State passes fracking ban
Md. to become the third state to prohibit drilling practice
The state Senate passed a bill to place a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing Monday night. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced his full support of a ban and the bill is on its way to becoming law in a matter of time, making Maryland the third state to outlaw the controversial drilling practice after Vermont and New York.
The practice, known as fracking, is a drilling technique that injects a mixture of water, chemicals, sand and other substances in rock to extract natural gas.
Supporters argue fracking would create economic benefits and cut carbon dioxide emissions, as natural gas displaces coal. On the other
side of the debate, opponents say fracking could pollute water supplies and raise other health concerns.
The Senate’s highly expected decision was lauded as a victory by environmental advocates and seen as a disappointment by fracking supporters.
The lawmakers’ action was significant because Maryland would become the first state with gas reserves to pass a ban through the legislature, according to advocacy groups. The first state that outlawed fracking — Vermont — doesn’t have gas reserves for fracking, and New York prohibited the drilling method through an executive order.
“It shows the power of the grassroots movement,” said Food & Water Watch Maryland senior organizer Thomas Meyer. “People know that they can hold legislators in Annapolis accountable to the changes and policies that we know most people want to see.”
Meyer said the lawmakers’ decision signals “the need to transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy is more urgent than ever, and that local governments can still take action and lead the way, even with a Congress and a president that is against acting on climate change and protecting our community against fossil fuel extractions.”
Local environmental advocate Donny Williams, who has been advocating for a ban for about four years, said he was “overjoyed” to hear the news Monday night.
Williams is an organizer for a Calvert grassroots organization called We Are Cove Point, formed in protest to Dominion Cove Point’s liquefied natural gas expansion project in Lusby. Along with more than 100 organizations under the banner of the Don’t Frack Maryland coalition, Williams’ organization was in full support of an outright ban.
Before the bill to ban fracking was introduced in this legislative session, Maryland passed a twoyear moratorium in 2015 that was set to expire in October. Williams said he was happy to see the moratorium passed, but that was “kicking the can down the road.”
When he saw the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 36-10, with a veto-proof majority and the governor’s support, he was happy knowing the ban is on track to become law.
“It’s really a great feeling to see this isn’t an almost-step; this is an actual step that will solidly and tangibly protect Marylanders for a very long time,” Williams said.
Sen. Steve Waugh (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert) could not be reached for comment as of press time. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s) voted for the bill on a favorable report, while Waugh voted against it last week.
In a previous interview, Waugh said he was convinced fracking is safe and was opposed to the bill.
“You have a better chance at being hit by lightning than having a fracking well go wrong,” Waugh said in a February interview. “The [Environmental Protection Agency] report fundamentally declared fracking safe.”
Drew Cobbs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, called the legislature’s approval a “politically motivated decision” that “moves Maryland further away from the state’s economic and environmental goals” in a statement.
“Denying Maryland consumers, businesses and job-seekers the benefits that come with instate energy production through hydraulic fracturing shuts the door on an important share in the American energy renaissance and Western Maryland’s future economic growth,” he said in the statement.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 97-40 earlier this month.