The sponsor of a bill to regulate the “hydraulic fracturing” process used in oil and gas extraction asked to kill the measure on Monday because he said Maine’s current laws and geology make it unnecessary.

But several opponents of the controversial process commonly known as “fracking” urged lawmakers to ban the practice altogether, for safe measure.

During fracking, massive quantities of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into wells at high pressure in order to cause fractures in the rock. The process is now used in the majority of oil and natural gas production in the U.S. But the chemicals used to fracture the rock can contaminate groundwater as well as surface water, and a growing body of research has linked fracking to increased earthquake activity in some areas.

Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, said he originally hoped to ban the practice after a northern Maine television station aired a story about potential efforts to use fracking in neighboring New Brunswick. But the final version of the bill, L.D. 1453, instead would have directed the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules regulating the practice to protect drinking water.

In Augusta, Martin asked members of the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee to effectively kill the bill because it was inconsistent with his original intent and because he has since learned the DEP already regulates such activities.

“It solves my problem or any problem I thought I had,” Martin said. “My only goal was to make sure we don’t have fracturing in Maine.”


Melanie Loyzim, deputy commissioner at the DEP, testified Monday that most of the types of injection wells required for fracking are already prohibited in Maine. Other types of injection wells would have to prove that chemicals, petroleum, sand or other substances used in fracking would not pollute groundwater in order to receive a license.

“You cannot obtain a discharge license without proving you will not cause groundwater to violate its (water) classification,” Loyzim said “In other words, you cannot pollute it so it’s not drinkable.”

Commercial well-drillers in Maine occasionally use a similar process to open up some wells. However, well-drillers are only allowed to inject water – not chemicals or sand – under high pressure back into the ground.

Additionally, Maine Geological Survey director Robert Marvinney said Maine simply doesn’t have the right geology for either conventional deposits of oil and natural gas or the “unconventional shale gas” targeted via fracking. That is because nearly all of the metamorphic rock formations “have been heated well beyond the conditions needed” for the creation of oil and gas, which require just enough heat to convert organic matter into fossil fuels.

While Marvinney said neighboring New Brunswick does have a small oil and gas formation around Moncton and coastal areas, those formations do not extend into Maine.

“So we simply do not have the rocks that are being exploited in New Brunswick for oil and gas,” Marvinney said.


Several people who spoke Monday said Maine should follow the leads of other states and countries that have outlawed the practice for oil and gas exploration.

“Although there is little threat in the state of Maine, … given the severity of potential issues caused by hydraulic fracturing, doing nothing is really not an option,” said Brian Jones, a former state lawmaker from Freedom.

“This is something that we need to be proactive about,” said Kathy Cerick, a resident of Atkinson. “We need to ban fracking in Maine.”

The committee is expected to take up L.D. 1453 during a work session on Wednesday.


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