State passes frack­ing ban

Md. to be­come the third state to pro­hibit drilling prac­tice

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com

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.

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