Despite voicing support for hydraulic fracturing during his campaign, Gov. Larry Hogan has allowed a bill to become law that imposes a moratorium on fracking in Maryland.
Gov. Hogan, a Republican, allowed an anti-fracking bill to become law without his signature Friday that prevents Maryland regulators from issuing fracking permits until October 2017. The bill also requires the state to adopt regulations for the well-stimulation process by late 2016.
The moratorium bill passed with massive support in the Democratic-controlled state legislature, so Hogan had little recourse on the matter. Had Hogan vetoed the bill, Democrats would have had enough votes to override him. The governor, however, refused to sign the bill and says he still supports fracking in Western Maryland.
Matt Clark, the governor’s spokesman, told the Washington Post that Hogan “continues to support the safe and responsible development of energy to meet the current and future needs of citizens and to promote job growth in Western Maryland.”
Fracking involves pumping large volumes of water, sand and some chemicals into underground shale formations to extract oil and natural gas. Maryland sits atop vast reserves of natural gas which could generate millions in royalty payments to landowners, jobs and taxes for state and local governments if drilling is allowed.
Maryland has become a target for environmentalists looking to halt fracking in states that sit atop vast shale formations. Eco-activists argue fracking contaminates water and degrades air quality — though such claims have yet to be substantiated. Activists were thrilled about Maryland’s moratorium.
“Yet another state is saying no to a rush forward with fracking on the basis that the potential risks to health and the environment remain inadequately understood to support a conclusion that it can be done safely,” wrote Kate Sinding, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Late last year, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would not allow fracking in New York, citing a state health department report claiming fracking was too dangerous to be allowed in the state. The health department study, however, has come under fire for relying on activist-backed research.
Since the New York ban, activists have been trying to use the same tactics they used in the Empire State to influence a permanent ban on fracking in Maryland.
Sandra Steingraber, who co-founded the group New Yorkers Against Fracking and was also tasked with peer-reviewing the Cuomo’s fracking study, was recently caught on a phone conference with Maryland anti-fracking activists saying “we have to create the narrative [laughs] for the data.”
“You’ve got a lot of science, but now you have to take it like a Gladiator and go into the political arena with it,” Steingraber told activists in audio obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“We can’t hold back when we’re accused by industry of not being objective because we’re being advocates,” she said. “Those two things are actually not opposed to each other.”
The recently passed fracking moratorium is the first major green victory in environmentalists’ battle for Maryland. Under former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, fracking was allowed to move forward despite protests from environmentalists.
O’Malley created a commission in 2011 to see if fracking could be done safely in Maryland. The commission found that fracking could be done safely if the right regulations were in place. The moratorium now gives the state until October 2016 to put these regulations into place.
The oil and gas industry, however, argues the moratorium only drags out the regulatory process and keeps economic growth in Western Maryland on hold.
“We think it unnecessarily draws out the regulatory process,” Drew Cobbs, head of the Maryland Petroleum Council, told the Post. “Most Marylanders are already benefitting from shale development because of lower energy costs and cleaner air.”
Unfortunately, because of this delay, the folks in Western Maryland who could benefit from natural-gas development will have to wait to take advantage of this safe and proven technology,” Cobbs said.
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