Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan said Friday that he now supports a Democrat-led campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state.
Hogan, a Republican who had previously voiced support for fracking, told reporters on St. Patrick’s Day during a hastily put together press conference that he does not believe fracking can be done safely. A statewide moratorium on fracking expires in October.
“The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits,” Hogan said. “This legislation, I believe, is an important initiative to safeguard our environment.”
The governor said he felt compelled to voice support for the ban after Senate President Mike Miller proposed a referendum in next year asking voters if they support fracking. Miller does not a fracking proponent but wants citizens to decide for themselves whether the method should be used to extract the state’s natural gas.
“I’ve decided that we must take the next step and move from virtually banning fracking to actually banning fracking,” the governor said.
Hogan’s position is odd considering his boisterous campaign rhetoric championing fracking — he told reporters during his 2014 gubernatorial bid that Maryland is “sitting on a gold mine of clean natural gas energy in western Maryland.”
Residents are mostly opposed to fracking bans; 40 percent oppose a ban, 36 percent support it, and 24 percent are not certain, according to a poll conducted in February by a Goucher-College Poll. The Washington Post conducted a separate poll last year that found Republicans supported fracking, 49 percent to 36 percent.
Sen. Bobby Zirkin joined Hogan at the podium, and referenced a report from Johns Hopkins University that claims fracking endangers drinking water. The analysis was done by a researcher who works at the anti-fracking Post Carbon Institute.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for one, concluded there is little evidence to support environmentalists’ claims that natural gas extraction hurts drinking water. The EPA adjusted its findings after anti-fracking activists raised a ruckus.
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