Activists push for ban on fracking in Maryland

Activists rally to ban fracking in Maryland.

Chanting "Hey, Hey! Ho, Ho! All this fracking's got to go!" hundreds of demonstrators marched in a circle around the State House Thursday to draw attention to an effort to ban the controversial form of gas drilling in Maryland.

A musician with an accordion played Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" while a bagpipe contingent brought up the rear of the march with a rendition of "America the Beautiful."

For several years, environmental activists have tried to get the state to ban hydraulic fracturing, commonly called "fracking," which has been proposed for the underground Marcellus Shale formation that runs under parts of Western Maryland.

A moratorium on fracking is set to expire in October, so anti-fracking advocates are hoping to put a permanent ban in place.

"A vote for anything but a ban is a vote for fracking," said Nadine Grabania, a Garrett County winery owner who is a co-founder of the group Citizen Shale. "There is no evidence that fracking can be done safely. It's time to end the uncertainty."

Activists believe they have a good shot at getting a ban passed by the House of Delegates. The Senate is tougher for them. While they believe they have enough votes in the full Senate, the ban must first clear the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee — where chairwoman Sen. Joan Carter Conway is sponsoring a rival bill that would instead extend the moratorium.

Josh Tulkin, director of the Sierra Club's Maryland Chapter, said he thinks anti-fracking advocates are making progress toward getting a full ban, showing "overwhelming support" for the bill at a hearing on Tuesday and at Thursday's rally.

Thursday's rally drew members of several groups, including the Sierra Club, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Citizen Shale and Food and Water Watch, which estimated the attendance at 1,000 people.

Some of the biggest cheers were reserved for former state delegate and gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur, who has been working on the fracking issue for years.

"Seven years, we have been together creating the biggest, most annoying presence for the oil and gas industry," she said.

Mizeur praised the crowd for fighting to keep fracking out of Maryland so far.

"We are the only state in the nation that sits on shale gas that hasn't put a drill in the ground," she said to cheers.

Leon Dubansky came from Oakland in Garrett County on a bus with about 30 other people. His family owns an organic farm and he worries that the water waste from fracking will harm the environment.

"If fracking were to come to Garrett County, pretty much everything we have would be either tainted or destroyed by the frack fluid or earthquakes or polluted air," Dubansky said.

Brandon and Leigha Rogers came from Waldorf, where they work at MOM's Organic Market. Brandon carried a sign another participant gave him that read "Frack is Whack."

"It's irresponsible. It's harmful to everyone around," Leigha Rogers said.

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