At the end of its 2015 session, the Maryland General Assembly passed a two-year moratorium on fracking. The legislation became law without the signature of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
The legislation, introduced by Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo and Senator Karen Montgomery, would have originally instituted an eight-year moratorium on fracking and would have impaneled a committee of public health experts to examine research into the health effects of fracking. The bill was amended during the legislative process and passed as a two-year moratorium. The state is prohibited from issuing a permit to frack prior to October 1, 2017. The House of Delegates’ Environment and Transportation Committee has established a study group to review the emerging research on both the public health as well as the economic effects of fracking.
“This is a testament to the growing movement to protect our communities from the dangers of fracking,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Conventional wisdom in the state was that we could never get a moratorium passed in Maryland, just as we were also told we could never get a ban in New York. But naysaying just inspired us all to work harder in bringing the voice of the people to Annapolis in this grassroots initiative.”
“This moratorium will give legislators more time to evaluate the public health, economic and societal dangers of fracking, and give our communities statutory protections against drilling in the meantime,” said Dr. Ann Bristow, a former commissioner on Governor O’Malley’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission and representative of Don’t Frack Maryland. “We are unconvinced that a regulatory approach can protect Maryland, and we are also disappointed the panel to review the available public health studies on fracking was removed from the original bill.”
During the session, business owners in Western Maryland expressed growing concern that fracking will negatively affect the booming tourism industry in that part of the state, where fracking would occur in the Marcellus Shale. Over 100 Western Maryland business owners have signed a letter to the leadership of the General Assembly in support of the fracking moratorium. The Don’t Frack Maryland campaign has also sent over 25,000 messages supporting a moratorium. Letters signed by more than 100 health professionals, and over 50 restaurant owners, chefs, winemakers and farmers from across the state have also been delivered to the General Assembly.