Blog: Five strikes, and you’re out: Beitzel fails on fracking

Del. Wendell Beitzel, R-Garrett County, made his support for drilling Marcellus shale to produce natural gas in his corner of the state quite clear on Tuesday morning.

Beitzel offered five unsuccessful amendments to a bill that would require a comprehensive study on the impact and risks of drilling the shale before permits could be issued. The Department of the Environment and the Department of Natural Resources would publish the study,  including conclusions and recommendations for legislative changes, by August 2013.

Marcellus shale drilling

A rig drills a Marcellus shale well in Roulette, Pa. Photo by Laurie Barr

Beitzel is one of the few lawmakers in Annapolis from the mountainous area in far western Maryland where the drilling would take place, and wants it started sooner. Debate on the bill was delayed to give Beitzel time to research and plan amendments.

“The bottom line is Marcellus shale and natural gas extraction can help our state,” Beitzel said.

Marcellus shale deposits have been found in Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The other states have started drilling, but many have pulled back because of radioactivity and ground pollution produced by the process.

Beitzel said he understands the dangers, but he also knows that Maryland can coordinate the different agencies and activities involved to keep the drill site safe better than neighboring states.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, said that she understood Beitzel’s concerns, but the committee discussed them, too. The “fracking” process, which breaks rocks to release the natural gas, takes a lot of water, and often ends with many trees being cut down.

She shared reports of other states sending radioactive water from fracking through a normal wastewater treatment plant and releasing the water into rivers and the ocean. Salt is a byproduct of fracking, she said, but that was also found to be highly radioactive.

McIntosh said that she wants to balance all interests – both preserving the pristine wildlife of western Maryland, and allowing a new source of economic development in the economically depressed area.

“We do not believe we have all the answers we need before we move forward with drilling,” she said.

Beitzel was undeterred. He offered amendment after amendment — changing the study, the deadline for the study, the departments involved, the assessments on the land, and finally changing the membership of the study commission. McIntosh resisted all of them, and they were all shot down, with Beitzel’s support coming mostly from his Republican colleagues.

After all five of his amendments failed, Beitzel tried to special order the bill to later in the week so he could take more time to review a letter from the attorney general about the issue. Beitzel was once again overruled, and the House will take a final vote on the bill later this week.

—Megan Poinski

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Positively

    So if everyone seems to care so much for the land and tourism explain why all the Wind Turbines and forest devastation and killing of birds and bats – relocations of Bear and Rattle Snakes was ok?

  2. Vicki Taylor

    I don’t understand how anyone who understands the consequences of this type of drilling can be for it?!?!?!? Most of the jobs in this area are somehow related to tourism. Who wants to visit or vacation in an area that is being destroyed by hydro-fracking?

  3. Hildawilburn

    Shame on you Mr. Beitzel, But since i know how you treat the citizens of Northern Garrett County,concerning the Coal mines nothing should suprise me. You are what i believe to be a dirty politian. I watched you grease the hands of “The Good Old Boys from Penna” I knew then you do not deserve the seat you have and hopefully will lose it soon.

  4. Richard Baldwin Cook

    Good thing Beitzel’s proposed amendments were rejected. GOP foot-dragging is just a strategy for upending reg, generally. Case i point, Andy Harris, now in congress, and quick to undermine the health of poor women by voting for a 100% defunding of Planned Parenthood – no hearings needed, thank you very much. But Harris votes to delay EPA regs so the “stakeholders” (i.e. business interests) in his district would have yet more time to ‘make their views known.’ The GOP does not like regs, which means Beitzel, Harris and the GOP generally will not lift a finger to address health care or environmental degradation. They have boxed them in by appealing to the shrill and the ignorant and the monied.