Maryland General Assembly approves fracking ban

The Maryland General Assembly on Monday gave final passage to a ban on fracking in the state, sending the measure to Gov. Larry Hogan for his promised signature.

Environmental advocates and climate change activists have pressed for years to ban the controversial form of drilling for natural gas also known as hydraulic fracturing, which had been proposed in Western Maryland.

Hogan surprised the advocates this month when he threw his support behind the ban legislation.

A big cheer went up in the Senate balcony Monday night as senators voted, 35-10, to approve a bill banning fracking. Garrett County residents and supporters of the ban had watched the vote intently, recording it with their cell phones.

The House of Delegates had earlier approved the same bill, 97-40.

Once signed by the governor, Maryland will become the second state to ban fracking by passing a law against it, according to advocates. Vermont has a fracking ban in law, but the state does not have the shale formations containing natural gas where fracking could be done.

New York, which does have shale gas, banned the practice by executive order.

Sen. George Edwards, a Republican who represents Western Maryland, defended his vote against the ban. Edwards said he's always supported an "all of the above" strategy for energy production, and believes that proposed regulations would have ensured that fracking would be safe in Maryland.

Edwards said he and other Western Maryland politicians campaigned on their support for fracking, and he intended to keep his pledge.

"The fat lady has sung. The game is over," Edwards said. "As far as I'm concerned after tonight … the discussion of the issue is over."

Proponents of the ban applauded what they called a bipartisan victory.

"This ban is a major step for Maryland's path to a clean energy economy," said Josh Tulkin, director of Maryland's Sierra Club, one of the groups in the Don't Frack Maryland Coalition.

Opponents of the ban were disappointed.

"This politically motivated decision moves Maryland further away from the state's economic and environmental goals," Drew Cobbs, director of the Maryland Petroleum Institute, said in a statement after the vote.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
46°