Opponents of the natural gas extraction method known as fracking introduced a bill in the Maryland Senate Friday to ban the practice.
The effort to forbid hydraulic fracturing is expected to become one of the most heavily contested environmental battles of the 2017 General Assembly session. A moratorium on the practice is scheduled to expire in October.
Sen. Bobby Zirkin, the Baltimore County Democrat who is sponsoring the ban, said a series of regulations adopted to control fracking are not enough to protect public health and the environment. Opponents of a ban contend the current rules are, if anything, too stringent.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has said he supports fracking if it can be done safely because it could bring jobs to Western Maryland. The Marcellus shale rock formation — which contains the natural gas — extends from New York through Allegany and Garrett counties to Ohio and West Virginia.
Critics of the practice contend that fracking can lead to water contamination and increased earthquake activity. Proponents say it is safe if well regulated and that the technology is necessary for the United States' energy supply.
Jackie Filson, spokeswoman for Food and Water Watch, and environmental advocacy group, said similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the House of Delegates next week.