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As legislators prepare to meet in Annapolis today for hearings on two fracking-related measures, a new poll shows one in four Maryland voters are still unsure about a proposed fracking ban.

According to the most recent Goucher Poll released yesterday morning, 40 percent of Maryland voters oppose passing a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing, while 36 percent support doing so. The results show a seven-point drop from September 2016 in the percentage of voters who support a ban.

One key point here, though, is that 24 percent of voters say in the most recent poll that they don’t know if they support or oppose such a ban.

“Really, it will be up to those proponents who are against hydraulic fracturing, who want to ban it, they really have to take their case to the people if they want to sway public opinion,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the center that publishes the Goucher Poll, on WBAL yesterday.

Notably, the new poll didn’t ask if voters were against hydraulic fracturing — just whether they oppose a ban. Another poll conducted last fall by the Washington Post and University of Maryland found a strong majority (65 percent) of voters felt fracking poses significant environmental risks for the state.

While Baltimore County Sen. Bobby Zirkin and Montgomery County Del. Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo have proposed an all-out ban on the practice, Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway has proposed her own bill that would extend the current moratorium, which is set to expire on Oct. 1. Conway’s bill would also allow individual jurisdictions to vote on whether to allow drilling within their boundaries.

If no action is taken, Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration will be able to open up wells for companies to begin fracking this October, as they’ve already requested.

Of course, most of Maryland isn’t at risk of ground and drinking water contamination, methane pollution, seismic instability and numerous other risks associated with fracking. Western Maryland would be hit by most of these problems, since parts of it sit atop the Marcellus Shale that holds natural gas deposits that Hogan and companies hope to tap.

Today, Western Maryland business owners and elected officials and residents from across the state will rally in Annapolis ahead of Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee hearings for both Zirkin’s and Conway’s bills. At the demonstration, business owners plan to deliver a letter signed by more than 180 businesses from across the state, and activists plan to deliver thousands of petitions and letters signed in support of Zirkin’s proposed ban.

Maryland’s faith leaders have already backed this cause by signing a letter that says lawmakers are “morally bound” to ban fracking in Maryland.

Activists are also planning a larger demonstration called the March on Annapolis to Ban Fracking Now. It’s set for this Thursday, March 2, starting at the Senate Building at 11 a.m.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...