Baltimoreans can rest assured for at least another year that there won’t be any giant drills coming into town in search of natural gas.
Few would peg the ground beneath Baltimore as a reservoir for the controversial energy source, and they would be right. But with a statewide moratorium on fracking set to expire in October 2017, the City Council gave its preliminary approval last night to a bill that would ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the city limits, WYPR reports. The council also passed a resolution calling for the entire state to continue the ban.
But the real target of activists yesterday was state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the state Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee. She has spoken against statewide fracking bans before, WYPR’s Rachel Baye reports, and her vote against a future extension of a moratorium could affect the fate of the state’s natural gas reserves.
Activists from Food and Water Watch Maryland gathered on Monday outside Sen. Conway’s office near Clifton Park in Northeast Baltimore. “Senator Conway, ban fracking now!” a small group chanted in a video posted to Facebook.
Gov. Hogan and others support ending the fracking ban to expand the state’s energy production and create a revenue source, The Washington Post reports. Recently, the state unveiled plans that would ban fracking in certain watersheds and shore up casings around drilling wells to protect the surrounding environment. However, the plans would also permit drilling closer to homes and private wells than was originally proposed before the current fracking ban took effect.
Many worry about the environmental effects that other states that allow fracking have seen, such as groundwater contamination, air pollution and even earthquakes caused by drilling. Even if drilling occurred far outside of Baltimore, those effects could be felt here in the city, an organizer with Food and Water Watch Maryland told WYPR yesterday. At least one study has linked air pollution here and in D.C. to drilling elsewhere.
If the General Assembly does decide to end Maryland’s ban on fracking next year, their decision will nullify the City’s Council’s ban. But if nothing else, Sen. Conway and other Baltimoreans now know how lawmakers in Maryland’s largest city feel about the issue before it goes before the General Assembly.
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