Marylanders Pushing for Fracking Ban
BALTIMORE – One of this year's most contentious debates in Maryland centers around whether to ban hydraulic fracking.
A moratorium on fracking is set to expire in October. Thirty-seven groups have signed a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan supporting legislation (SB740 and HB1325) to ban fracking in the state.
It's likely to win approval in the House of Delegates, but it's a tougher fight in the Senate. It must first pass through the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee – where the chair, Sen. Joan Carter Conway, is sponsoring a bill to extend the moratorium.
Karla Raettig, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, says it's especially important for the state to protect the environment because of the current political climate in Washington.
"We have no expectation that the federal government will protect the state of Maryland with fracking,” she states. “With just devastating cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, making the states do more with less, it is going to be a grim situation on the federal level. So, we really are concentrating on the state of Maryland, where we can get things done."
Western Maryland would likely be first area targeted for fracking. The region supplies most of the water flowing into the Potomac River and drinking water for hundreds of thousands.
Proponents of fracking say it is safe if well regulated. Hogan has said he supports it if it can be done safely, for the jobs it could bring.
Nadine Grabania, a board member with the environmental group Citizen Shale, says fracking threatens water and air quality and the very fabric of communities.
She adds the economic boost Western Maryland receives through tourism and the purchase of second homes would be threatened if fracking is allowed.
"Imagine what you would feel like if you learned that a permit for an industrial gas fracking site could possibly be approved for somewhere within a mile of your home, and what that would do to your property, and your well being," she states.
Last year, the EPA said fracking can contaminate drinking water through leaks, spills, and improper disposal of chemicals and other waste.
Environmental groups worry that the type of underground rock formations in Western Maryland would provide pathways for toxic chemicals to mix with drinking water sources in the event of a leak or spill.