Garrett County doesn't want fracking

March 30, 2011

I am the owner of Garrett County's oldest land and water adventure company. Our eco tourism business will be a joke if everywhere we turn there are trucks, smells, bad water, gas wells, compressor stations and gas pipelines crisscrossing our forested mountains.

My wife and I own a home in Garrett County and have lived in this home on the banks of the Youghiogheny River Wild and Scenic River Corridor for almost 20 years. One of the first natural gas wells using the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technique is scheduled to begin just outside of our small town, and the first horizontal gas fracking shaft is coming within 500 feet of my front door and just across our beautiful wild and scenic river. Contrary to what seems to be the message conveyed by some who claim to represent us, there is massive opposition on the local level to unbridled industrialized gas drilling.

Obviously our valuable fresh water resources, the quality of life in our area for residents, and our tourism and real estate values are in serious danger with this non-conventional and risky drilling practice. Everywhere gas fracking has happened land and real estate values have plummeted. Tourism does not and cannot exist in gas fracking areas, and our entire county is a tourism area. Our area is a jewel of clean natural resources whose value will only increase as nearby states destroy their claims to natural beauty, peace and quiet by allowing gas fracking.

People come to our area because of the environment, and potentially unsafe and unsightly large scale industrial gas extraction is obviously not compatible with the health of our vibrant tourism economy. People and families come to our area to escape these intrusions, not to be subjected to them. Visitors will surely be disenchanted in making Garrett County their vacation destination or in choosing Garrett County for a real estate investment or personal retreat.

These very deep wells under enormous pressure must stay intact forever, and this I believe is beyond the knowledge, technical abilities and guarantees of the extraction companies at this time. Look what happened in the Gulf oil disaster. The massive increase in truck traffic to haul the fracking water and toxic radioactive fracking overflow fluids will be dangerous. In nearby Pennsylvania, serious environmental problems from gas fracking seem to happen daily. Once our area becomes known for methane smells, industrial compressor stations, loud noise, well flare offs, bad roads, deteriorating poisonous water quality and massive truck traffic, the word will get out and Garrett County and its lakes, rivers and mountains will no longer be the wonderful "natural" vacation destination or quality of life it is today. It will be Gas Land.

The Deep Creek Lake property values and the home and rural land values of our entire county are at serious risk. My town is important for river recreation. We enjoy decent land values in all corners of Garrett County, and none of it is expendable, including the health of its families. We cannot afford to murder the goose (our environment) that lays our golden eggs. The gas is not going anywhere, and there is no hurry to get it started before all the EPA and Maryland Department of the Environment studies are complete and we have every safeguard measure and numerous inspectors in place. Furthermore, recent revelations by LNG Gas Company that much of this shale gas is to be exported shoots down the spin that this is an issue of national energy security or to lessen coal burning for power production.

In addition we need massive region-wide baseline water quality testing done to ensure that if the gas companies destroy these resources we can hold them responsible immediately and stop further drilling as well as be compensated for these potentially irreversible damages without question. Supporters of gas fracking want us to believe that this is an emergency and want to begin drilling now. They want to scare local folks into believing that we have to act fast or lose the opportunity. This of course is false because the gas will only get more valuable as time progresses.

Without clean water, what good is a few thousand dollars a year? Is setting off giant subterranean bombs thousands of feet down and below our water table the sensible thing to do? I urge all Maryland residents to stand for a greener Maryland and not a browner one. Our children are counting on us.

Crede Haskins Calhoun II, Friendsville

The writer is owner of All Earth Eco Tours.

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