Report: Small or large, all fracking companies break rules

For Immediate Release

Annapolis, MD - From Fortune 500 companies, to mom-and-pop operators, to firms like Chevron who tout their clean records, virtually all drilling and fracking companies are prone to infractions of environmental rules, a new report says. The analysis of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry over a four-year period found that fracking companies violate protections for air, water, and health more than once each day on average.

“Fracking is failure for our environment and health,” said Joanna Diamond, Director of Environment Maryland.  “That’s why we need to see legislation to keep fracking out of Maryland once and for all.”

The analysis from Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center, Fracking Failures: Oil and Gas Industry Environmental Violations in Pennsylvania and What They Mean for the U.S., comes out as lawmakers consider legislation to put a long-term moratorium on fracking in Maryland. Last year, former Governor O’Malley introduced regulations to allow fracking in Maryland, but it is unclear what the Hogan administration will do with these rules. Thus far, the Hogan administration has recalled a number of environmental protections put in to place by the previous administration.  

In response, more than 80 organizations including advocates, health professionals, faith groups, businesses and environmental organizations are united behind a concern over the lack of evidence that the regulations would protect residents from the risks of fracking, given the widespread violations in other places that have fracking.  Instead, the groups are calling for time for proper health studies to be conducted to ensure that Marylanders health is protected before allowing fracking in the state.

"This fracking industry is clearly out of control. It is jeopardizing the health of millions of people now living near shale operations, as well as the health of future generations," stated Gina Angiola, MD, Board Member with Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.

 The rules so often broken by the oil and gas industry are not matters of paperwork. Rather, the study tracks lapses such as allowing toxic chemicals to leach into the air and water, endangering drinking water through improper well construction, and dumping industrial waste into waterways.

“It would be irresponsible to open up Maryland to fracking as there is no scientific evidence to show that regulations would alleviate the risks associated with this dangerous practice,” said Food & Water Watch’s Water Policy Director, Emily Wurth. “The research we do have shows nothing but harm to public health, water and air.  It is up to the legislature to do what is right for Maryland and pass a long-term moratorium on fracking.” 

From the clearing a site for drilling, through extraction, transport and delivery of finished products, fracking threatens the environment throughout its entire process. The report examined violations of the regulations intended to mitigate some threats during both the drilling and the operation of a well.

"When it comes to a choice between water and oil or natural gas, the answer is clear: We can't live without water. This report shows in chilling detail that the inherent risks of fracking cannot be eliminated by regulations or so-called good intentions," stated Robin Broder, Waterkeepers Chesapeake Board Member and homeowner in Garrett County.

Houston-based Cabot Oil committed the most total violations with 265. Pittsburgh-based Atlas was guilty of the most breaches for every well drilled, while Dallas-based Mieka was responsible for the most per well operated.

Four firms -- EQT, Chevron Appalachia, Consol and Shell -- who told the public they would adhere to higher standards when they formed the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, were also among the worst offenders. Together they racked up at least 100 infractions even after they pledged to do better in 2013.

The prognosis couldn’t be worse in Maryland.  "Maryland law provides almost no penalties for violating fracking regulations," stated Ann Bristow, Ph.D. and Commissioner of Marcellus Safe Drilling Initiative commissioned by the O'Malley Administration to investigate fracking regulations in Maryland.  "Although the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Department of Natural Resources recommended enacting legislation to address violations, they have no plans to introduce it themselves.  Industry has a green light to violate the hell out of Maryland."

Environment Maryland and its allies are urging legislators to pass a long-term moratorium on fracking to avoid the devastation caused by fracking and the companies that violate regulations.

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Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center is statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.