already has a high cancer rate compared to rest of country
GET with the game plan, this is the 21rst century and if we don’t start thinking 7 generations ahead now….

KEEP OUR WATER, air and health a priority in Maryland!

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Thank you for giving me an opportunity to express my concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas in Maryland.
 
The June 25, 2013 press release regarding Recommended Practices for Marcellus Shale Drilling shared on the MDE website included these words:
 
"Largely forested and rural, the area offers scenic byways, premier trout streams, whitewater paddling, Deep Creek Lake, hunting, skiing, hiking and camping. It includes unique ecological communities and natural areas that protect watersheds and water quality, provide homes to threatened and endangered species and offer a near-wilderness experience.
“These areas are irreplaceable,” said DNR Secretary Joseph Gill. “We must do all that we can to protect them or we will lose them forever.”

I couldn't agree more.  My husband and I grew up Fairfax, Virginia, near Washington D.C., at a time when it was still a reasonably small and safe community.  As it grew, it changed by leaps and bounds.  By the time we reached our twenties it was no longer the wonderful town in which we had both grown up.  Much later, after my daughter graduated from High School, we started looking for a place to begin our journey towards our retirement.  We moved to Friendsville, MD from Northern VA about four years ago, to get away from the increasingly frustrating rat race that has become a fact of life in NoVA.  We picked Western Maryland for the peaceful, beautiful countryside and slow pace.

When the fracking company's surveyors came through (within the last two years), I was alarmed by the number of trucks and vehicles passing up and down our roads all day long.  There were helicopters flying overhead at all hours of the day.  Strange men were traipsing along our property lines, and sometimes in our yard, without asking or giving any sort of notification.  Cables and signs were strewn everywhere.  All of that disturbance just for surveying the area for possible sites.  It was awful.  Plus, our roads took a heavy beating from all of the heavy machinery being hauled back and forth.

Needless to say, we are probably more concerned about this than some others because of the concentration of surveyors and activity so close to our home.  We currently live on a small road with four neighboring houses. We are surrounded by beautiful fields full of crops and cattle.  We took substantial cuts in our salaries to live a slower paced, peaceful life.  So, selfishly, we are very concerned about losing our views, and our peace, and our contentment.  And the fact that our water supply comes from a well concerns me to no end, because we still don't know how harmful and far reaching the chemicals used in the process may be (though I think we all have pretty good idea).

But we are also very concerned about the broader effects fracking will have on our surrounding area. We live about a mile uphill from the Youghiogheny River/Lake.  Anything that happens to the ground water near us would very likely affect the waters of the Yough.  Which in turn means it could affect the waters into which it feeds.  It will affect the produce in our neighboring fields.  It will affect the livestock that we enjoy so much, and which the farmers depend upon.  The effects it has on produce and livestock could affect our county's food supplies.  I think the reach of the fracking process is far longer and broader than we even know yet, and far more costly than any monies hoped to be made by allowing it.

Natural gas from Marcellus shale may be a "clean fuel", but the process to obtain it is a very wasteful, destructive, dirty and dangerous one from what I have seen in PA and NY.  I am fearful of what it will do to our lives, our community, and the livelihoods of those around us.  Maryland may have less than 2 percent of the total gas in the Marcellus shale, but it will destroy things by 100 percent.

As Mr. Gill said, "These areas are irreplaceable. We must do all that we can to protect them or we will lose them forever.”

Please do not allow hydraulic fracking of any kind in the fine state of Maryland.

Thank you.

# # #

 
This is a detailed technical document but where are the recommendations on protecting landowners?  What about notifications to local residents 60 days in advance.  What about well testing prior to drilling?  What about insurance and bonding requirements?  What about long-term protection once the drillers leave or go "bankrupt" as with many coal mining companies in WV once groundwater was polluted?

I recently had my well damaged by hydrofracking of a water well 1/4 mile away and have found that there is no protection for me from the state.  Now I have to personally pay to get the well problems corrected.  Technical specifications without adjacent landowner protection guidelines and requirements is irresponsible.

