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Maryland Politics
Your source of news and gossip from the Mason-Dixon line to the Potomac
Fracking ban in NY prompts calls for MD to follow suit

With New York's governor banning hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in that state, environmental groups are calling on Maryland's lawmakers to follow suit.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ended six years of study in that state and sided with his top advisers in deciding the potential environmental and health risks of "fracking," as it's commonly known, were too great to allow it to go forward there.

The announcement prompted environmental groups to renew their opposition to letting fracking proceed in western Maryland, which sits atop a small slice of the gas-rich Marcellus shale formation stretching from the Carolinas to New York.

"The state of Maryland, which has been debating for years whether to allow fracking in its western counties, should follow New York’s lead and adopt a legislative moratorium preventing the practice here," Mike Tidwell, director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network said.

Gov. Martin O'Malley recently concluded after a 3 1/2-year study that fracking could be done...

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'Ambitious' zero-waste plan draws fire

With Marylanders throwing away far more trash per person than the average American, the O'Malley administration released a long-range plan Monday to virtually eliminate placing waste in state landfills in the next 25 years. The plan is drawing mixed reaction, however, as environmentalists criticize the blueprint's embrace of burning debris to generate energy.

State officials say that curtailing placing waste in landfills can save communities and taxpayers money, conserve energy and natural resources, and reduce pollution, including the release of climate-warming greenhouse gases.

Marylanders have more than doubled their recycling rates in the past two decades, the plan notes, now diverting about 45 percent of what once was thrown away. However, the state's residents still discard more than half their waste, with most of that going to landfills, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

In a statement accompanying the plan's release, Gov. Martin O'Malley called it "an...

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Maryland's budget shortfall grows to $1.2 billion

Maryland's budget hole has deepened.

The financial problem Maryland's incoming governor already described as "a crisis" worsened Monday, as officials announced the state's budget shortfall is even larger than previously thought.

Over the next 18 months, state revenue is expected to fall nearly $1.2 billion short of Maryland's expenses. The new numbers suggest the state must trim more than $420 million before the fiscal year ends in June, and an additional nearly $750 million out of the first budget Gov.-elect Larry Hogan will submit next year.

A spokesman said that Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley does not have plans to formally cut the state's current budget during December, and that the governor is "still evaluating what additional action might make sense."

Hogan, a Republican who takes office Jan. 21, said Monday's new numbers were "no surprise." He cautioned residents to prepare for what may be painful budget cuts next year.

"I ask that Marylanders understand that these latest...

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Senate withdraws vote on Colvin to lead Social Security

Hours after they passed a $1 trillion government spending bill, Senate Democratic leaders withdrew a scheduled vote this week on President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Social Security Administration -- a move that appeared to derail her chances for confirmation.

Carolyn W. Colvin -- an Odenton resident with a long history at the independent, Woodlawn-based agency -- had faced late opposition from Republicans over a faulty, $300 million computer system. Colvin has served as acting commissioner since early 2013.

Despite concerns about an ongoing inspector general investigation into the system, Democrats scheduled a vote on Monday for Colvin along with several other long-stalled Obama nominees. Without comment, the Senate removed Colvin from the queue late Saturday.

The move came just hours after Democrats resurrected her chances amid negotiations over government funding, moving to close debate on her confirmation.

Some Democrats, including Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, have...

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Senate Democrats move on Colvin's nomination for Social Security

Senate Democrats on Saturday moved to advance the confirmation of Social Security Administration nominee Carolyn W. Colvin, despite opposition from Republicans that had appeared to undermine her chances earlier this month.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture to end debate on Colvin during a rare Saturday session in which lawmakers slowly worked their way toward a vote on a $1 trillion spending bill. A vote on Colvin is likely on Monday.

The Odenton resident with a long history in Maryland state and federal government had been considered an uncontroversial pick to lead the Woodlawn-based agency -- where she has served as acting commissioner since early 2013.

But late opposition materialized over a faulty and expensive computer program.

In a brief speech on the Senate floor on Saturday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, noted that an inspector general is looking into the $300 million computer system. Republicans have referred to...

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Maryland fracking rules proposed, but Hogan gets final say

As expected, the O'Malley administration has moved ahead with regulations intended to ensure safe drilling for natural gas in western Maryland.  It will be up to Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, though, whether they get imposed.

On Thursday night, the Department of the Environment forwarded its 43-page proposal for new conditions on drilling to a legislative committee that reviews regulations. The move comes less than a week after an advisory commission took public comment on an extensive set of safeguards it recommended before gas exploration and extraction is allowed again. 

In its submission to the joint House-Senate Administrative Executive and Legislative Review Committee, state environmental officials said the rules - some stricter than any other state's - are needed to adequately protect against spills, well contamination, air pollution and other impacts on public health, safety and natural resources.

"Fracking," as hydraulic fracturing is commonly known, has reaped a gas bonanza in...

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