Wednesday 22 August 2018

Historic Bill Will Protect Our Clean Water Resources

Annapolis, MD - Today the Maryland Senate passed a statewide fracking ban bill, HB 1325, by a vote of 36 to 10. Maryland would be the third state to ban fracking, but the first state with gas reserves to pass a ban through the legislature. The passage of this bill comes on the heels of a massive statewide and people-powered campaign involving thousands of Marylanders in rallies, marches, petition deliveries, and phone calls to legislators. The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Hogan, who is expected to sign it after he announced his support for the ban earlier this month.

“Waterkeepers across the region applaud the vote today in the Maryland Senate to ban fracking statewide,” said Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director, Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “This vote was the result of an incredible grassroots movement across Maryland, and especially in Western Maryland, that demanded the legislature protect their families, livelihoods, and clean water and air from the irreversible damage caused by fracking.”

“I’m elated that the Maryland legislature agreed that mounting evidence demonstrates that the fracking industry has a sorry history of noncompliance and violations of environmental regulations and permits, and determined the only way to safeguard our waterways and drinking water supplies is to not allow fracking to start in Maryland,” said Brent Walls, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper.

“As a member of the Don’t Frack Maryland steering committee and a home owner in Garrett County, I have witnessed first-hand the power of a persistent, science-based grassroots campaign. Residents across the state, and especially in Western Maryland, voiced their opposition to fracking for the past 7 years. We thank the legislature for hearing them and acting today to protect our water, air and land resources for generations to come,” said Robin Broder, Board Member, Waterkeepers Chesapeake.

We give a special thanks our key partners in the Don’t Frack Maryland coalition: Citizen Shale, Don’t Frack Western Maryland, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Howard County Climate Action, Food & Water Watch, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland Sierra Club and Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

Read Food & Water Watch's blog on how people power won!

Blog posted by Waterkeeper Alliance, February 27, 2017, written by Katlyn Clark of Waterkeepers Chesapeake.

For the past few years, Waterkeepers Chesapeake has worked to prevent horizontal hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from coming to the state of Maryland. We had a short-lived victory when a 2-year moratorium law passed in the beginning of 2015 – but that law will expire in October 2017, meaning that fracking could start to negatively impact our water, air and health in just a few months. While Garrett and Allegany counties would be immediately and disproportionately burdened if fracking proceeds, the long-term impacts would be felt across Maryland.

We can look at the track record in other states to see that no state has developed and enforced regulations that would be protective enough of the environment and public health to allow fracking.  Mounting evidence demonstrates that the fracking industry has a long history of noncompliance and violations of regulations and permits. Even compliance with purportedly strong regulations has caused irreversible harm.

A growing body of peer-reviewed evidence finds that fracking simply cannot be done without risk to public health and the environment—and that regulations are not capable of preventing harm. Wells will leak and regulators cannot solve inherent problems with the process that industry cannot fix. Once contaminated, we have lost that source of clean water forever. 

During the fall of 2016, the Maryland Department of the Environment released regulations in anticipation of the moratorium being lifted this fall. We worked with the Georgetown Law Clinic to submit comments on these regulations – pointing out the many weak areas including lack of protections for groundwater (inadequacy of well pad liners and construction), inadequate baseline water quality monitoring, inadequate setbacks, lack of consideration for surface water impacts to aquatic habitat and shoddy waste disposal provisions. Krissy Kasserman, the Youghigheny Riverkeeper, and Brent Walls, the Upper Potomac Riverkeeper, came out to testify in strong opposition to these regulations – advocating for their local waterways and highlighting the dangers that the fracking process poses for our ground water, surface water and drinking water.

Katlyn Clark Speaking at DFM Press Conference

Katlyn Clark Speaking at a Don’t Frack Maryland Press Conference. Photo by Katlyn Clark of Waterkeepers Chesapeake.

For the past year and a half, Waterkeepers Chesapeake worked closely with the Don’t Frack Maryland coalition to build up grassroots momentum across the state for a fracking ban. The coalition now has over 140 public interest organizations, labor groups, businesses, and faith communities committed to passing a permanent statewide fracking ban in Maryland. In addition to hosting movie screenings and events, ten cities and counties across the state have either passed a jurisdiction-wide ban or have passed a resolution supporting a statewide fracking ban. Hundreds of health care professionals, businesses and local elected officials have also signed on in support of a ban.

On March 2nd, Waterkeepers Chesapeake will join hundreds of Marylanders across the state in a March on Annapolis to Ban Fracking Now! We’re marching on Annapolis with one clear demand: ban fracking now. We want to show legislators just how powerful our movement is. Buses will be organized across the state; click here to reserve your seat on the bus nearest to you!

This session, Maryland State Senator Bobby Zirkin and Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo have introduced a statewide fracking ban (SB740 / HB1325). Statewide polls show majority of Marylanders want a fracking ban – the time is now for the Maryland General Assembly to pass a permanent statewide ban on fracking.  

