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Speaker Michael Busch

State House, H-101
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401
President Mike Miller
State House, H-107
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401
January 28, 2015
Dear Speaker Busch and President Miller:
We are writing as commissioners on the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling
Initiative in Maryland to express our serious concerns about allowing
unconventional natural gas development and production, known as
“fracking,” to come to the state. We feel it is a critical time to reach
out to you in light of former Governor O’Malley’s precipitous
regulations for fracking in Maryland and the upcoming change in the
administration. Based on our in-depth understanding of the current
scientific research on fracking and our experience serving on the
commission, we feel that it is now critical for the legislative leadership
to prioritize public health in the 2015 session and pass a long-term
moratorium on fracking.
The Maryland Legislature must prioritize public health because
Governor O’Malley’s Safe Drilling Initiative did not. The Governor’s
Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission held 35 meetings over three and
one-half years. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE)
and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) spent at
least $1.2 million studying fracking, and volunteer commissioners
waded through thousands of pages of scientific studies, technical
reports, public comments and department summaries.
As members of the commission, we would like to take this opportunity
to tell you how the commission’s work was flawed, from a public health
perspective. Please be assured that our concerns with the advisory
commission were expressed frequently during commission
deliberations. The accuracy of information written in this letter can be
checked easily by referring the MDE’s minutes from the commission.
Current State of Research Documenting Fracking-related Health

Numbers of peer-reviewed publications on the impacts of
shale or tight gas development by year, 2009-2014

2009 (6)

2010 (6)

2011 (32)

2012 (66)

2013 (139)

2014 (154)

Health: All Papers
Indication of potential risks or adverse health outcomes (n = 45)
No indication of significant risks or adverse health outcomes (n = 2)


Both figures can be found at:

The scientific literature now includes 400+ peer-reviewed reports on
the impacts of shale gas development, including threats to human and
animal health and safety from the contamination of air and water. An
analysis of these studies found 96 percent of all health studies
reported risks or adverse health outcomes related to fracking. There is
no scientific evidence that regulations or best management practices
can sufficiently alleviate these risks. Based on these findings, New York
State banned fracking in December 2014. New York’s health
department found “significant uncertainties about the kinds of adverse
health outcomes” from high volume hydraulic fracturing.
Why did Governor O’Malley’s Departments of the Environment and
Natural Resources conclude otherwise -- that gas production could be
accomplished without unacceptable risks? The answer is embodied in
the name of Governor O’Malley’s 2011 Executive Order, the Marcellus
Shale Safe Drilling Initiative and the selection of state agencies tasked
to carry out this order. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental
Hygiene (DHMH), the state department with the mission of protecting

public health, was not included, and no health professionals were
designated for advisory commission membership (Executive Order
The following summarizes how health science took a backseat in

Constraints Inhibiting a Public Health
MDE and DNR charged with leadership
Public Health given no role;
DHMH not tasked in the EO.
2011 Executive
Order (EO)
Health study unfunded until fall 2013; MIAEH
was rushed and insufficiently funded for the
goals under contract with DHMH.
Members not selected based on subject
matter expertise; however, commissioners
were asked to give advice based on science
per the EO.

Health science

No health professional appointed to
commission until pressure from community
health groups resulted in appointment of
DHMH Director of the Environmental Health
Bureau in 2013.

Significant knowledge gaps due to:
a. Infancy of research field (2/3 of all
research published in last two years),
b. industry secrecy and non-disclosure
agreements, and
c. complexity of potential health effects
(multiple contaminants, multiple
exposure pathways: air, water, soil;
unknown synergistic effects).
Reports listed as expected in the 2011 EO still
not available: EPA, PA-DEP.

Final draft of Best Management Practices
released in July 2014; before health study was
MIAEH health

Important recommendations in August 2014
MIAEH report are not incorporated by MDE &
DNR in 11/25/14 draft Final report nor are they
reflected in proposed regulations.

The findings from Maryland’s health study differ very little from New
York State’s; this is to be expected since Maryland’s study was
published only a few months earlier and reviewed the same research.
Based on the science, Maryland’s Institute for Applied Environmental
Health (MIAEH) concluded that risks to public health and the
environment are “high” or “moderately high” in 7 of 8 areas studied:

There is no scientific evidence that the moderately high and high risks
of public health harm, identified by MIAEH, will be mitigated by
regulations submitted. For example, Dr. Don Milton, who headed the
MIAEH team, reported to the Commission that the best management
practices (BMPs), upon which these regulations are based, would not

offer protection from toxic air emissions, due to truck traffic emissions
The Executive Order defined best management practices as “methods
and techniques that have consistently shown results superior to those
achieved by other means, and which are used as benchmarks.” To
satisfy this directive, documentation must exist demonstrating this
consistent superiority of fracking technologies, with superior defined as
those technologies that consistently result in reduced or no public
health harm. No such documentation was provided to commissioners,
even after numerous requests.
MIAEH made these recommendations if drilling is permitted in
- Surveillance for harmful health effects,
- local community engagement regarding community-level
stressors, and
- develop a funding mechanism for public health studies
None of these MIAEH recommendations are in MDE and DNR’s report of
Governor O’Malley’s Safe Drilling Initiative, released November 25,
2014. Further, these recommendations would not protect people and
merely monitor the harms that Maryland residents would incur.
Both the potential harm and the recommendations for communities
and public health officials to prepare for, document and respond to
harm are minimized or ignored in the final MDE/DNR report. Instead,
MDE/DNR provided a suite of BMPs, which cannot guarantee that harm
will be mitigated. They were released before the health study was
completed and with no expectation that BMPs would change based on
findings from the health study. These concerns were also noted by
Until independent scientific research can provide sufficient
information to determine the nature and level of public health
risks and whether those risks can be managed effectively, it is
vital for the General Assembly to protect the health of
Maryland residents by preventing unconventional gas
development and production from beginning in our state.
A long-term moratorium should come with the provision that
health professionals and scientists review the health effects
research and industry technological developments that accrue
over the study period years. With such a mandate, the citizens
of Maryland can be assured that any future decisions about
unconventional natural gas development and production will
be grounded in science.

Join us in calling for health experts to have the opportunity to say
whether or not we have enough information to answer this question:

Is it safe for our families to live in communities with
We would be happy to meet with you and share our experiences on the
Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Our appointments do not expire
until May 2015.
Ann Bristow, Ph.D.
Paul Roberts

Cc: Chairman Kumar Barve
Chairwoman Joan Carter Conway