Maryland becomes second state to permanently outlaw fracking

Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation Tuesday that effectively bans hydraulic fracturing, making Maryland only the second state to permanently outlaw the practice.

Last week, Maryland’s Democratic-controlled legislature passed the anti-fracking bill, lobbied for by environmental and public health advocates since the U.S. oil boom started in the late 2000s.

In 2015, New York state became the first to ban methods that inject highly pressurized water-based liquid underground to fracture rock formations and extract natural gas, albeit through executive order.

Opponents of fracking point to serious environmental and health hazards associated with the practice, which include earthquakes and water contamination. Surface spills also pose a risk to the environment and would incur massive cleanup costs.

“It would cost millions, tens of millions of dollars to cleanup, even if we could,” said the bill’s sponsor, Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-Montgomery County). “There are a lot of aspects of this also from an economic perspective but also mostly from a public health perspective.”

Industry lobbyists and other proponents of oil and gas drilling argue that a fracking ban will unnecessarily limit economic growth.  A study by Towson University in 2014 found fracking could create 3,600 jobs over the next decade in two western Maryland counties where the Marcellus Shale is located.

The Marcellus Shale is an underground rock formation containing natural gas that runs from central New York to eastern Tennessee. Both Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where a majority of the sedimentary rock is located, allow fracking.

(courtesy Penn State Marcellus Center)

After Maryland’s legislature passed the fracking ban last week, the state’s Petroleum Council immediately issued a statement condemning the move.

“Denying Maryland consumers, businesses and job-seekers the benefits that come with in-state energy production through hydraulic fracturing shuts the door on an important share in the American energy renaissance and Western Maryland’s future economic growth,” said Drew Cobbs, the group’s executive director.

Gov. Hogan, a Republican who supported anti-fracking legislation before its passage in March, had the final word on the bill’s merits, saying “possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits.”


[AP via York Dispatch] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY via StateImpact]