County moves to oppose fracking
Commissioners must wait for results of General Assembly before crafting official rule
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) placed a hydraulic fractur- ing moratorium on state lands in 2015 in an effort to learn more about the practice and balance its positives and negatives.
With the moratorium due to expire in the coming months and the state legislature holding discussions on it, the state could be at a crossroads. But everyone will know
where Charles County stands after Tuesday’s meeting where the board of commissioners voted unanimously to oppose hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the county.
Though the science on fracking is new, some believe the process can cause environmental damage and potentially contaminate drinking wa- ter sources. With Charles County sitting atop the Taylorsville Basin, Com- missioner Ken Robinson (D) said getting ahead of this issue is important.
“There has been talk on the Virginia side of the Potomac of beginning fracking there. Fracking results in environmental degradation, it has nega- tive impacts on water supply and is also associated with seismic activity,” Robinson said.
The county’s comprehensive plan addresses the practice of fracking in chapter four when highlighting water resources. The plan recommends the county implement a “no-fracking” policy until any potential harmful ef- fects of the process are determined to be either false or would not jeopar- dize the safety of county citizens.
“This would be the next step in that process,” Robinson said. “We don’t know how long the [mor- atorium] will be in place, whether it will be lifted, so this is the next step on a local level.”
County Attorney Rhonda Weaver said before any concrete action with any ban on fracking in the county can take place in the legislative process, the commissioners must watch to see what will happen during this upcoming General Assem- bly session.
“Based upon that, we can draft some legislation based on the commission- ers’ recommendations,” Weaver said. “I just want to make sure we don’t do anything that conflicts with what the state is doing on the subject.”
After the session, Weav- er said, the county can get moving on the subject of fracking after the “lay of the land” is determined.
The commissioners unanimously voted 4-0 to oppose fracking with Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D) absent after having hip replacement surgery. There have also been recent developments in other counties, Weav- er said, that have already banned fracking and had it ruled illegal after being challenged in court.
The county has to go through the process of reviewing those actions, Weaver said, to ensure the county’s legislation regarding the process is “as legally secure as possible.”
Charles County Delegation Chairwoman Sal- ly Jameson (D-Charles) said the delegation will discuss fracking in this General Assembly session, but there are no inclinations on what the results of the discussion will be at this point.
The General Assembly is going to review the issue, she said, and “hope to get it taken up in the next couple of weeks.”
Jameson said she is “not overly fond” of fracking at the moment. There are a lot of unanswered questions, she said, and the state does not seem to be there with all of the information surrounding it yet.
“I have not seen a bill yet. Certainly I’ll keep the county’s stance in mind when it comes up, but I’ll make my own decision,” Jameson said. “But I think you’re going to see a lot of counties come out and make the round statements with what they want and don’t want in regard to this. It’s going to be a big conversation.”