The long-term costs of fracking are unknown

January 15, 2013

The Sun deserves praise for its thoughtful arguments in support of legislation requiring careful study before extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracturing is permitted in Maryland ("No study, no fracking," Dec. 26). Your editorial succinctly outlined the key players and the legislative timetable this debate involves.

The enormous advertising budgets devoted to promoting natural gas, and the hype regarding its economic benefits should indeed make us wonder whether the long-term costs of fracking are being downplayed.

The truth is that no one knows what those long-term costs are. Well casings gradually fail over time, toxic fracking fluids diffuse underground, climate-clobbering methane leaks into the air and none of these things can be repaired with money.

Recent history has witnessed many unfortunate cases of chemicals whose use or release into the environment was banned only after unforeseen damaging effects. This study will help to raise public awareness of the trade-offs we face in pursuing fossil fuels by ever more extreme methods.

D. Travis Gallagher, Potomac

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