Photo via Gov. Larry Hogan/Twitter

Friday afternoon’s headline from Larry Hogan was not doctored. In a surprise move, the Maryland Governor called for a ban on fracking in the state.

It’s a departure, as the governor had previously said he would support fracking if he believed it could be done safely. With a debate currently ongoing in the General Assembly, Hogan called a news conference Friday afternoon to announce that he no longer believes the method of extracting energy is safe. He said he supports a permanent ban.

Gov. @LarryHogan going green on #StPatricksDay by backing Sen. Zirkin’s #fracking ban legislation. #MDGA17

— Amelia Chassé Alcivar (@AmeliaChasse) March 17, 2017

The announcement comes amid a particularly high-pressure period for the issue. The session is the last before a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is set to expire in October. Protests outside the State House ramped up this week, with a dozen demonstrators arrested on Thursday. Still, the latest Goucher Poll showed Marylanders were divided on the issue.

According to WTOP, the announcement was presented with some bipartisanship, as Hogan stood with Sen Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) and said he would support his bill. Zirkin said he cajoled Hogan to support the bill over a Bud Light at a Ravens game. “That’s the best way to get me,” Hogan quipped.

However, the Republican governor still took an opportunity to call out Democrats. Hogan said his administration proposed tough fracking regulations, but he said the Democrat-controlled General Assembly failed to enact them. He then said some Democrats were working on a plan that would open the door to allowing fracking.

Environmental groups, on the other hand, saw the decision as a victory. Food & Water Watch organizing director Emily Wurth praising Hogan’s “sudden leadership” on the issue.

“We’re thrilled that Governor Hogan has listened to the science, listened to the facts, and listened to the will of most Marylanders in calling for a ban on fracking,” she said in a statement.

The governor’s support is key, though Zirkin’s bill remains in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee for now.

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.