The Maryland House of Delegates passed a three-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the Western part of the state. Meanwhile, the Maryland Senate approved a bill that would impose strict financial liabilities on shale exploration companies and would declare fracking an “ultrahazardous and abnormally dangerous activity.”
Fracking has been effectively banned in Maryland for more than three years already, since former Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley put a hold on issuing new permits for shale drilling, while the state carries out research on potential environmental hazards associated with the technique.
Two contradictory reports were produced. One study expressed concern over the impact of fracking on air quality, while the other argued that, under best practices, fracking would pose no threat to Maryland’s drinking water.
The bill faced strong opposition from Western Maryland delegates and Republicans from Baltimore county, who argue that fracking would only impact a small portion of the state’s residents who are already willing to accept the industry.
“All we are asking is our second-most greatest natural resource be used,” said Del. Mike McKay (R), who represents Allegany and Washington counties in the state’s western region.
“What really chafes my patoot .. is that fracking is inherently a local issue,” Haven Shoemaker, a Carroll County Republican told The Baltimore Sun. “This issue has been studied to death. We need to quit frackin’ around and bring jobs to Western Maryland.”
The liability standards approved by the Senate – requiring fracking companies to carry a $10 million insurance policy for six years after each drilling operation – are so severe that they’re equivalent to an outright ban.
Each bill must still clear the other chamber and they both need approval of Gov. Larry Hogan who believes that shale industry can bring jobs to the economically depressed Western Maryland. In a statement, Erin Montgomery, spokeswoman for the Governor Hogan, said that “as [the governor] has repeatedly said, if fracking can be done in an environmentally safe way, then he would want to move forward with it.”
Image: Maryland State House
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