Grantsville – A new coalition of farmers, property owners, businesses and labor organizations in Garrett and Allegany Counties has organized to advocate for safe shale gas drilling in western Maryland and to moderate the most extreme aspects of oil and gas regulations, proposed last month by Maryland’s Department of the Environment.
    In the final days of the Martin O’Malley administration, MDE registered the proposed regulations, which the Energy and Property Rights Coalition believes is “overly restrictive with unprecedented requirements to an extent that would quash any potential for shale gas drilling in Garrett and Allegany Counties.”  As a result, the landowners’ coalition has submitted its “strenuous” objections to the proposed regulations – via Cumberland attorney Robert S. Paye – to MDE as well as members of the Maryland General Assembly’s Administrative, Executive and Law Review Committee.
    “We strongly support putting these regulations on hold until the new administration has a chance to review them,” said Bill Bishoff, Energy and Property Rights Coalition president. “Plus, Senator George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel need our help in informing Maryland lawmakers that many western Maryland citizens don’t support these proposed regulations.” Bishoff and the coalition’s board of directors hope a new “call to action” to some 1400 property owners will finally enable the region’s “silent majority” to speak out and be heard.
    Well over 90 percent of the comments and input, of which state officials based the looming gas extraction regulations, are negative opinions from environmental alarmists, according to the new coalition. “Until now, there had been no organization to advance safe gas development in western Maryland and to promote the transformative and economic fiscal impacts shale gas extraction would have for the region,” explained Bishoff. At the recent PACE reception in Annapolis, he and other coalition members met with hundreds of government and business leaders to explain what’s at stake for energy and property rights in western Maryland.
    Delegate Beitzel supports the new coalition and told members at a recent meeting: “Horizontal drilling – not hydraulic fracturing – has become the real game changer in energy extraction from shale formations. Natural gas drilling has occurred in Garrett County with no lasting adverse environmental damage. Further exploration into the Marcellus Shale would have a positive impact on our local economy by providing much needed jobs and added revenue.”
    Senator Edwards also endorses the new effort, however, during his visit to the Energy and Property Rights Coalition’s PACE exhibit, he noted, “It’s long overdue.”
    Support for safe shale gas development in Garrett County has also come from the Garrett County Commissioners, the Garrett Chamber of Commerce and the Garrett County Farm Bureau.
    Yet, while landowners, workers and businesses in adjoining states are prospering from shale gas development, Maryland has stymied gas exploration, by trying to formulate the so-called “gold standard” regulations on gas development, the coalition maintains. There are also – among certain environmentalists – new efforts to push for a long-term moratorium on natural gas exploration, despite the just ended 3 ½ year study the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission completed for the O’Malley administration.
    The Energy and Property Rights Coalition will push for the rights of property owners to use and develop natural resources subject to reasonable regulations similar to adjoining states. One of the many reasons the extreme restrictions will backfire, according to Bishoff and Paye, is that “the Maryland Marcellus Shale area is only 1.6 percent of the total Marcellus Shale play in neighboring states. If Maryland, with such a tiny area but with significant gas reserves, attempts to apply such extreme and difficult regulations, it is obvious that gas companies will simply bypass Maryland and concentrate production in the adjoining states.”
    Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, producing 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and 30 percent less than oil, according to industry experts. The extraction process is labor intensive, generating many high–paying jobs, and gas shale development also provides payments in leases and royalties to landowners.
    For more information visit the coalition’s Web site:


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