This morning, the Prince George’s County Council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development (PZED) Committee voted UNANIMOUSLY to pass bill 3-2016, a defacto ban on fracking in the county.
We are one step closer to keeping fracking out of Prince George’s! The full council will take the bill up in early March.
The bill, introduced by Councilwoman Mary Lehman on February 2nd, and co-sponsored by Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros, Councilman Mel Franklin, Councilwoman Deni Tavares, and Councilman Todd Turner, would amend the county’s zoning ordinance to prohibit fracking. Montgomery County moved to do this last year.
As she introduced the bill at today’s hearing, Councilwoman Lehman referenced a heart wrenching conversation she’d had with Pennsylvania resident and fracking victim Craig Stevens just before walking in. Craig’s takeaway from years of living with the health effects of fracking in his own backyard? “If Pennsylvania, after 12 years, still can’t safely regulate fracking, there’s no way Maryland can. It can’t be done.”
CCAN and our allies at Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club and GCAN first began talks with Councilwoman Lehman shortly after helping Maryland pass the first legislative moratorium on fracking in the country last spring. It became clear to us that when this moratorium expires, in October 2017, Prince George’s would be at risk. The southern 30% of Prince George’s sits on top of the Taylorsville gas basin, a basin that runs from Virginia, through Prince George’s, and ends in Anne Arundel County. More than 85,000 acres on the Virginia side of the Taylorsville have already been leased to a Texas-based company.
This fall, we worked with Councilwoman Lehman’s office to hold an educational briefing on this previously unknown threat to the county, and our coalition began working with our volunteers across the county to educate residents about this critical issue – including petitioning on campuses, speaking at community events, meeting with business owners and church leaders, and hosting screenings of the powerful fracking documentary Groundswell Rising.
Much of that work culminated in this morning’s committee hearing.
As Darien Pusey, CCAN’s Fracking Fellow and a Prince George’s County resident, testified to the climate impacts of fracking and the overwhelming support from the county for keeping this industry out, he slid a stack of over 800 petitions signed by county residents across the table to Chairwoman Andrea Harrison.
As Food & Water Watch’s Emily Wurth, also a Prince George’s County resident, testified to what other states have experienced at the hands of fracking, she delivered a letter of support signed by over 25 county organizations and businesses. Sierra Club’s Martha Ainsworth spoke to the potential impact of fracking on well water in the county. Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment’s Katie Huffling spoke to the dangerous health effects of fracking, in particular, in her role as a certified nurse-midwife, on pregnant women and their unborn children. And Maryland realtor Lili Sheeline spoke to the potential impacts of fracking on property values across the county, citing a recent Duke University study showing a sharp decline in home values, and noting that many studies indicate that impacts on home values may be permanent. This expert testimony was delivered to a packed room that stayed for two hours to express their support.
Councilman Franklin, whose district covers nearly the entirety of the area above the basin, spoke in favor of the bill, noting that he hasn’t heard from a single constituent in his district who wanted fracking.
The industry – in the form of the Maryland Petroleum Council – did send a lengthy power point to the council in advance of the hearing, but failed to show up to make their case.
And after the vote, Councilwoman Lehman joined Councilwoman Glaros, whose district includes the University of Maryland at College Park, for a group photo with the half a dozen UMD students who drove out to testify and show their support this morning.
We expect a vote before the full council in early March.
CCAN would like to thank Councilwoman Lehman for her vision and leadership, and thank every member of the PZED committee – Chairwoman Harrison, Vice Chair Glaros, Councilwoman Tavares, Councilman Franklin and Councilwoman Karen Toles – for supporting this important bill this morning and putting us one step closer to keeping fracking out of Prince George’s County.
Congratulations to everyone who has helped get this campaign this far – onward to early March and beyond!