Rascovar: Fracking follies at the State House

For MarylandReporter.com

Shakespeare, as usual, had it right. “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” That describes the squabbling in Annapolis over hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking.”

It is a phantom issue in Maryland.

Environmentalists and do-gooder legislators are panicked that fracking will mean earthquakes, tainted drinking water, dirty air, despoliation of pristine farmland and other biblical plagues. They want to bar this drilling procedure forever in Maryland.

Never mind that wide-spread fracking has been going on since 1950. In those 65 years, more than one million wells have been fracked, in which a combination of water, sand and chemicals is pumped under high pressure deep into shale formations. This fractures the rock and sends deposits of oil and/or natural gas gushing to the surface.

Low oil prices = No fracking

There’s only a tiny part of Maryland where hydraulic fracturing into the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation is viable — in far Western Maryland, i.e., portions of Garrett County and a bit of Allegany County. The number of farmers who might benefit from oil and gas royalties is very small.

Read More Here:  http://marylandreporter.com/2015/03/29/rascovar-fracking-follies-at-the-state-house/

Famous Travelers: Edison, Ford, Firestone: A Memorial Service is Held for John Burroughs at Camp Harding

By Francis Champ Zumbrun

“The woods will get you if you don’t watch out…Stay out close to nature and you won’t want to come back to the civilizing influences of trolley cars, telephones, porcelain bathtubs and nickel plumbing.” – Thomas Edison at Muddy Creek, MD July 1921

Burroughs, Edison, Ford and Firestone

The general public read with great interest the articles that appeared in newspapers across the country reporting the camping adventures of the vagabonds in western Maryland. The Maryland newspapers included photographs showing the famous men participating in various outdoor activities with President Harding, from relaxing in canvas-backed wooden folding chairs to horseback riding.

One photograph captured Edison napping comfortably on the bare ground. Soon after that photograph was taken, President Harding gently put a newspaper over Edison’s face and smiled at child looking on in the crowd and said, “we can’t let the gnats eat him up, now can we?”

After returning to the campsite from a horseback ride, the men went fishing for about 30 minutes in Licking Creek, catching nothing. Edison was overheard saying,” I don’t believe there ever were any fish in this creek.”

A local music dealer from Hagerstown made arrangements for a player piano to be at the campsite. After dinner, the camping party danced to popular music on a small wooden platform. Afterwards they sat around the campfire in a large circle listening to Thomas Edison tell tall-tales.

Read More Here:  http://dnr.maryland.gov/feature_stories/FamousTravelersPart3.asp

Will Maryland Close Its Borders to Fracking?

A bill to ban fracking for three years passes the Maryland House by a veto-proof 94-45, and now it’s up to the Senate decide.

Will Maryland soon close its borders to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking?

The state’s House of Delegates voted 94-45 Tuesday in favor of legislation that seeks a three-year ban on fracking, the controversial practice for extracting oil-and-gas reserves.

The largely Democrat-backed measure is now under review by the Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs. There’s no set timeline for a vote in the Senate, where it’s unclear if there’s enough support to pass the bill.

If this bill becomes law, “we believe it will lead to Maryland not allowing fracking” permanently, following in the footsteps of New York, said Ryanne Waters, a spokeswoman for the environmental advocacy group Food and Water Watch, which has campaigned against fracking in Maryland.

In December, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned fracking after a state study determined there is insufficient data available to conclude it would be safe. Fracking currently takes place in 22 states. Waters said that the New York decision has given the anti-fracking movement nationwide “more steam” and “more credibility.”

Read More Here:  http://insideclimatenews.org/news/26032015/will-maryland-close-its-borders-fracking

Md. Dept. of Natural Resources tags black bears

SWANTON, Md. (WJLA) – The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to keep tabs on the state’s black bear population.

Each spring, agents fan out to find bear cubs and their mothers to tag them for future monitoring. On Wednesday, they were out near Deep Creek Lake.

