Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Maryland Lawmakers Seek Regulatory Review

On the heels of a legislative session that failed to pass any Marcellus Shale development measures, two Maryland lawmakers are seeking an independent review of their state's regulatory framework.

State Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendall Beitzel, Republicans who represent Allegany and Garrett Counties in the rural western panhandle of Maryland, which overlies the Marcellus Shale formation, recently asked Gov. Martin O'Malley to consider allowing the State Review of Oil & Natural Gas Environmental Regulations Inc. (STRONGER) to review existing regulations.

"We, too, believe that Maryland can and must be a leader in dealing with Marcellus Shale regulations," the pair wrote in an April 11 letter. "We also believe that such a review would show that Maryland's current regulatory and statutory framework is already superior to our neighboring states."

Edwards and Beitzel said they believe such a study would "further demonstrate our superiority," but "if deficiencies would arise," they could be addressed by the state through its regulatory authority.

A spokesman for O'Malley did not return a call for comment.

STRONGER is a nonprofit organization that conducts voluntary state reviews of oil and natural gas environmental rules. Started in 1999 to "reinvigorate and carry forward" the review system created in 1988 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, STRONGER has conducted reviews in 21 states, including three already this year (see Shale Daily, March 14; Feb. 28; Feb. 7).

The letter was the latest attempt to resolve an impasse over Marcellus development in Maryland, where two companies have been waiting for more than a year to hear back about drilling permit applications.

Maryland lawmakers considered two sets of legislation this year but passed neither.

Edwards and Beitzel proposed bills that would have created a permitting framework for Marcellus development but wouldn't have kept the state from issuing drilling permits in the meantime.

Democrats, lead by state Delegate Heather Mizeur, proposed a bill to freeze permitting until 2013 to give state agencies time to review various hydraulic fracturing and Marcellus development studies. The state would have been able to issue permits before 2013 only if "information becomes available...sufficient to demonstrate that the extraction of natural gas from shale formations in the state can be accomplished without adverse impact to human health, natural resources or the environment."

With the legislative session now over, Tulsa-based Samson Resources and Dallas-based Chief Oil & Gas LLC remain uncertain about whether or when they might be able to drill in western Maryland (see Shale Daily, April 14).

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