Fracking is an extremely controversial practice, and several states have begun taking action against the destructive method for gas and oil extraction. Vermont became the first state to ban fracking in 2012, though experts say it was more of a statement than anything else, as natural oil and gas are virtually nonexistent within the state’s borders. In 2014, New York became the second state to place a ban on the drilling method — after some 200 communities in the state had instituted their own fracking prohibitions.
Now, it appears that a third state will be joining the anti-fracking ranks. The Maryland General Assembly recently gave final passage to a bill that would ban fracking within state lines, and the bill will now go before Governor Larry Hogan for a hopeful signature.
Hogan is a Republican and reportedly has been showing strong support for the fracking ban, and has even promised to sign the bill, according to The Hill. In the past, Hogan seemed to be supportive of the fracking industry, and is quoted as having said that fracking was an “economic goldmine.” However, the governor appears to have changed his stance. “We must take the next step to move from virtually banning fracking to actually banning fracking. The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits,” Hogan stated at a press conference earlier this month.
It certainly seems like Maryland’s fracking ban is nothing short of a sure thing. The state Senate approved the bill on a 35-10 vote in mid-March, and the bill had also already passed the House of Delegates with a 97-40 vote. According to Eco Watch, Maryland will become the first state with gas reserves to pass legislation prohibiting fracking once the bill is signed into law.
More than 140 businesses and public interest, community, food and environmental groups joined forces to form Don’t Frack Maryland. The coalition campaigned fervently to garner support for their cause, and they hosted rallies, marches and petition signings, and made many phone calls to local legislators.
Mitch Jones, Food & Water Watch’s senior policy advocate, commented on the vote and said, “Today’s vote is a result of the work of thousands of Marylanders who came out to town halls, hearings and rallies across the state. The grassroots movement to ban fracking overcame the high-powered lobbyists and deep pockets of the oil and gas industry.”
Why ban fracking?
Members of the energy industry such as Drew Cobbs, the executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, are clearly unhappy with the ban. “Denying Maryland consumers, businesses and job-seekers the benefits that come with in-state energy production through hydraulic fracturing shuts the door on an important share of the American energy renaissance and western Maryland’s future economic growth,” Cobbs commented after the vote. Fracking supporters say that it creates jobs and provides energy security, but as fracking opponents are quick to point out — the potential environmental and health costs of fracking are simply just too high.
As FoodandWaterWatch.org explains, there are many concerns about fracking and its impact on the environment, the water supply and the communities nearby. The polluted air and water that is created by the fracking industry have been known to make some people sick. Many of the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process — which is called “fracking” for short — are suspected carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting agents. Thanks to government loopholes, the industry is not required to disclose the exact compounds and chemicals they use in the fracking process, but research has identified many that are known to be harmful to humans. And, the practice produces millions of gallons of toxic wastewater.
In addition to the physical damage that fracking can cause, the industry’s presence is known for harming communities in other ways. While fracking enthusiasts claim that fracking brings in new jobs, when the industry sets up shop, property values go down. Communities with fracking nearby have seen the value of their homes drop, crime rates skyrocket and also tend to experience a loss of local tourism and agriculture. Fracking has been known to harm farmland and livestock, which adds to the issue. The pipelines, oil trains and other industrial needs required to support a fracking site bring more insult to the injury felt by communities with fracking.
There are many reasons why a state or municipality would want to keep fracking out of their borders. Hopefully, more communities will continue to take action against this damaging industrial practice.