Maryland set to allow fracking

Maryland officials have laid out a plan to permit hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the western part of the state.

A draft report released Tuesday concluded that the Maryland should first tighten its rules to safeguard air and water from pollution and to protect residents from potential noise, well contamination and other effects from the practice also known as fracking.

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The administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), whose term expires in January when Republican Larry Hogan takes over, said it wants stiffer penalties for spills and a new tax on the gas extracted, the Baltimore Sun reported.

“We’re committed to ensuring that Marylanders have access to the economic opportunities associated with fracking,” O’Malley said in a statement to the Sun, “while also putting the most complete practices into place to ensure the highest level of protection for Maryland residents.”

Western Maryland sits over a small part of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation that has been an epicenter of the gas boom of recent years.

The state’s report predicted that the gas industry could bring 3,400 jobs and millions of dollars in new tax revenue to Maryland.

Some environmentalists applauded the proposed regulations, though others said Maryland should completely ban fracking, the Sun said.

The state’s oil and gas industry said the rules are likely to be stricter than in other states, which could discourage development.