Deep in a hole in a hillside along a cold mountain stream, a black bear gave birth. State biologists have been tracking the 12-year-old bear with a radio collar for years. On Wednesday, it was time to change her collar and check her cubs. Biologists say their greatest concern is keeping the cubs warm.

It took two to pull the 230-pound adult bear from her den, before a veterinarian checked her.
Read more: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2015/03/md-dept-of-natural-resources-tags-black-bears-112622.html#ixzz3VV5P41Nt

Baby boom boosting Maryland’s black bear population

GARRETT COUNTY, Md. —A baby boom is boosting the black bear population in Maryland, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

DNR officials estimate that 750 bear cubs were born in western Maryland this season.

As the ice melts on Deep Creek Lake, teams from the DNR are carrying out a rite of spring in western Maryland, tracking newborn black bears.

But before bear biologist Harry Spiker can count cubs, he has to tranquilize the mother bear. Veterinarians give the sedated mother, called a sow, a checkup.

“We look at how healthy the sow is, number of cubs, how healthy they look, and it gives them an idea of the health of the whole population here,” said Ellen Bronson, a senior veterinarian from The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

Read More Here:  http://www.wbaltv.com/news/baby-boom-boosting-marylands-black-bear-population/32030480

Maryland chambers approve separate fracking bills

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Legislation that limits when and how fracking could take place in Maryland passed Tuesday in both chambers of the state legislature.

Senators voted 29–17 for a bill that holds drilling companies strictly liable for injuries to residents or their property, and in the case of legal action companies would have to disclose what chemicals they use for drilling.

In a 93–45 House vote, delegates supported a three-year moratorium on the drilling practice and called for establishing a scientific review panel to look at impacts to public health and the environment.

“These bills are not mutually exclusive. I think there’s much more study that needs to be done on this, particularly the public health effects and environmental effects of fracking,” said Sen. Robert Zirkin, a Democrat from Baltimore County who sponsored the liability legislation. “The law we just passed from the Senate holds the correct people responsible if there is damage. Why should taxpayers be on the hook for environmental damage caused by the industry?”

Read More Here:  http://www.fredericksburg.com/news/va_md_dc/maryland-chambers-approve-separate-fracking-bills/article_52cbd7fb-3f33-588c-9054-7550344edc60.html

Tiny houses starting to make a big impact on housing market

BALTIMORE – How much space do you need to live?

If you’re a tiny house enthusiast, not a whole lot.

“It’s about smart living, not big living,” Garrett County home builder Bill Thomas said.

Thomas, the founder of Hobbitat, constructs homes between 300 and 600 square feet, though many so-called tiny homes are even smaller. Hobbitat’s smallest homes are in Deep Creek Lake’s Blue Moon Rising ecotourism resort, while the “Hobs” designed for full-time living run bigger.

They are still a far cry from the average U.S. home, which is around 2,600 square feet, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Read More Here:  http://www.abc2news.com/news/watercooler/tiny-houses-starting-to-make-a-big-impact-on-housing-market

Fracking moratorium bill fends off amendments, heads to vote

A bill to place a three-year moratorium on fracking in Maryland survived eight amendments and is headed to a vote in the House of Delegates.

On Monday, the Protect Our Health and Communities Act dodged attempts by House Republicans to change the legislation and make it easier for fracking to start in western Maryland. Currently there is no fracking in Maryland.

Read More Here:  http://wtop.com/maryland/2015/03/fracking-moratorium-bill-fends-off-amendments-heads-to-vote/

Famous Travelers: Edison, Ford, Firestone Promote Outdoor Recreation with a President

By Francis Champ Zumbrun

“Imagine a scenario in which an outdoors-loving president takes a sudden weekend leave from the White House to join up with three of the most powerful industrialists in the Western world at a campsite in the mountains of Western Maryland, where they ride horses, shoot rifles, chop wood, and eat and sleep in tents beside a babbling brook.” – Norman Brauer, author of “There to Breathe the Beauty.”

