The Cost of Fracking: Environment Maryland Documents the Dollars Drained by Dirty Drilling

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John Rumpler

Clean Water Director and Senior Attorney, Environment America

Environment Maryland

Firing a new salvo in the ongoing debate over the gas drilling practice known as “fracking,” Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center today released a report documenting a wide range of dollars and cents costs imposed by dirty drilling. As documented in “The Cost of Fracking,” fracking creates millions of dollars of health costs related to everything from air pollution to ruined roads to contaminated property.

“The environmental damage from fracking is bad enough, but it turns out that this dirty and dangerous form of drilling imposes heavy dollar and cents costs as well. And that is all the more reason we must keep Maryland free from fracking,” said Tommy Landers, Director of Environment Maryland.

“It’s time to ban fracking. Even with regulation, any economic gains will not offset the damage done to our environment. It’s time to focus on renewable solutions like offshore wind—solutions that will bring more jobs and less environmental degradation, solutions that focus on
the well being of Main St. rather than the profits of industry,” said Delegate Shane Robinson of Maryland’s 39th District.

“From start to finish, fracking is too risky for Maryland. Governor O’Malley and the Maryland Legislature should call for a ban on fracking across the state,” said Miranda Carter, Mid-Atlantic Organizer for the group Food & Water Watch.

While the report documents a wide range of costs imposed by fracking, Environment Maryland is particularly concerned about what water contamination would mean for Maryland. Fracking operations contaminate drinking water sources in many ways – from spills to leaking waste pits to methane from drilling itself.

In Dimock, Pennsylvania, fracking operations contaminated the drinking water wells of several households for roughly three years, perhaps more. Just providing 14 of those families with temporary water cost more than $100,000. Providing a permanent new source of clean drinking
water would have cost an estimated $11.8 million.

In addition to water cleanup costs, the report shows that fracking damage exacts other tolls on communities – from road repairs to health costs to emergency response.

“The health of Marylanders and others throughout the region is already at risk. We deserve better, and our children and grandchildren deserve better,” said Kristen Welker-Hood, ScD RN.

The report includes the following examples of such costs:

  • Health: in Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale region, air pollution from fracking operations impose health costs estimated at $9.8 million in one year. In Texas’ Barnett Shale region, those costs reach $270,000 per day during the summer smog season.
  • Roads to Ruin: With fracking operations requiring thousands of trips by trucks and heavy machinery, a Texas task force approved $40 million in funding for road repairs in the Barnett Shale region.

Moreover, as with previous extractive booms, fracking will impose long-term costs as well. As noted in the report, the coal boom in Appalachia left Pennsylvania with an estimated $5 billion cost for cleaning up acid mine drainage.

The Costs of Fracking report comes before the 2013 legislative session, in which Del. Robinson plans to introduce an outright ban on fracking in Maryland.

“We already know about fracking’s damage to our environment and health. These dollars and cents costs are one more reason to reject this dirty drilling practice,” concluded Landers.