By Chesapeake Climate Action Network
The Prince George's County Council voted unanimously today to ban fracking within the county. The measure, introduced by Councilwoman Mary Lehman, amends the zoning ordinance to prohibit the gas drilling technique in all areas of the county, which sits atop a known gas basin. The ban goes into effect immediately and comes after months of work by citizens supported by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Food & Water Watch and the Sierra Club.
Councilmember Lehman said in voting for the bill this morning, “Our action here today will lay the groundwork for a statewide ban in Maryland."
Prince George's, Maryland's second most-populous county, is the first county to adopt a ban on fracking since the Maryland General Assembly passed a two-year moratorium on the practice last year. The moratorium comes to an end in October 2017, leaving the state vulnerable to this dangerous drilling process. To date, one other Maryland county has taken similar action. In the fall of 2014, the Montgomery County Council adopted a change to its county zoning laws that essentially prohibits fracking.
“Prince George's County is showing that the grassroots opposition to fracking is only growing across Maryland," Thomas Meyer, Maryland organizer with Food & Water Watch, said. “The council listened to residents and the science and made the right move by banning fracking. The Maryland General Assembly should follow Prince George's lead and do the same."
Outside of Western Maryland, Prince George's County is one of the Maryland counties most at risk for fracking. The southeastern third of the county sits on top of the Taylorsville Basin, which extends northeast from Richmond, Virginia to Annapolis, Maryland and is estimated to contain more than 500 billion cubic feet of gas. Across the Potomac River in Virginia, a Texas-based company has already leased more than 80,000 acres for potential fracking in the Taylorsville Basin. Parts of Charles, Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary's Counties also sit atop this basin.
“Today's vote follows months of citizen organizing, driven by concern for the county's air and water quality, for real estate values and for the climate," Monique Sullivan, field director at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said. “The county council's action will keep dirty fuels in the ground and protect the health and safety of citizens. In the coming year, this same citizen movement will push our General Assembly to follow suit."
In the lead up to today's vote, organizers and volunteers held film screenings and presentations at community meetings and churches across the county, gathered more than 1,000 petitions to city council members, delivered a letter of support signed by more than 25 organizations and businesses and packed the room at fall and spring hearings on the ban measure.
“We are working hard to protect our agricultural and rural resources in the part of the county that would be most affected by fracking," Joanne Flynn, a farm owner and vice president of the Greater Baden Aquasco Citizens Association, said. “I am proud to see our county council being forward thinking in addressing this issue and hope that the state of Maryland will follow Prince George's lead and ban this dangerous and toxic industry statewide."
Southeastern Prince George's County is primarily rural, with more than 4,000 drinking water wells—and a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, the Patuxent River—potentially impacted by contamination from the fracking process. Homeowners in the county were some of the hardest hit by the 2008 recession and recent studies show drilling activity can have a chilling effect on property values.
The affected area of the county is particularly vulnerable to the threat of fracking due to its proximity to several existing or planned gas-fired power plants and a planned liquefied natural gas export facility at Cove Point, in neighboring Calvert County.
“The public health and environmental dangers of fracking are far too real," said Martha Ainsworth, chair of the Sierra Club's Prince George's County Group, welcoming the ban. “We cannot risk our and our children's future by allowing this to happen in Prince George's County."
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Australia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It is home to more than 7% of all the world's plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. One such species, the Pharohylaeus lactiferus bee, was recently rediscovered after spending nearly 100 years out of sight from humans.
Scientists have newly photographed three species of shark that can glow in the dark, according to a study published in Frontiers in Marine Science last month.
- 10 Little-Known Shark Facts - EcoWatch ›
- 4 New Walking Shark Species Discovered - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Incredible Species That Glow in the Dark - EcoWatch ›
FedEx's entire parcel pickup and delivery fleet will become 100 percent electric by 2040, according to a statement released Wednesday. The ambitious plan includes checkpoints, such as aiming for 50 percent electric vehicles by 2025.
- Which Is Worse for the Planet: Beef or Cars? - EcoWatch ›
- Greenhouse Gas Levels Hit Record High Despite Lockdowns, UN ... ›
- 1.8 Billion Tons More Greenhouse Gases Will Be Released, Thanks ... ›