Also where is your literature review and your field analysis reports that show how these "best practices" were derived and the case studies that show they work to protect groundwater, property values and public health?  Or even case studies where problems occur and how these practices can avoid or mitigate these potentialities?

I appreciate these planning efforts but this industry has shown great disregard for public health and public safety and no guidelines will protect us.  With reduced government funding who will provide the oversight to ensure that these "recommended practices" are followed?  (I had the word "regulations" here but realize that these are only recommendations so they are the weakest form of government policy - why bother).

Is there a best practice that says the money and jobs from this proposed drilling will stay in our community to mitigate the environmental problems it causes and help our LOCAL economy?  These would be the types of best practices that I would like to see.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

# # #  

 
The coal strip mining rules in MD contain provisions that I think should be included in Marcellus drilling regulations.

In particular when there are cases where a person’s water source or other property is damaged by gas production, the State should have the authority to compel the offending party to make proper restitution or replacement.   It would be difficult for home owners to force recovery of damages from large and mobile entities.

This provision has been useful in situations where the mining of coal has caused damage to property owner's assets. As you can imagine, the State has a bigger stick than small property owners in dealing with disputed damage claims.
 
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

# # #

 
With regard to your topic, keeping Maryland safe from damage by fracking, this may be "stop the presses" news.

On the front page of the Wall Street Journal for Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, in "What's News", first item under 'World Wide', after Obama's support for the Keystone pipeline:

"A new study blamed poorly sealed gas wells--not fracking--for dissolved gas found in Pennsylvania water wells."

I know nothing more about it.  But I expect your counterparts in PA could fill you in on it.  I just happened to have read that paper this morning, not long before I read your draft.  The two seemed to fit together well...
 

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The Greater Cumberland Committee (TGCC) is a regional, business based organization serving three states (MD, PA and WV) and five counties, specific to this case and point, Allegany and Garrett in Western Maryland.  Our organization favors the responsible drilling of Marcellus Shale and views it as a means to restore prosperity to the poorest part of the state through job growth and a stronger economy.  Thank you for allowing us an opportunity to comment on the Best Practices draft document.

As business leaders, the process in which exploratory vs. permanent wells will be handled is specifically of interest to us.  Understanding the economic needs of an exploratory well, we want to ensure permitting allowances are in place that provide for the opportunity to explore for a natural gas presence that would support industry growth in Garrett County.  While we appreciate the investment of time by the State and Commission members, it is also important to have the flexibility to be certain a sufficient quantity is present.  Likewise, we would hope that if a permit is secured for an exploratory site and natural gas activity is determined, the permit would effectively translate to proceed as outlined in accordance with the then approved Best Practices.

The State of Maryland is at a unique crossroads with ample opportunity for both sides of the issue to come together in a respectful way that will serve to fully support the Commission’s efforts.  In keeping with our regional mission, TGCC would be honored to help identify opportunities for collaboration to enhance the quality of life in the region; to identify broad and sound solutions to community issues; and to serve as a convener, facilitator and catalyst for regional responsiveness and community improvement.

Thank you again for allowing us this opportunity to comment, as well as your time and consideration.  TGCC welcomes the occasion to work with you for the greater good of our region.
 

# # #

 
I have read Eshleman and Elmore's complete report on the "Best Practices". It is an excellent piece of work and I hope that all of their recommendations are put into practice in Maryland. However, I do have two additional considerations for best practices:

1) Eshleman and Elmore make no mention of enforcement. In Texas they have one regulator for every three fracking sites and have an external contamination rate of only 1 in 1000. In Ohio they have many fewer regulators and therefore have an external contamination rate of 1 in 200. I hope that we can make it a "best practice" to have as many regulators as Texas. Good rules without enforcement are useless. (Kell, Scott, 2011)

2) The setback distances in general sound okay, but when dealing with drinking water reservoirs, such as the Frostburg Reservoir and others in Garrett County, the distances should be greater than those recommended by Eshleman and Elmore. If horizontal boreholes can extend 7000 feet, I think that the setback distance from key drinking water resources should be at least 7000 feet.

Thank you for considering my comments.

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