Esteemed Legislators, 

  I live in Garrett County and our family has a dairy farm which has been in the family since 1879, so to say I care about it  and my legacy would be a bit of an understatement.   I have also been involved in the debate about producing the Marcellus  since MDE started holding public meetings to talk about permitting wells here in  2008.  My interest has two sources;  we own our gas rights, so like many Garrett citizens, there is the potential  that the gas we own could be a very significant portion of our property right, and I attended the College of Mining and Energy Resources at West Virginia  University which offers degrees for mining engineering and petroleum engineering  and gained some training specific to the subject.   In addition to the value this resource has to me, I think it holds enormous good for the people of Maryland as well and this is what I would like  to talk to you about today.

  Although it causes me great pain to say it, I  will admit that Governor O’Malley did have a plan when he declared the first moratorium and created the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative.   He recognized that Maryland could not only create a better drilling protocol by taking the time to study the process but more importantly, he hoped  that Maryland could help drive regulations forward nationwide by demonstrating that wells here were better.  This  is a very important consideration considering that the impacts on Maryland by  wells in neighboring states will have far greater consequences to Maryland and  the Bay than the relatively small number of wells which could be drilled in  Maryland.  To engage in another  Moratorium, Ban or punitive action like a Strict Liability statute which effectively would prevent drilling, will also prevent Maryland from ever  influencing anybody.  Senator  Edwards has said at some point in the last couple of years that landowners need to just settle down and work with the process.  He pointed out that Maryland has the best coal mining regulations in the country and we win nationwide awards for it and that same thing can be true for natural gas production.  But that advice is also true for the people that are carrying on fear  mongering about shale gas production.
I would also like to point out that while there  are valid concerns about public health and HVHF there are some considerations  that you should weigh when people talk to you about them.   Possibly the biggest is that most of the health studies have been done in  areas which produce wet gas, which results in exponentially larger wellhead  emissions of all types compared to the dry gas production expected in  Maryland.  Wet wells not only vent  hydrocarbons and possibly fracking components from holding talks but also through flaring, which in some cases (like the Bakken), is a lot of flaring.  MDE has put a lot of  thought into this and controlling wellhead emissions is one of their prime  concerns.  Brigid Kenney has  stated that flaring would be “extremely limited”.   It is also true that some of the troublesome hydrocarbon variants like benzene and toluene are not as common in dry wells, since they have been reduced by geologic cracking like all the other useful liquid variants into the simpler “dry” methane molecule, which is why these wells are called “dry gas  wells” to begin with.  If you  consider these things combined with the toughest regulations in the country,  drilling here will be safe by any normal standards. From the view of the state legislature,I think  you need to consider the benefit the gas from these wells can produce.  If you start with a fuel that produces  half of the carbon emissions as coal per BTU and burn it in a Seimens dual cycle power plant with twice the energy conversion efficiency as a coal plant, you can  reduce the carbon emissions per KW by 75 percent. Then if you locate the plant closer to the consumer, you can boost that  number even more by lowering grid losses, which currently consume half of the produced power in the US.  When you  consider the public health benefits of nearly eliminating heavy metals and sulfur emissions and greatly reducing NOX emissions, this is a huge  consideration for a state with a large urban population which can benefit from  improved air quality and Garrett County, itself, which has 5 coal power stations  within 50 miles.  Equally important is the potential of gas power production to address climate change, which is  quite a threat to both the Lower Eastern and Western shores.  Fracking is making it possible to change the way we produce power in this country and that means we need to find a way to make fracking work better, not push it away.
I hope we can find a way to allow the regulatory  process to move forward. MDE fully recognizes the danger that fracking components can pose if they are released  into the environment, and they have proposed Best Management Practices to manage  that danger.  The next step is to  permit a small number of wells to actually test their hypothesis and closely  study those wells to see if they have solved the problem.  To engage in another 8 year moratorium to study whether fracking  components are safe when released into the environment is not going to lead to a  different conclusion or a solution to the problem.In the end, the benefits of gas power production  are so large and apparent that Maryland will likely keep pushing to produce more and more of our power that way. It  would be too bad if we put ourselves in the ethically challenged position of depending on fracking in other states to provide the gas while we can’t come to  grips with it here.  If we work  this out, I can benefit, my community can benefit and the State of Maryland as a  whole can benefit, but to just keep kicking the can down the road, we all  lose.

Billy  Bishoff
The  Energy and Property Coalition


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