Waterkeepers Chesapeake joined the Don’t Frack Maryland Coalition to push of a long-term moratorium on fracking in Maryland. As a result of a broad-based, grassroots campaign, the Maryland General Assembly passed a two-year moratorium on fracking in 2015. The law prevents any drilling activity through October 2017. The same legislation, however, requires the Hogan administration to prepare regulations for drilling by October 1, 2016. Those regulations would have gone into effect as soon as the moratorium expires, unless the state took further action.
Call for A Ban on Fracking
Don’t Frack Maryland continued on and called for a statewide ban, citing the fact that no state has developed and enforced regulations protective enough of the environment and public health to warrant allowing it. In fact, Maryland’s proposed regulations were remarkably weak and would have put our drinking water, air and health in danger.
Rather than use the time during the moratorium to conduct a thorough risk assessment of fracking, Governor Hogan’s administration instead issued proposed changes to draft regulations written during Governor O’Malley’s tenure that would further weaken, not strengthen state fracking rules. These changes included elimination or reduction of setbacks to protect surface and groundwater drinking water aquifers, including Deep Creek Lake, and shamefully weak air and water quality monitoring requirements.
A growing body of peer-reviewed evidence found that fracking simply cannot be done without risk to public health and the environment—and that regulations are not capable of preventing harm. An overview of more than 500 peer-reviewed studies by Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility points to “a plethora of … harms that cannot be averted or cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks.”
Concerns over the long-term health impacts of fracking continued to mount. Three studies have been released by John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that fracking activities are associated with premature births, with an increased risk of asthma attacks, and with increased migraines, fatigue and chronic sinus problems. The amount of evidence showing severe public health impacts just kept growing and growing.
While Garrett and Allegany counties would be immediately and disproportionately burdened if fracking proceeds, the long term impacts would have been felt across Maryland. Federal approval of the Cove Point natural gas export terminal will spur development of natural gas pipelines and compressor stations across the state, resulting in additional air and water impacts. Western Maryland has already endured the tainted legacy of acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines, which severely impact local streams and the Potomac River. We did not want to repeat the mistakes of the past and allow harmful fossil fuel extraction that will benefit the gas industry and burden local communities and future generations.
It was not just this coalition that was opposed to fracking. A broad range of business and community interests in Maryland spoke out, including dozens of business owners who warned Maryland policymakers of the risk fracking posed to the state’s thriving tourism and sustainable agriculture sectors. In addition, a 2015 poll found that a majority of Marylanders support a long-term moratorium on fracking. Local communities used zoning laws to enact bans, including Mountain Lake Park and Friendsville in Garrett County, Prince George’s, Montgomery and Charles County. List of all local resolutions and bans.
VICTORY! Maryland Bans Fracking!
In March 2017, the Maryland Senate passed a statewide fracking ban bill, HB 1325, by a vote of 36 to 10. Maryland is 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 came as a result of a massive statewide and people-powered campaign involving thousands of Marylanders in rallies, marches, petition deliveries, and phone calls to legislators. Governor Hogan signed it after he announced his support for the ban earlier that month.
The 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. The Maryland legislature agreed that mounting evidence demonstrated 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.
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!