Maryland’s House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a bill to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earlier this month, and now the state’s Senate has also approved the measure. This was the final obstacle for the bill; Governor Larry Hogan has said he will sign it. Once he does, Maryland will become the third US state to ban fracking, and the first state with gas reserves to ban it through legislation.
Maryland joins Vermont and New York to ban fracking, or the practice of injecting water, chemicals, and sand into the earth to break up rock, releasing natural gas. Vermont achieved a ban with legislation, New York with an executive order. Maryland’s legislation is historic because the state is the first with gas reserves to ban fracking through legislation. The Senate approved the measure with 35 to 10 votes.
According to The Baltimore Sun, many people were surprised when the governor announced his support for the ban this month after the House passed the bill. Hogan said in a news conference, “I urge members of the legislature on both sides of the aisle and in both houses to come together and finally put this issue to rest.”
Fracking had the most potential in Maryland’s Garrett and Alleghany counties, according to The Washington Post. Advocates of the practice said fracking offers an energy source cleaner than coal – natural gas doesn’t send as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned – but opponents say fracking potentially contaminates water sources and emits greenhouse gas emissions. Maryland’s Sierra Club director Josh Tulkin said the state’s ban is a big step towards a clean energy economy.
Senator George Edwards, a Republican of Garrett County, was among the ten who voted against the measure. He suggested an amendment to continue a fracking moratorium to 2027 instead, but lawmakers rejected the amendment. Garrett County resident Ann Bristow told The Washington Post, “This vote confirms the power of participant democracy. Never believe when someone tells you that an organized movement can’t produce change against overwhelming odds. We are proving otherwise.”