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Maryland Bans Fracking

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Maryland Bans Fracking

Maryland is on track to become the third state to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and natural gas, after the Senate voted 35-10 on Monday for a measure already approved by the House.

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."

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Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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