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Potential Fracking In Maryland Sparks Controversy

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Does it harm or help? That's the question surrounding a controversial natural gas drilling method that could come to western Maryland.

Gigi Barnett explains the answers were considered this weekend in the first statewide conference on fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing---or "fracking" for short---is a new controversial method of finding natural gas in marcellus shale. In Virginia and West Virginia, oil and gas companies are leasing vast amounts of farm land for fracking. Now they've set their sights on Maryland but one unanswered question remains: is it safe?

"This is about, `Do we want these sort of drilling operations all over our state and if we did do them all over the state, what would happen?'" said Chesapeake Climate Action Network Executive Director Mike Tidwell.

CCAN is an independent environmental group. They launched a day-long conference at the University of Baltimore this weekend on the pitfalls and profits of fracking.

While the drilling method is banned in Maryland by order of the governor, Tidwell says fracking has wreaked havoc in other states.

"It's led to contaminated water. It's led to even earthquakes, forest fragmentation, deforestation," he said.

This is the first statewide conference on the pros and cons of fracking. For some farmers in western Pennsylvania and Ohio, the drilling method has paid off by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I never dreamed of money like this--$434,000," said one farmer. "It fell out of the sky."

Gas and oil companies have asked to drill on Dana Shimrock's farm in western Maryland. She wants a study first.

"There are going to be huge haves and have-nots. It's like gambling in Las Vegas. Are you going to be a big winner or are you going to be a big loser?" Shimrock said.

More than 300 people attended this weekend's conference on fracking.

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