Sit-in at State House calls on MD Senate to pass a permanent, statewide ban on fracking
ANNAPOLIS, MD- A group of anti-fracking advocates — including faith leaders and western Maryland residents — barred the entrance to the Maryland State House Thursday morning in a peaceful act of civil disobedience. The protesters demanded that the Maryland Senate pass a permanent ban on the controversial gas drilling technique, and were joined by dozens of faith leaders and supporters at a rally on Lawyer’s Mall.
The activists appealed to Senate leadership, including Senate President Mike Miller, to lead the way in passing a bill for a statewide fracking ban. Last Friday, the House of Delegates passed a ban bill by a bipartisan, veto-proof-majority of 97-40. Maryland voters overwhelmingly oppose fracking according to recent polls from The Washington Post and Opinionworks.
“Last week, the House passed a bill to ban fracking because it has become resoundingly clear that Marylanders oppose the drilling practice,” said Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39). “I am proud to have stood up for my constituents in protecting their water and climate. Now, it is up to the Senate to take us over the finish line for a statewide fracking ban.”
Supporters of a ban say that fracking would threaten the drinking water for all Marylanders and greatly harm public health. Over 80 percent of the peer-reviewed scientific studies that have been published on public health – examining asthma attacks, premature births, high-risk pregnancies, and more – show risks or actual harm to people living near active fracking operations. Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility concluded that no regulations on fracking can “adequately protect public health and the environment over time.”
“As stewards of God’s creation, United Methodists are opposed to hydraulic fracturing because of the serious consequences for the environment, including damage to water and geological stability,” said Reverend Julie Wilson, Chair for the Board of Church and Society for the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. “We support a ban on fracking.”
“Western Maryland would be targeted first by fracking, and western Marylanders overwhelmingly know that we can never allow it to take place,” said Ann Bristow, Garrett County resident and member of Gov. O’Malley’s Marcellus shale advisory commission. “The more we learn about fracking, the more we know we need a ban. Our water, health and climate are far more important than short term gain for the natural gas industry. Once free of worrying about fracking in Maryland, we can all turn our attention to a renewable and sustainable future.”
Fracking would also threaten the local economy of western Maryland, which relies heavily on tourism and agriculture. In Garrett County, which is likely to be the first area targeted if fracking is allowed, more than half the jobs and two-thirds of the tax base are derived from tourism-related real estate and business activity—all of which could be threatened by industrial fracking operations.
“Our mom-and-pop ecotourism business is run out of our house,” said Carol McMahon Calhoun, owner of All Earth Eco Tours. “Friendsville is a small valley community that would be destroyed by fracking. If fracking is allowed, it would pollute our water, air, and soil, because even though the Town proper has banned fracking, we cannot adequately protect ourselves from upstream pollution.”
“I am willing to be arrested in order to protect clean water, protect air quality, protect the people of Maryland, protect wildlife, and protect farms from the greed of the oil and gas industry, said western Maryland resident Carol Smith. “We must protect the earth since the earth cannot protect itself.”
Denise Robbins; Chesapeake Climate Action Network; email@example.com; 608-620-8819
Jackie Filson; Food and Water Watch; 202-683-2538, firstname.lastname@example.org