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Maryland State Government Maryland Department of the Environment

Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative



The Marcellus Shale is a black shale, or rock formation, found throughout the northern Appalachian Basin. In Maryland, the Marcellus Shale formation is located within western Maryland from Washington, Allegany and Garrett Counties. The only anticipated areas of gas production in the Marcellus are Western Allegany and Garrett Counties. The Marcellus Formation underlies New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Western Maryland. In 2009, the Department of Energy estimated 262 trillion cubic feet of natural gas exists in the Marcellus Shale, making it the largest onshore Natural Gas Reserve in the United States.

On June 6, 2011, Governor Martin O’Malley signed an Executive Order establishing the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative. This initiative will assist State policymakers and regulators in determining whether and how gas production from the Marcellus shale in Maryland can be accomplished without unacceptable risks of adverse impacts to public health, safety, the environment and natural resources. The Order requires the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in consultation with an advisory commission made up of a broad array of stakeholders, to undertake a study of drilling for natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Western Maryland.

Under the Executive Order, the study will be conducted in three parts: 

  • A presentation of findings and related recommendations regarding the desirability of legislation to establish revenue sources, such as a State-level severance tax, and the desirability of legislation to establish standards of liability for damages caused by gas exploration and production.  These findings and recommendations will be made by December 31, 2011.
  • Recommendations for best practices for all aspects of natural gas exploration and production in the Marcellus Shale in Maryland by August 1, 2012.
  • A final report which will include findings and recommendations relating to the impact of Marcellus Shale drilling including possible contamination of groundwater, handling and disposal of wastewater, environmental impacts, impacts to forests and important habitats, greenhouse gas emissions and economic impact.  This report will be issued no later than August 1, 2014.

Upcoming Meetings

Meetings will be held in western Maryland on the following dates, and may begin as early as 10:00 am and end as late as 4:00 pm:

  • Friday May 16
  • Friday June 13
  • Friday July 11
  • Monday August 18
  • Monday September 15

Details as to exact locations and times will be added as they become available.