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 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.