Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations for oil and gas exploration and production (published in the Maryland Register, Volume 42, Issue 1, Friday, January 9, 2015). Please accept these comments on behalf of Earthworks. Founded in 1988, Earthworks is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of energy development while seeking sustainable solutions. Core aspects of our work include investigating and documenting the effects of oil and gas development on health and persistent gaps in the enforcement of oil and gas regulations.
Earthworks greatly appreciates Maryland’s efforts to develop strong regulations before high-‐ volume hydraulic fracturing operations would be permitted—a step that many other states have neglected to take. However, we strongly caution the Maryland Departments of the Environment (MDE) and Natural Resources (DNR) from presuming that the adoption of strong regulations alone will protect Marylander’s health and the environment. While these new regulations are critical measures, they are only as effective as their enforcement.
MDE must have the funds, staff, and other resources necessary to fully oversee the gas industry. This applies to planning reviews and inspections during all phases of exploration, extraction, production, transport, and clean up—which must be adequately supported prior to moving forward with gas development. In addition, MDE (in collaboration with other agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and DNR) must have the ability to collect from operators the information needed to enforce regulations, respond to citizen concerns, conduct inspections and investigations, and take action to stop violators.