County moves to op­pose frack­ing

Com­mis­sion­ers must wait for re­sults of Gen­eral As­sem­bly be­fore craft­ing of­fi­cial rule

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

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.”

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