200+ Maryland business owners call for statewide fracking ban
ANNAPOLIS — Elected officials, business owners and dozens of activists from across the state gathered today to demand a ban on fracking in anticipation of a Senate committee hearing on the bill. The group also delivered to senators a letter from more than 200 Maryland businesses owners in support of the ban. The letter states in part, ”Fracking follows a boom-bust cycle that leaves communities burdened with health problems, damaged infrastructure, and a weaker economy in the long term.”
Additionally, more than 35,000 petitions and letters from Maryland residents in support of a fracking ban were presented to the General Assembly today. The petitions were gathered by Chesapeake Climate Action Network, CREDO Action, Food & Water Watch, Maryland Sierra Club, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and other grassroots members of the Don’t Frack Maryland coalition.
“We need to take a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to fracking in Maryland. We have one shot to prevent the pollution, local economic disruption and public health crises associated with dangerous drilling from destroying our state,” said Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-11). “The type of damage that fracking causes is irreversible. You can count on me to honor the wishes of Maryland residents; that’s why I introduced a fracking ban.”
“Fracking needs to be banned in Maryland so that we can protect our tourism industry in Garrett County,” said Steve Green, owner of High Mountain Sports in Oakland. “People come here to experience the outdoors and enjoy our beautiful mountains, lakes and rivers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure fracking and tourism are not compatible.”
Senators Anthony C. Muse (D-26), Bobby Zirkin (D-11), Barbara A. Robinson (D-40) and Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-44) spoke at a press conference echoing support for a fracking ban and urging quick passage. About half of the entire General Assembly has already co-sponsored the fracking ban bill.
“We cannot allow fracking companies to come into our communities, poison our water, and pollute our air,” said Sen. Barbara Robinson (D-40). “We’ve seen what has happened to our neighbors in Pennsylvania, where drinking water contamination is the norm. I will stand by the people of Maryland in their overwhelming support for a ban on fracking. I strongly support the passage of Senate Bill 740 for a statewide ban.”
“I strongly support a total ban on fracking in Maryland,” stated Sen. Ron Young (D-3). “The oil and gas companies want to start fracking in October, despite the fact that fracking poses real threats to our citizens’ drinking water, environment, and health. Furthermore, fracking would jeopardize the tourism industry in Western Maryland, where the state has spent tens of millions of dollars on outdoor recreation. The risks are simply too great. To protect our public health, we should ban fracking once and for all.”
The fracking ban bill is supported by dozens of counties and municipalities, which together represent over two-thirds of Maryland’s population, that have passed local fracking bans or resolutions supporting a statewide ban.
“The Mountain Lake Park Town Council, of which I am a member, voted some three years ago to pass an ordinance banning fracking within our town limits, fearing that the practice could easily jeopardize our town’s water supply. The ordinance passed by a unanimous vote by the members of our council and our mayor, every one of whom are natives of Garrett County,” said Don Sincell, Member of Town Council, Mountain Lake, MD. “It is my great hope that the state legislature follows our lead in order to protect Maryland in general, and Garrett County in particular.”
“The Western Maryland Delegation is doing democracy an injustice by turning a deaf ear to the growing mountain of public opposition to fracking and scientific evidence on the risks fracking poses to our communities and environment,” said Woody Getz, Frostburg Commissioner of Public Works. “Communities and businesses in Maryland deserve to be protected by their elected officials. It’s time for the General Assembly to ban fracking and heed the will of the people.”
The rally took place shortly before the Maryland Senate will begin debating two bills about the drilling practice. Attendees expressed concern that even “gold-standard” regulations would fail to adequately protect public health,the environment or the growing tourism industry in Western Maryland.
“More than 200 business owners across Maryland, including myself, have signed a letter supporting a ban on fracking because we know that fracking will never be safe,” stated Nadine Grabania, owner of Deep Creek Cellars in Garrett County. “If the General Assembly allows fracking to begin, thousands of jobs and western Maryland’s thriving tourism and agriculture industries would be jeopardized—and the value of both commercial and residential property will be threatened. Business owners know that we cannot afford the risks.
Polling shows that voters across party lines in Maryland support legislation to ban fracking by a 2-to-1 margin, according to a poll conducted by OpinionWorks. Polling from The Washington Post similarly found that 60 percent of Maryland voters oppose fracking.
Advocates from across the state in support of a fracking ban will gather for a mass mobilization in Annapolis on Thursday, March 2. The “March on Annapolis to Ban Fracking Now” is expected to draw hundreds into the streets, and will feature leaders from across the progressive movement, including Ben Jealous, former head of the NAACP, and Reverend Lennox Yearwood of Hip Hop Caucus.