Md. frack­ing ban gets at­ten­tion in other states

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - —Scott Dance

When Gov. Larry Ho­gan signed a state frack­ing ban into law Tuesday, the stroke of his pen might have sent rip­ples be­yond Mary­land’s bor­ders.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists in Virginia, Penn­syl­va­nia and else­where are hop­ing that the ac­tion spurs de­ci­sion-mak­ers in those states to give the con­tro­ver­sial gas-har­vest­ing prac­tice a sec­ond thought.

“It makes them kind of sit up and take note and say, ‘Well, Mary­land took a long, hard look at this. They have spent years look­ing at the is­sue and come to this con­clu­sion,’ ” said Kristin Davis, an at­tor­ney with the South­ern En­vi­ron­men­tal Law Cen­ter.

Hy­draulic frac­tur­ing, or frack­ing, in­volves in­ject­ing fluid into shale for­ma­tions to re­lease nat­u­ral gas. Pro­po­nents say the prac­tice has cre­ated jobs, helped drive down en­ergy costs and freed the coun­try from de­pen­dence on for­eign oil. Op­po­nents say frack­ing can con­tam­i­nate the air and wa­ter.

Mary­land was the first state in which the prac­tice is ge­o­log­i­cally fea­si­ble to ban the prac­tice by law. Ho­gan, a Repub­li­can, sur­prised the Gen­eral Assem­bly’s Demo­cratic lead­er­ship when he of­fered his sup­port for the mea­sure last month.

Frack­ing op­po­nents are al­ready urg­ing Demo­cratic gov­er­nors in Cal­i­for­nia, Colorado and Penn­syl­va­nia to fol­low the lead of Mary­land’s Repub­li­can ex­ec­u­tive. They are urg­ing Florida’s Repub­li­can lead­er­ship to do the same.

Chris War­ren, a spokesman for the In­sti­tute for En­ergy Re­search, said he doesn’t ex­pect Mary­land’s ban to have any domino ef­fect. His or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­motes free-mar­ket ap­proaches to en­ergy pol­icy.

War­ren said he sees Ho­gan’s sup­port for the ban as “kind of a head-scratcher,” given the eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity frack­ing has brought to many ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

“I don’t see that trans­lat­ing to other Repub­li­can gov­er­nors, or even Demo­cratic gov­er­nors,” he said. “I see that as more of an out­lier than an up­com­ing trend.”

But anti-frack­ing groups say they see Mary­land’s ac­tion as a step in build­ing mo­men­tum against the in­dus­try.

“Mary­land’s ban on frack­ing will mark the lat­est in a se­ries of re­cent mile­stones for the anti-frack­ing move­ment, each point­ing to steadily evolv­ing pol­i­tics on the is­sue,” Wenonah Hauter, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the anti-frack­ing Food & Wa­ter Watch wrote in a blog post last week.

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