Camp table, 1921

During the week of July 21-27, 1921, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone camped at a site about six miles east of Hancock in Washington County. During the weekend, President Warren G. Harding joined the “vagabonds” — the name the wealthy industrialists gave themselves when they camped together. The 200-acre farm where they made camp was located about one mile north of the National Turnpike along Licking Creek. Today, the campsite lies inside Camp Harding County Park. A plaque memorializes the gathering of these famous campers.

This was not the first time the vagabonds had been in the Old Line State. In 1918, while traveling from their camp site near Greensburg, Pa., to Leadmine, W.Va., the group passed through Garrett County. They stopped to eat lunch at Swallow Falls and purchased supplies in Oakland.

Read More Here:  http://dnr.maryland.gov/feature_stories/FamousTravelersPart2.asp


Md. Senate kills effort to weaken proposed resistrictions on fracking

ANNAPOLIS — A key amendment offered by Republican Sen. George Edwards to weaken a bill that could restrict the process of drilling for gas in Western Maryland was defeated on the Senate floor Thursday.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, seeks to hold energy companies responsible for any damages from hydraulic fracturing, a drilling process that is used in states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The Senate voted 26-20 against an amendment to strip the bill of the words “ultra-hazardous and abnormally dangerous” to describe the process.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process by which water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to fracture rock and release natural gas.

Read More Here:  http://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/local/md-senate-kills-effort-to-weaken-proposed-resistrictions-on-fracking/article_ac276530-5b0e-5962-8f0d-1b26a5440364.html

Senators hotly debate language in fracking bill

ANNAPOLIS, Md. —The debate over whether to allow fracking in Maryland lit up the state Senate chamber Wednesday.

Legislators from western Maryland oppose a bill that would hold fracking companies accountable for any damage done during the process, saying it would kill any chances of cashing in on natural gas deposits in the state.

Spirited debate came to an abrupt halt when the Senate decided to seek the state attorney general’s opinion on disputed language in the bill.

Fracking extracts natural gas from Marcellus shale, which can be found underneath of nearly all of Garrett County and parts of Allegany County. A Towson University study finds tapping into Marcellus shale could infuse billions into the western Maryland economy.

Read More Here: http://www.wbaltv.com/politics/senators-hotly-debate-language-in-fracking-bill/31871292

Md. schools superintendent visiting Garrett robotics lab

ACCIDENT, Md. (AP) – Maryland State Schools Superintendent Lillian Lowery is visiting a robotics laboratory in far western Maryland that produced a regional championship team two years in a row.

She’s visiting the Garrett Engineering And Robotics Society building in Accident Wednesday. Her visit is part of a tour highlighting science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs in Garrett and Allegany county schools.


Read More Here:  http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/28548514/md-schools-superintendent-visiting-garrett-robotics-lab

Fracking in Maryland needs to be stopped before it begins

Well it looks as if hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is going to make its debut in Maryland in the near future. After conducting a three-year long study concerning the potential effects of fracking on Maryland, former governor Martin O’Malley declared the state fit to frack just before leaving office. His successor Larry Hogan has also expressed his desire to start drilling in the very near future. While fracking might create short-term jobs and tax revenues, Maryland needs to realize the costs will far outweigh the benefits. Fracking will only destroy the state’s environment and worsen its already outdated infrastructure.

The process of fracking involves drilling about a mile and a half into the ground, injecting water into the well created by the drill in order to crack the shale bedrock and extract the gas within it. It’s a process that threatens the environment above and below the ground.

The biggest danger inherent in the fracking process is the possibility of leakages in the pipes, which would cause gas to seep into shallow rock layers and private wells, creating the possibility of it ending up in peoples’ faucets. When the contaminated water arrives at the tap, it becomes flammable.

