Fracking & Oil and Gas in Maryland

Oil train with DOT-111 train cars. Photo credit: Todd Klassy / Shutterstock

Since 2011, Clean Water Action has worked with a diverse coalition of Maryland organizations to persuade legislators and the Administration that unconventional oil and gas extraction (hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’) is inherently dangerous to water resources and community health. With the work of Governor O’Malley’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission complete, and departmental regulations drafted, it appeared the state was poised to begin issuing permits for fracking.Clean Water Action organized a two-part campaign to push for a long-term moratorium, along with other bills to regulate fracking so stringently that polluting companies would decide not to drill in this state.

Emerging science, including hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, case studies, and reports, demonstrates that fracking poses significant threats to Marylanders’ health and safety and to air, soil and water quality. Fundamental data gaps remain on fracking’s long-term and cumulative impacts. There is no persuasive evidence yet, showing that the practice can be regulated in a way that adequately protects public health, natural resources, or the economy.

Clean Water and Don’t Frack MD, a 100 group coalition, pursued a statewide campaign and won passage for the Protect Our Health and Communities Act (HB449/ SB409). The Act establishes a 2.5 year moratorium, requires that regulations be in place by October 2016 and prohibits any fracking permits before October 2017.

Protecting Baltimore From Oil Trains

The volume of crude oil carried by rail increased 423% between 2011 and 2012 and continued to increase in 2013, surpassing 400,000 rail carloads. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) acknowledged the imminent danger crude-by-rail poses. However, as crude-by-rail traffic has increased, so have accidents, posing significant risks to life, property and the environment. A recent derailment in Lynchburg, VA, spilled and burned an estimated 50,000 gallons of crude, setting the James River on fire, occurred at 23mph.

Crude oil by rail is transported by DOT 111 tank cars, also known as pepsi cans on wheels, and has no business carrying hazardous and flammable materials. The National Transportation Safety Board indicated that the DOT 111 tank car can almost always be expected to breach in the event of a train accident resulting in car-to-car impacts or pileups. It's no secret that DOT 111 tank cars are ill-equipped to transport hazardous and volatile crude oil and it's time to get them off the tracks.

The Baltimore City Council is considering reviewing a measure that would require health, safety, and environmental impact studies to be conducted and reviewed before shipping crude oil-by-rail. Currently, CSX and Norfolk Southern are in litigation with the State of Maryland to keep rail lines and cargo contents secret from the public. We have a right to know when explosive oil is being shipped through our backyards.