Energy Analysts Call Maryland’s Fracking Ban A ‘Mostly Symbolic’ Gesture

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill Tuesday making Maryland the third state to ban hydraulic fracturing.

Hogan, who campaigned as a natural gas proponent in 2014, banned the process used to extract natural gas one week after the state’s Democratic legislature passed the bill. New York and Vermont are the only other states in the country to prohibit fracking.

Some analysts believe the ban is mostly symbolic, as the state’s energy companies are not drilling in the area.

Drew Cobbs, executive director of Maryland Petroleum Council, told reporters Hogan’s decision was “more symbolic than anything else” and compared it to a similar ban in Vermont, which has no natural gas reserves.

The western part of the state contains the Marcellus shale formation, a geological formation that has turned Pennsylvania into a natural gas powerhouse, but rock bottom natural gas prices have made drilling in states like Maryland unattractive.

Still, environmentalists have championed the move.

“What Maryland has done here, with Larry Hogan’s support, is not just to protect Maryland but will help protect other states,” said Mike Tidwell, founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Hogan’s decision stands in stark contrast to his boisterous campaign rhetoric — for instance, he told reporters during his gubernatorial bid that Maryland is “sitting on a gold mine of clean natural gas energy in western Maryland.”

The Republican governor changed his position on the matter after Democratic State Senate President Mike Miller proposed a referendum for 2018 asking voters if they support fracking. Miller is not a fracking proponent but wants citizens to decide for themselves whether the method should be used.

“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.”

Various polls show that Maryland’s citizenry is mostly opposed to fracking bans.

More than 40 percent oppose a ban, 36 percent support it, and 24 percent are uncertain, 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.

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