Senate passes bill with GOP governor support, following six years of grassroots resistance across the state of Maryland
ANNAPOLIS – With game-changing support from Republican Governor Larry Hogan, the Maryland state Senate Monday night gave final approval to a bill to forever ban the practice of fracking in Maryland. This move culminates years of protests against fracking for gas from landowners, health leaders, and environmentalists. It also sets a nationally significant precedent as other states grapple with the dangerous drilling method.
Maryland will now become the first state in America with proven gas reserves to ban fracking by legislative action. New York has banned the drilling process via executive order. Vermont has a statutory ban but the state has no frackable gas reserves at present.
The Maryland ban is sending political waves across the East Coast and the nation. From Virginia (where leaders have imposed or proposed local bans at the county and municipal level) to the state of Florida (which is looking to follow Maryland’s statewide ban), the “keep-it-in-the-ground” movement is gaining new bipartisan steam even as President Donald Trump recklessly works to approve disastrous pipelines like Keystone XL.
“Let the news go forth to Congress and the White House: fracking can never be done safely,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “The Republican governor closest to DC – Larry Hogan of Maryland – has joined scientists and health leaders in agreeing that fracking must be banned. This is a win for Marylanders and for citizens nationwide as we move away from violent fossil fuels and toward sustainable wind and solar power.”
With Senate passage late Monday night, the Maryland bill will now be sent to Gov. Hogan’s desk in the next few days for signing.
The push to ban fracking in Maryland began six years ago as gas companies swarmed into western Maryland to tap the Marcellus Shale basin. This is the same pool of gas that has been widely fracked in Pennsylvania and West Virginia with negative consequences. But then-Governor Martin O’Malley (D) imposed a temporary moratorium before any drilling occurred. Over the years, the movement for a permanent ban came to include farmers, doctors, students, faith leaders, environmental groups, and others – constituting the largest statewide grassroots movement ever seen in Maryland on an energy issue. Former member of the House of Delegates Heather Mizeur was a leading figure in sparking the statewide ban effort. With time, multiple counties and cities in the state banned fracking locally and public polling consistently showed growing support for a statewide ban. Finally, earlier this month, with overwhelming support among Democratic lawmakers, even the previously pro-fracking Republican governor saw the wisdom of a ban.
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network has been honored to play a leading role in this campaign along with our friends in the Don’t Frack Maryland Coalition, including Food and Water Watch, Citizen Shale, Engage Mountain Maryland, the Sierra Club, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Physicians for Social Responsibility and many others.
The Maryland fracking ban bill also could not have succeeded without the extraordinary leadership of Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery County) and David Fraser-Hildago (D-Montgomery County) in the Maryland House of Delegates. The same must be said of Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) and Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s County) in the Maryland Senate. But Senator Zirkin, more than any other legislator, fought tirelessly for the fracking ban and refused to compromise on the road to this historic victory.