Public Meetings on Marcellus Shale Held in Garrett County Maryland

by S. Tom Bond on August 23, 2012

Garrett College in McHenry, on the north shore of Deep Creek Lake in Maryland, was the site of two meeting on the 20th of August for persons interested in Marcellus shale drilling.

At present there is a moratorium on shale drilling in Maryland to investigate the problems, as set up by the Governor, Martin O’Malley. The FIRST MEETING was an informational meeting arranged by Citizens for Marcellus. The SECOND MEETING of the afternoon was a public meeting of a Commission to take input from the public on their concerns and suggestions about shale drilling.

The speakers for the first meeting were John M. Smith, a lawyer from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania and S. Thomas Bond of Jane Lew, West Virginia, who represented Guardians of the West Fork, an environmental group from Clarksburg, West Virginia. Mr. Smith discussed cases he is pursuing for clients who have been damaged by shale drilling in Pennsylvania and by provisions of Act 13, which extensively revises the Oil and Gas Act of 1984. Dr. Bond’s topic was damage from shale drilling he has observed in other states in the Marcellus area where drilling has occurred.

Mr. Smith talked about cases involving leaking frack ponds and health issues by his clients, and the restraints imposed by Act 13 on doctor-patient and doctor-doctor relations. Dr. Bond showed pictures from Doddridge and Harrison Counties in West Virginia and from Ohio and Pennsylvania. These involved the extent and nature of damage to property. He concluded by pointing out the large number of citizens groups seeking to restrict shale drilling which form everywhere it is tried, now in something like thirty states and twelve other countries.

The Commission’s public meeting was held in a larger room. First were statements by various officials about the nature of shale drilling and the result of their investigation. Then individuals from the public were allowed three minutes to make a verbal statement to the audience. Approximately sixty individuals made such statements. About three-fourths expressed interest in continuing the research, or waiting until drilling methods were improved, or skepticism that the industry will ever be able to live up to reasonable standards.

The other forth wanted drilling now. It included two or three people hoping for jobs, but mostly consisted of large landholders and their organization, the Farm Bureau. Garrett county is unique in that about three percent of the people own something like 96 percent of the land.

Recreation is big business in Garrett while occupying small space. These businesses include tourism, second homes which are frequently very elaborate, a wildlife museum, hunting and fishing. skiing and other winter sports, golf, horseback riding, and dog sledding, white water canoeing and rafting. There are many supporting services like marinas, stores and excellent restaurants. The real estate business is usually brisk.

The contrast is stark. Land owners with space to spare are hoping for a bonanza. Recreation businesses realize the unsightliness, the heavy truck traffic, the greasy, sweaty atmosphere, and the related contamination is inconsistent with the county’s distinctive businesses. As one speaker said, “Shale drilling and recreation won’t mix.”

S. Tom Bond, Jane Lew, Lewis County, WV

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