The chemicals in the byproducts of the gas consist of benzene, xylene toluene, and methane; all of which are known to cause cancer, birth defects and nervous system disorders. Since fracking is such a recently developed process, there are also possible long-term risks that are still largely unknown. According to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a non-profit devoted to “building a movement to solve the climate crisis in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia,” doctors are already connecting fracking to numerous health problems like respiratory illness and increased infant mortality.

Read More Here:  http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/12863

Inaccurate Zillow ‘Zestimates’ a source of conflict over home prices

When “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell asked the chief executive of Zillow recently about the accuracy of the website’s automated property value estimates — known as Zestimates — she touched on one of the most sensitive perception gaps in American real estate.

Zillow is the most popular online real estate information site, with 73 million unique visitors in December. Along with active listings of properties for sale, it also provides information on houses that are not on the market. You can enter the address or general location in a database of millions of homes and probably pull up key information — square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms and baths, photos, taxes — plus a Zestimate.

Shoppers, sellers and buyers routinely quote Zestimates to realty agents — and to one another — as gauges of market value. If a house for sale has a Zestimate of $350,000, a buyer might challenge the sellers’ list price of $425,000. Or a seller might demand to know from potential listing brokers why they say a property should sell for just $595,000 when Zillow has it at $685,000.

Read More Here:  http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-harney-20150208-story.html

Famous Travelers: Edison, Ford, Firestone Travel Through Allegany County

By Francis Champ Zumbrun

“I like to get out in the woods and live close to nature. Every man does. It is in his blood. It is his feeble protest against civilization.’’  – -Thomas Edison at Muddy Creek Falls, 1921

In the summer of 1921, Thomas Edison, world famous inventor; Henry Ford, automobile manufacturer; and Harvey Firestone, tire magnate; camped out at two different locations in Western Maryland. Traveling on Route 40 from one campsite to the other took these well-known men from east to west through the entire width of Allegany County.

From July 21 to 27, they camped in Washington County on a 200-acre farm located along Licking Creek, about six miles east of Hancock. From July 27 to 31, they camped in Garrett County along Muddy Creek, at present-day Swallow Falls State Park.

Edison, Ford and Firestone were business partners and knew each other from working together on various business projects over the years. Their working relationship transformed into a bond of great friendship through the experiences they shared camping together about two weeks each summer from 1915 through 1924. On these camping trips, these wealthy captains of industry called themselves “vagabonds” as they roughed it together in the great outdoors away from civilizatiHenry Ford, driver; John Burroughs (front seat) and Thomas Edison (back seat)  in a Model T. on.

The publicity that followed these celebrated men on their summer adventures helped to introduce to the general public the pleasure of motorized recreational touring, outdoor recreation and camping. Historians have noted that these camping trips were “the first notable linking of the automobile and outdoor recreation.”

The loud sounds of the motor caravan breaking the quiet of the rural countryside would have certainly drawn the attention of anyone within hearing distance. An Allegany County citizen standing at the right place at the right time along the National Road on the afternoon of July 27, 1921 would have certainly noticed the long caravan of vehicles passing through the area.


Read More Here:  http://dnr.maryland.gov/feature_stories/FamousTravelersPart1.asp

Defendant Found Not Competent for Md. Bank Fraud Trial

BALTIMORE — A federal judge says a Garrett County developer is not competent to stand trial on charges he bilked banks out of $3.7 million in fraudulent real-estate schemes.

The order pertaining to Samuel VanSickle was unsealed this week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. His trial was to have begun Monday.

VanSickle will be evaluated at a Bureau of Prisons medical facility for up to four months to determine if he is likely to become fit for trial.

Read More:  http://washington.cbslocal.com/2015/03/13/defendant-found-not-competent-for-md-bank-fraud-trial/

100+ Maryland businesses call for fracking moratorium


More than 100 businesses in western Maryland have come out in support of a bill that would establish a moratorium on oil and gas exploration via hydraulic fracturing, citing concerns over pollution, health and tourism consequences.

