HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — State regulators on Friday recommended some of the nation's tightest restrictions on shale gas drilling, aimed partly at protecting drinking water from being contaminated by methane leaking from drill sites in western Maryland.
The "best practices" recommended by the departments of the environment and natural resources include a general, 2,000-foot buffer between hydraulic-fracturing drill rigs and private water wells. That's twice the distance Maryland currently requires between gas wells and private water wells, and a bigger setback than any other state mandates, said Brigid Kenney, a senior policy adviser with the Department of the Environment.
The report also recommends that any company seeking to drill for gas in Maryland's portion of the Marcellus shale must first file a comprehensive plan for all foreseeable gas development in an area rather than for each well individually. Colorado has a similar, voluntary program, but Maryland's would be mandatory.
The interim report stems from the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative, an effort launched by Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley in 2011 to devise environmentally sound rules for hydraulic fracturing in Maryland. No drilling will be permitted until the state adopts rules based on a final report expected this fall.