In a Baltimore Sun op-ed (2016-12-19), Frostburg State University emeritus professor and Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Commissioner Ann Bristow argued that the only way to protect public health is to ban natural gas hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”) in Maryland. Bristow’s op-ed is in response to recently proposed regulations by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) that would set requirements and oversight for the activity. While MDE has contended that the regulations are among the strictest in the United States, Bristow alleged that “growing evidence shows that regulations are incapable of preventing harm.” From the op-ed:
As a public health researcher who served on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s commission on fracking, I have serious concerns about MDE’s regulations because I know firsthand what has not been considered. In 2014, the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health (MIAEH) issued a report showing that the likelihood of negative public health impacts was high or moderately high in seven of the eight categories analyzed, including air and water quality, and cumulative impacts. Nonetheless, public health recommendations made by MIAEH are largely ignored in these draft regulations. …
There are now over 900 publications on the effects of fracking — on air, water, soil, animal and human health, earthquakes and on methane’s contribution to climate disruption, another public health threat. Of the health studies in this body of work, 84 percent demonstrate clear associations between unconventional gas development and public health harms.
The more that people find out about fracking, the more they oppose it. Recent polling shows that nearly 60 percent of Marylanders support a ban on fracking. Maryland residents’ vocal opposition includes Garrett County, where voters reject fracking at a 2 to 1 ratio and identify threats to water and health as their top concerns.