Maryland's fledgling Marcellus Shale industry -- which would be based solely in two of the state's westernmost counties -- has ended even before it began, according to Robert Summers, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).

Beginning in 2009, a total of four companies submitted to permit applications to the state, some for multiple wells, Summers said during a recent presentation to Maryland's Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission. But, following MDE's subsequent determination that the applications were "not complete" and the agency's requests for additional information, all of the applications were withdrawn, he said.

Stubbornly low natural gas prices and the relatively higher value of wet gas wells in other parts of the Marcellus have prompted a shift away from dry gas areas of the play, including Maryland, Summers said.

Commission member and Republican State Sen. George Edwards, who represents three counties in western Maryland, recently told NGI's Shale Daily that he believed that state would continue to chart a cautious course for the exploitation of its unconventional energy resources (see Shale Daily, Jan. 10). "The commission is supposed to be done with their work in August of 2014, so I don't see any drilling occurring at least until then, but I'm optimistic that at some point we'll be able to drill," Edwards said.

Only two counties in Maryland -- Garrett and Allegany, which are in the western Panhandle -- overlie the Marcellus Shale, which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates could contain as much as 2.383 Tcf of technically recoverable natural gas.

But some state legislators are moving to block shale drilling from ever coming to the state. Del. Shane Robinson and Sen. Karen Montgomery, both Democrats from Montgomery County, each plan to introduce bills this session that would ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the state, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.

"At a time when we should be investing in renewable energy sources we should not permit companies to implement a process of natural gas extraction that has contaminated water, caused earthquakes, and contributed to global warming," Robinson said on his website. "Instead, let's ban fracking and invest in renewable energy sources like wind."

Last year Robinson introduced a bill that would have banned fracking wastewater imports, storage, treatment, discharge or disposal generated in other states (see Shale Daily, Feb. 2, 2012). The bill received an unfavorable report from the Environmental Matters Committee and died in the House.

At a fracking conference in Baltimore last month, State Del. Heather Mizeur, another Democrat representing Montgomery County, said she planned to introduce legislation that would formalize a de facto moratorium on fracking until the state government determines that the practice is environmentally friendly (see Shale Daily, Sept. 14, 2012).

Although the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill calling for a 7.5% state severance tax last year, that legislation died in the Senate (see Shale Daily, March 28, 2012). Another bill, which specified surety bond and liability insurance requirements for operators, also passed the House but died in the Senate (see Shale Daily, March 21, 2012). A third piece of legislation -- HB 1123, which established a "presumptive impact area" within a 2,500-foot radius from a vertical wellbore and calls for operators to replace water supplies contaminated by oil and gas drilling -- passed both chambers of the General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

O'Malley convened the Advisory Commission in 2011 to help policymakers decide whether and how to allow shale development. The 14-member commission consists of state and local government officials, industry representatives, environmentalists, attorneys and academics. Last year the panel recommended that the state impose both a fee and a tax on shale gas development, as well as shift more costs to industry (see Shale Daily, Jan. 12, 2012); a best practices report is scheduled to be released in August and a final report on other issues is due in August, 2014.

O'Malley has proposed $1.5 million in funding to MDE and Maryland's Department of Natural Resources to continue studies of the potential impacts of natural gas drilling in the state.