The Baltimore Sun’s April 23 editorial on the delay in Maryland’s study of Marcellus shale gas production is a must-read. Why? Because it’s a reasonable, commonsense commentary on a subject that is all too fraught with emotion and hyperbole from both supporters and opponents of unconventional shale gas development. It’s a commentary that recognizes the proper – and essential - role of government in regulating this heavy industrial process that has enormous potential transformative power for both good and ill.
Governor Martin O’Malley ordered a comprehensive study of shale gas development in his state after considering a wide variety of issues – including the different responses to it by state governments in Pennsylvania and New York. (Full disclosure – I consult to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources on this study.) That study is now delayed because a miniscule $15 per acre fee on gas leases that would have paid for the $2 million study has not yet been approved by the Maryland General Assembly. The Sun lays the blame for that squarely at the feet of the gas industry’s lobbying against the fee as “anti-business.”
As the Sun wisely points out, “Regulating hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ is not anti-business, it's a sound way to protect health and public safety while enabling responsible use of a valuable natural resource.”