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.
New study: Fracking caused more than 6,600 spills in four US states over a decade https://t.co/CmT6dFtckX via @EcoWatch— Climate Reality (@Climate Reality)1489968780.0
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.
Trump Administration to Kill Fracking Rule on Public Lands https://t.co/nSZPAyAPGx @ShaunCoffey @foodandwater @joshfoxfilm— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1489715703.0
"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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By Peter Giger
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
By John R. Platt
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