Maryland Bans Fracking
The bill is now headed to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is in favor of a statewide fracking ban.
Hogan, who once said that fracking is " an economic gold mine," stunned many with his complete turnaround at a press conference earlier this month.
"We must take the next step to move from virtually banning fracking to actually banning fracking," the governor said. "The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits."
Once signed into law, Maryland would be the first state with gas reserves to pass a ban through the legislature.
Don't Frack Maryland, a coalition of more than 140 business, public interest, community, faith, food and climate groups, has campaigned vigorously for a statewide ban through rallies, marches, petition deliveries and phone calls to legislators.
"Today's vote is a result of the work of thousands of Marylanders who came out to town halls, hearings and rallies across the state. The grassroots movement to ban fracking overcame the high-powered lobbyists and deep pockets of the oil and gas industry," said Mitch Jones, Food & Water Watch senior policy advocate. "We worked tirelessly to make sure our legislators and the governor were held accountable to the demands of voters and followed the science. Now we look forward to Governor Hogan signing this bill into law and finally knowing that our water, climate and families will be protected from the dangers of fracking."
Josh Tulkin, director of the Maryland Sierra Club, also commended the Maryland General Assembly for this "bipartisan victory."
"Congratulations go to the thousands of people across the state, particularly those in Western Maryland, who stood up for their beliefs, who organized, lobbied and rallied to get this legislation passed," Tulkin said. "This ban is a major step for Maryland's path to a clean energy economy."
Supporters of fracking say it creates jobs and provides energy security.
"Denying Maryland consumers, businesses and job-seekers the benefits that come with in-state energy production through hydraulic fracturing shuts the door on an important share of the American energy renaissance and western Maryland's future economic growth," Drew Cobbs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, told the Associated Press after the vote.
But opponents of the drilling process, which involves shooting highly pressurized water and chemicals into underground formations to release oil and gas, cite health and environmental risks such as air and water pollution and earthquakes.
Fracking does not currently take place in Maryland but a moratorium on issuing permits ends in October.
Elisabeth Hoffman of Howard County Climate Action said that alarming research about fracking's harms has emerged during the state moratorium, adding that "voices from fracked states were sounding the alarms as well."
"We are relieved and overjoyed that the state Senate has said NO to fracking," she added.
The implications of the Senate's vote are far reaching, according to Natalie Atherton of Citizen Shale.
"Western Maryland is surrounded by fracking just across our state borders. We have learned from and worked with our neighbors whose health has been compromised for years," Atherton said. "Already Citizen Shale is being approached by communities in other states, hoping to learn how they can ban fracking where they live. This has become a movement of people, and it won't stop with Maryland."
Yesterday's vote was widely applauded by environmental groups especially in light of the Trump administration's apparent assault on environmental regulations.
"Despite Trump's efforts to block climate action and roll back protections for people and the planet, communities in Maryland took matters into their own hands. This is an incredible victory that speaks to the power of grassroots organizing to take on the fossil fuel industry. Fracking is a reckless practice that threatens health and safety while intensifying the climate crisis," 350.org Fracking Campaign coordinator Linda Capato Jr. said.
Capato is urging a similar movement worldwide.
"Maryland is taking a huge step forward, but communities are continuing to suffer as fracking and extreme extraction expands worldwide. This fight is a great reminder that when communities organize, we win," she said. "As more people fight back against this dangerous and dirty industry, elected officials everywhere should follow Maryland and other state's example by banning fracking and putting the health of our communities and climate first."