3-14-12: The State of the Shale in Our State
A group of Maryland scientists, gas industry representatives, and environmentalists is looking at what the impacts might be of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation underneath six mid-Atlantic states, including western Maryland.
Governor O’Malley set up the commission last year because of the controversy surrounding the process that would be used to extract the gas–hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. There’s no drilling going on in Maryland until the study is completed–the deadline is August 2014.
Already some energy companies are leasing land in Maryland’s two westernmost counties, Allegany and Garrett, where the Marcellus shale gas is most accessible.
In this year’s General Assembly, more than a dozen bills deal with drilling in the Marcellus. One of the bills, proposed by Senator Brian Frosh and Democrat Heather Mizeur, both of Montgomery County, would charge a fee on each acre gas companies want to lease drilling. That would go to fund the study done by the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative–it would be about $10 per acre.
There are also two bills that would create a severance tax. Democratic Delegates Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore and Sheila Hixson of Montgomery County are proposing a 15 percent tax. Meanwhile, Republican Senator George Edwards, who represents Garrett and Allegany Counties, is proposing a 2.5% severance tax. (Quite a big difference between those numbers.) You can see how that severance tax compare to other states on this handy chart from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Sheilah talks with Senator Brian Frosh about his bill and with Drew Cobbs, Executive Director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, about how these measures could affect the future of drilling in Maryland.
Here, in this web extra, Sheilah asks how drilling in the Shale could benefit the economy of western Maryland: