Property Owners' Association of Deep Creek Lake
Continuing Controversy on Gas Regulations (Fracking)   
January 11, 2017

As required by Maryland law,the joint, bipartisan Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) committee initiated their review of the oil and gas ("fracking") regulations developed by the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE). The AELR held a public hearing on December 20th to gather public input and to address some of their own member questions/concerns. The proceedings reflected strong views on both sides of the "proceed" or "ban" debate---from protestors, testifying citizens, and AELR members themselves. Following the hearing, AELR letters were sent to both the Secretary of MDE and the Governor on December 29th.

The letters  did not explicitly either reject or accept the proposed regulations from the viewpoints of protection adequacy or consistency with other relevant state statutes. The MDE letter, which may be seen here and the Governor's letter which may be seen here,  acknowledge positive protective provisions in the proposed regulations while (1) stating the intention to "conduct a more detailed study" (including of public comments) and (2) asking for a delay in adoption. As we understand it, an AELR delay or "hold" can be for a maximum of 105 days, translating to late February---near the end of the January 11-to-April 10 legislative session.
Given the anticipated introduction of a bill (or bills) calling for an outright ban, this all implies that
  • The AELR will be conducting its own further review in parallel with MDE efforts to consider and respond to received public comments. The ban debate will presumably be ongoing during the same period.
  • It is likely that the ban debate will have been largely completed, or even that the fate of a proposed ban will be known, before MDE and the AELR have agreed upon---or not---a final set of regulations to be adopted.
Your POA Board will be tracking these developments and, at the local level, will be prepared to push for zoning amendment protection of the Deep Creek Watershed if warranted (e.g., if "fracking" is enabled and the watershed protection provision is dropped from the current draft regulations).

As a final note, there are indications of increasing interest in an extended moratorium as opposed to a ban. For instance, a recent Capital Gazette article reports that Joan Carter Conway, the chair of a key Senate committee, may not be fully satisfied with the current regulatory proposal and might well favor an extended moratorium over a ban.
Bob Hoffmann
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