Join us today to demand a ban on fracking to protect our water, air and people.

Blog published by Waterkeeper Alliance, March 17, 2017, written by Mitchelle Stephenson, Waterkeepers Chesapeake

We asked our 19 Waterkeepers, who know their watersheds better than anyone, their greatest fears about Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. With Pruitt’s history of climate change denial and his close ties to the oil and gas industry, there are serious concerns.

1. Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips: The multi-billion dollar coastal resort and fishing economies of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia depend on clean water and healthy fish populations. These coastal resorts drive a $1.5 Billion economic engine for the state of Maryland alone. Expanding offshore fossil fuel extraction and permitting seismic blasting will leave our ocean beaches polluted and our coastal fisheries destroyed.  It is not worth the potential loss.

2. Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Carol Parenzan: The impacts of energy exploration, extraction,delivery, consumption, and exportation are important to residents in central Pennsylvania. Fracking, hazardous chemicals in the river and most recently, oil spills from crumbling infrastructure threaten fisheries, habitat and drinking water. The Susquehanna River needs stronger oversight, not lax federal regulations that favor the oil and gas industry.

3. Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper Angela Haren: Stormwater runoff, sewage overflows, trash clogging up our waters – the Baltimore Harbor faces many serious threats. But we know how to meet those challenges – we have the tools; it’s not a mystery. We can clean up our Harbor and its tributaries. We just need the budget and personnel. That’s what makes this even more devastating. The savage cuts we expect to see under Pruitt’s EPA will make this vital work so much harder, and threaten all the progress we’ve made.

4. Miles/Wye Riverkeeper Jeff Horstman: The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), or “pollution diet” that aims to keep pollutants out of the Chesapeake Bay was a target of Scott Pruitt when he was Attorney General of Oklahoma. Now that he heads the EPA, our concern is that he won’t sue to overturn the TMDL, he’ll simply unravel it — giving polluters a green light to destroy the United States’ largest estuary and its already-imperiled tributaries.

5. Shenandoah Riverkeeper Mark Frondorf: The Shenandoah is known as a great recreational river in one of the prettiest natural places in America. Alongside the river, people camp and hike. In the river, they tube, kayak, canoe, and fly fish. I monitor nutrient pollution and runoff that can drive algae blooms and fish kills. However, if we don’t stop those nutrients from coming into the river from the land, there isn’t a whole lot we can do to save the river and the fish once it gets to the water. We need the EPA to hold the state accountable.

6. Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls: We have legacy energy issues, like acid drainage from abandoned mining operations, heated water coming directly into the river from paper manufacturing, and agricultural runoff from farming operations. The Upper Potomac is in a multi-state area (West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland). A strong federal entity could arbitrate across jurisdictional boundaries. That’s not likely to happen in a Pruitt EPA.

7. Lower James Riverkeeper Jamie Brunkow: The James River was the site of European settlements as early as 1571. At the time, Native Americans called it the Powhatan, but English colonists renamed it James after King James I when they established the Jamestown settlement in 1607. Today, those colonists would barely recognize the place. Fish have been cut off from spawning grounds, toxic coal ash leaches into the river, seeps into drinking water supplies and percolates to groundwater. Power plants and industrial operation intakes suck up spawning fish, making it near impossible for restored fisheries that are either threatened or endangered. We need the EPA to not backtrack on coal ash regulations that took years of compromise to finalize.

8. Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks: The Potomac River feeds into the Chesapeake Bay about 75 miles north of where the Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. At that location, it is 11 miles wide. Upstream, the Potomac is the closest river in proximity to the headquarters of the EPA. Administrator Scott Pruitt should be aware that the Potomac faces threats from sewage overflows, stormwater runoff, coal ash pollution (remember hexavalent chromium from Julia Roberts as Erin Brochovich? The same stuff is in the Potomac, the river most closely associated with the nation’s capital). The EPA needs to strengthen the regulation of toxic compounds — not weaken them.

9. Anacostia Riverkeeper Emily Franc: There might not be a river that has come so far in such a short period of time. Although it still has an annual inflow of two billion gallons of sewage plus stormwater, there are signs that fish, birds and aquatic habitats are rebounding. The river itself is pretty short. It starts in Maryland, is under 9 miles long, and all fits snugly inside the Washington, DC Beltway. Anacostia fish, covered with toxic lesions from industrial pollutants may be poisonous to eat, but are frequently consumed by the river’s 17,000 subsistence anglers, mostly poor residents of the District of Columbia.

10. Sassafras Riverkeeper Emmett Duke: The watersheds of the upper Chesapeake Bay are making progress. We worry that a Pruitt EPA will take us back to an era where the loudest voices were the polluters with the most money.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake are doing their best to monitor their rivers and make the waters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed swimmable, fishable and drinkable. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Scott Pruitt during his tenure at EPA — and keeping him accountable. We hope you will be too.