It’s all over but the signature.
A massive grassroots campaign to ban fracking in Maryland — where the practice has been under moratorium for years — succeeded Monday night, with the State Senate joining the House in passing legislation against the natural gas extraction process.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has already said he will sign the bill into law.
“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,” Mitch Jones, a senior policy advocate with Food & Water Watch, said in a statement. “We worked tirelessly to make sure our legislators and the governor were held accountable to the demands of voters and followed the science.”
During fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, large volumes of chemical- and sand-laced water are injected at high pressure into shale rock formations deep underground. The practice has been tied to elevated levels of carcinogens in area water supplies, flammable tap water, earthquakes, increased levels of smog, and negative health effects in nearby communities.
Maryland imposed a moratorium on fracking in 2015 and called for further study of the environmental impacts; pressure from local groups pushed the General Assembly to pass an outright ban.
At least two Maryland counties have passed their own bans already, but now the entire state will be covered. This is particularly important in Western Maryland, which is over the Marcellus shale formation, the largest natural gas formation in the world. A boom in Marcellus drilling vaulted Pennsylvania to the number two natural gas producer in the country last year. Pennsylvania residents have been fighting for years to curb the practice.
“The implications of the Maryland Senate voting to pass a fracking ban are far reaching,” Natalie Atherton, Citizen Shale, said in a statement. “Western Maryland is surrounded by fracking just across our state borders. We have learned from and worked with our neighbors whose health has been compromised for years.”
Natural gas production has also been tied to increased methane emissions across the country. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, trapping heat 86 times more effectively than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Given the Trump administration’s recent actions to roll back methane regulations — and, indeed, most federal climate action — state legislation is largely seen as the only way for the country to reduce natural gas leaks.
“Already Citizen Shale is being approached by communities in other states, hoping to learn how they can ban fracking where they live,” Atherson said. “This has become a movement of people, and it won’t stop with Maryland.”