In the last of a series of reports, the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative’s Findings and Recommendations proposes an exhaustive list of requirements and practices. I’m very proud that they include a number of recommendations - including mandatory comprehensive gas development plans - which result from my work on the Governor’s initiative with the professionals of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.
Other highlights of the proposed requirements:
- Location restrictions and setbacks – the strongest I've seen
- An environmental assessment with 2 yrs of pre-development monitoring
- Closed-loop, closed-container systems for all fluids except fresh water
- BACT on all equipment
- Noise pollution controls
- Comprehensive tracking of all water use
- Mandatory recycling of 90% of flowback water
- Banning the use of diesel fuel in fracking
- Prohibition on siting any development-related activity or infrastructure on public lands
- Stringent controls on methane emissions and a first-of-its-kind requirement to purchase carbon offsets for them, under a program to be developed.
It is the judgment of the Department of the Environment and the Department of Natural Resources that provided all the recommended best practices are followed and the State is able to rigorously monitor and enforce compliance, the risks of Marcellus Shale development can be managed to an acceptable level. Some of the proposed best management practices have not been tested, and although we are confident that they will reduce the risks, some risks will remain, as is the case with all industrial activities. Best practices and rigorous monitoring, inspection and enforcement can reduce the risks to acceptable levels, but can not completely eliminate all the risks. Because knowledge and technology are continuously advancing, it will be necessary to adaptively manage shale gas development by requiring additional newly developed best management practices that provide improved protection for public health and the environment.What will happen to these recommendations? Incoming governor-elect Republican Larry Hogan has criticized the lack of drilling in the state’s two shale gas counties. Ultimately, then, whether or not Maryland enacts the nation’s toughest fracking regs will be up to its citizens.