Maryland’s Draft Report on Fracking Finds Risks Are Manageable

An October 3 Daily Record article from the Associated Press reported that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resources have released a draft report on natural gas hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in Western Maryland and found that the water contamination risks associated with the activity to be “mostly  low” while traffic and road issues posed some of the highest risks.  From the article:

A draft report released Friday for public comment ranks the risks associated with water contamination mostly low, and in some cases moderate.

It says state regulations are sufficient to protect sources of drinking water supplies, but there is an elevated risk of harm to aquatic life under certain conditions during times of drought.

The report says some of the greatest risks posed by gas drilling involve traffic congestion, accidents and road damage. But the report says those risks can be managed by traffic-flow planning.

The draft report also considered several other risk factors, including air emissions, but in the aggregate found that the risks could be managed through current or proposed best management practices.  From the draft report’s executive summary:

The risks that were evaluated were grouped into eight categories: air emissions; road damage and traffic; drilling fluids and cuttings; hydraulic fracturing fluids and potential impacts to surface or ground waters; noise and visual; wells and formations; water withdrawal; and waste.  …

Risks associated with air emissions ranged from low to high and in some instances were not rated due to insufficient data. Some of the elevated air emission risks and the inability to estimate others result from uncertainty about which specific control technologies would be employed. Many of these risks are associated with the combustion products resulting from truck traffic, on-site engines and compressors.  …

Risks are inherent in any type of mineral extraction, industrial and construction activity….Maryland draws from its robust stormwater management, soil erosion and control, and water appropriations programs and examines the effectiveness of proposed best management practices for revising its existing gas and oil development regulations. Together, these existing and proposed practices serve to reduce many risks to western Maryland’s citizens, economy and its high quality water, air and natural resources.


MDE Marcellus Shale Risk Assessment Webpage

Draft Report Executive Summary

Draft Report (~200 pages)

The public comment period for the draft report is open through November 3.  Comments can be via email or postal mail.

Email Comments:  Send to with the words “Risk Assessment” in the subject line

Postal Mail Comments:  Send to Ms. Brigid Kenney, Senior Policy Advisor, Maryland Department of the Environment, 1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230