Maryland Senate Passes Weakened Fracking Moratorium Bill
Cuts Moratorium Length to Two Years and Mandates Regulations
(Annapolis, MD – April 7, 2015) The Maryland Senate passed an amended version of a fracking moratorium in last night’s legislative session. The amended bill, known as SB409, requires Governor Hogan’s Administration to adopt regulations by October 1, 2016, to provide for hydraulic fracturing in Maryland, but prohibits any permits for the exploration or production of gas to be issued before October 1, 2017.
Waterkeepers Chesapeake, a coalition of 18 independent nonprofit Waterkeeper organizations, expressed disappointment with the current language in the bill, which would put Maryland on a path to begin fracking in two years. The legislation now heads to the House of Delegates.
“We are very concerned that the General Assembly ignored calls for a long-term moratorium despite the growing body of scientific evidence documenting significant health and environmental harms caused by fracking,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “With the current technology, no amount of regulations can make the risks of fracking acceptable. If this bill becomes law, we call on the General Assembly to move quickly in the next two years to establish a more rigorous long-term moratorium to protect our health and communities from irreversible harm.”
The original proposed legislation imposed an eight-year moratorium on the issuing of permits to frack in Maryland. In addition, it set up an expert panel to review additional health and environmental studies on the cumulative and long-term effects of hydraulic fracturing, and make a determination whether fracking could be done safely in Maryland. These protective provisions were all removed from the amended bill that passed the Senate.
Waterkeeper groups believe that existing evidence indicates that fracking cannot be carried out in a way that adequately protects public health or the environment.
On February 5, 2015, over 120 medical and health professional sent a letter to Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch stating, “Until independent scientific information to determine the nature and level of public health risks and whether those risks can be managed effectively, it is vital for the General Assembly to protect the health of Maryland residents by preventing unconventional gas development and production from beginning prematurely in our state.”
“The past few months have seen a groundswell of opposition to fracking emerge in Western Maryland,” says Robin Broder, a homeowner in Garrett County and a member of Waterkeepers Chesapeake Board of Directors. “The list of local businesses asking for a long-term moratorium on fracking continues to grow. They do not want to see the local economy and property values sacrificed to the out of state natural gas industry.”
A recent poll showed that a majority of residents throughout Maryland support a long-term moratorium on fracking, and indicated that the public is looking for leadership from the General Assembly.
“The General Assembly needs to ensure that the pressure to implement regulations does not supersede the public notice process,” said Nicholas. “We are highly skeptical that the Department of the Environment has the resources and capacity to draft fracking regulations, oversee compliance and conduct effective enforcement.”
Waterkeepers Chesapeake and its member groups will continue efforts in the next two years to ensure that the public’s interests are heard and that our communities, land, and water are protected.
Contact: Robin Broder, robin(at)waterkeeperschesapeake.org, 703-786-8172