At the end of the day on Friday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan will become the first-ever Republican governor to allow a statewide moratorium on fracking.
A two-year ban on the natural gas extraction technique passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the state General Assembly earlier this year, and last weekend, Hogan announced that that he would not veto the bill. However, Hogan also said he wouldn’t sign the bill, instead simply allowing it to automatically become law under time restrictions for signing or vetoing. That time restriction expires at the end of the day on Friday.
Fracking entails injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and chemicals underground to crack shale rock and release oil and gas. Environmentalists have long been concerned about the risks fracking poses to drinking water via the vast amount of waste that it produces, and the potential for methane and other chemical migration into aquifers. Air pollution risks have also been a concern, as well as methane leaks that contribute to climate change.
The bill that will become law is in response to concerns about fracking’s potential impact on the environment and public health. The two-year period allots time for what environmentalists hope will be a comprehensive public health and scientific study of the industry, similar to the study undertaken by New York before it decided to ban fracking last year. In addition, the bill will require Maryland’s Department of the Environment to finalize regulations on the process by October 2016. After those regulations are formed, no company will be allowed to frack in the state until October 2017.
Hogan’s indirect approval of the bill, however, does not seem like a representation that the newly-minted governor is environmentally-minded. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly with veto-proof majorities, meaning if Hogan had vetoed it, it’s very likely that veto would have been overridden and the bill would have become law either way.
Hogan has also not applauded the Assembly’s efforts to be cautious about the environment — in fact, he hasn’t said much about fracking at all since taking office this year. Last year, while campaigning, Hogan said fracking was a “gold mine,” but also said he would “want to make sure that [fracking] is done in an environmentally sensitive way, and that we take every precaution possible.”
Still, some are applauding Hogan for allowing the bill to sail through into law, including the bill’s Senate sponsor Karen Montgomery.
“I am relieved and delighted that Governor Hogan will allow mine and Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo’s bill for a 2 year moratorium on fracking to become law without his signature,” she said in a statement. “Now we have two years to continue to compile indisputable scientific data.”