Lawmakers in Maryland are currently considering bills that would either place an eight-year moratorium on fracking or ban the practice completely, much like New York did late last year.

However, state Gov. Larry Hogan believes the time is right to allow the practice – which involves blasting highly pressurized water, sand and other chemicals into layers of rock to free up oil and gas – as long as strict regulations are in place. According to the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland Environmental Department is considering regulations that would pave the way for fracking to begin in the state.

Read More Here:  http://rt.com/usa/240293-maryland-businesses-fracking-moratorium/

Bill Seeks to Impose Moratorium on Fracking Until 2023

March 12th, 2015 by WCBC Radio

Efforts to see that hydraulic fracturing won’t be considered in Maryland for at least another eight years continue in Annapolis as a hearing in the House Environmental and Transportation placing a moratorium on banning fracking was held Wednesday.  The bill would impose a moratorium on fracking until 2023. Local residents and officials planned to testify on both sides of the bill. Members of Don’t Frack Maryland also planned to present a petition supporting the moratorium to the legislators. Supporters of  fracking say that the bill may have an adverse impact on small businesses engaged in providing services related to hydraulic fracturing, and that the region is missing out on a potential revenue stream of hundreds of millions of dollars annually.   Delegate Wendell Beitzel, who represents Garrett County, is frustrated with the opposition. He says a moratorium may not even be required given the potential strictest in the nation regulations being considered…..

- See more at: http://www.wcbcradio.com/?news=bill-seeks-to-impose-moratorium-on-fracking-until-2023#sthash.qrLPP5yI.dpuf

Delaney Applauds Head Start Grant to Garrett County Community Action Committee

WASHINGTON – March 12, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a $818,182 grant to the Garrett County Community Action Committee for Head Start. Head Start is a federal program that promotes school readiness for children under five. -

See more at: http://maryland.realestaterama.com/2015/03/12/delaney-applauds-head-start-grant-to-garrett-county-community-action-committee-ID0564.html#sthash.7UGDgoFS.dpuf

Garrett Realtors back anti-fracking legislation

OAKLAND — Two bills in the Maryland legislature dealing with studying the health impacts of fracking have received the support of the Garrett County Board of Realtors.

House Bill 449 and Senate Bill 409 both call for a statewide moratorium on natural gas development that uses hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, until certain studies are completed to determine the health effects that the technology poses to communities.

The Board of Realtors notes that property values are negatively impacted for homes in proximity to gas well development. The stigma from the possibility of health-related water well contamination contributes to upwards of 20 percent or more negative impact on home values, according to the board.

Read More Here:  http://www.times-news.com/news/local_news/garrett-realtors-back-anti-fracking-legislation/article_2125fd02-c86a-11e4-bf78-533fbf1806f7.html

Western Md. Realtors support fracking moratorium bills

Posted: Mar 10, 2015 2:58 PM EDT Updated: Mar 10, 2015 2:58 PM EDT

OAKLAND, Md. (AP) – Real-estate brokers in far western Maryland are supporting a proposal in the Maryland General Assembly for an eight-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas pending further study.

The Garrett County Board of Realtors expressed concern Tuesday about the possible impact of fracking on public health. They say fears of health problems from well-water contamination can reduce home values by at least 20 percent.

Garrett County contains most of Maryland’s share of the gas-rich Marcellus shale.

More here.


February 2015 Market Stats – Garrett County

The official February market stats are now online & available for download. Keep up to date with ALL of the relevant Garrett County market stats here on the blog.

The good news: the total number of sold properties increased over last February, there are less active listings available (meaning that we are burning through extra inventory), and new pending sales (under contract) have increased dramatically.

The bad news: The average sales price for February has decreased and the average days on market (DOM) is up dramatically.

More statistics here – if you want something specific or are looking for more information about YOUR property, call me anytime to discuss 301-501-0420:

The Last Year of Market Stats for Garrett County, Maryland

Average LIST Price versus SOLD Price over the last 12 months: