Following are some recent developments regarding fracking (hydraulic fracturing)...
There are 2 recent and noteworthy state actions with respect to the development and ultimate adoption of new oil and gas regulations. Both of the actions described below present opportunities for citizen engagement.
As you know, these new regulations are intended to address the potential risks/issues associated with "unconventional" natural gas recovery from deep underground formations ("fracking"). The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is responsible for developing and enforcing these regulations to protect "public health, safety, the environment, and natural resources".
The Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) Committee (AELR), as required in Maryland, received the MDE provided draft regulations. The AELR is a bi-partisan committee of legislators chartered to review the proposed regulations and (1) provide feedback to MDE and (2) ultimately advise them of any concerns remaining after any adjustments have been made. The Governor, but not the Secretary of MDE, can override the committee's concerns and opposition, and can direct that the proposed regulations be adopted.
More specifically, the AELR received the proposed regulations on 26 September. In a deviation from the expected AELR process (e. g., a nominal 15 day review), the AELR committee has not yet met to review the regulations but has scheduled a public hearing in Annapolis on 20 December (Joint Hearing Room, Legislative Services Building).
Maryland Register publication and the request for public comment
---Also as part of the required process, MDE published the proposed regulations in the Maryland Register. This occurred on 14 November, substantially delayed from earlier projections, and triggered a 30 day period for public comment. MDE will review comments, decide upon any changes, and offer the resulting final product for adoption.
The two processes described here obviously must "dovetail" in some way at some point, presumably yielding either an MDE product addressing AELR concerns or an MDE product accompanied by an expression of these concerns. In the latter case, if the AELR formally opposes the regulations, the resolution would be in the hands of the Governor. Further, it now seems highly likely that the final deliberations and the "adoption" process will occur in the New Year"---and in the midst of debate, hearings, etc. regarding proposed legislation that Maryland ban "fracking" altogether.
"Closer to Home"
- The newly-proposed regulations specifically prohibit vertical drilling within the Deep Creek Watershed, accomplishing the central objective of the proposed zoning amendment whose approval has been in the hands of the County Commissioners. We will be tracking and supporting this very positive development.
- The County's Marcellus Shale Gas Advisory Group (MSGAG) will be reviewing the version of the proposed regulations published on 14 November. The focus will be on identifying any changes from the 26 September AELR version; the Group has already reviewed this earlier version and forwarded comments to the County Commissioners.
- All of this will likely be discussed at the 13 December MSGAG meeting (4:30 PM at the Public Health Building).