On Tap for MD General Assembly: Fracking Ban, Clean Energy and Pollution Trading

On Tap for MD General Assembly: Fracking Ban, Clean Energy and Pollution Trading
  1. On Tap for MD General Assembly: Fracking Ban, Clean Energy and Pollution Trading
    The Maryland General Assembly’s annual sessionopens today in Annapolis. By far the most important environmental issue that lawmakers will be debating over the next three months is a proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Fracking and horizontal drilling techniques have transformed rural parts of neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia into oil and gas industrial zones over the last decade. But Western Maryland, which has the same gas-rich shale rock formations, has not y…
    Delaware (DE)

The Maryland General Assembly’s annual session opens today in Annapolis.  By far the most important environmental issue that lawmakers will be debating over the next three months is a proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Fracking and horizontal drilling techniques have transformed rural parts of neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia into oil and gas industrial zones over the last decade.  But Western Maryland, which has the same gas-rich shale rock formations, has not yet experienced any fracking.

Lawmakers in 2015 passed a two-year moratorium on the high-pressure injection of water and chemicals into shale formations to release natural gas. But that moratorium on fracking will run out in October, and then the drilling could start here in Maryland if state legislators fail to act this winter. Listen Listening... /

State Delegate Kumar Barve, a Democrat from Montgomery County, is chair of the house Environment and Transportation Committee.  He said that many lawmakers may be persuaded to support a ban by new scientific studies by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that document higher rates of asthma attacks and premature births among Pennsylvania residents who live near fracking sites.

“I think it’s true to say that there’s more support in the House than in the Senate.  But I think there is a healthy amount of support in both chambers,” Barve said. “And I think that once everybody looks at the facts that we have accumulated over the last two years I think people are going to realize that we have to take action.  We can’t just do nothing.”

New York imposed a permanent ban on fracking in 2015. In Maryland, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have passed local bans in recent years, as have the communities of Friendsville and Mountain Lake Park in Western Maryland. 

Another politically charged vote that will come very early in the Maryland General Assembly session this winter will be a move by Democrats to override Governor Larry Hogan’s May 27 veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2016. The bill would have required power companies to buy more electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar, a total of 25 percent by 2020, up from the current requirement of 20 percent by 2022.

“Governor Hogan vetoed that,” said Karla Raettig, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “But we are confident that we have the votes to override that veto. So that will be the very Number One hottest topic right off the bat.”

Hogan opposes the legislation, because it could potentially mean electricity rate increases for consumers.  He is proposing an alternative package of green projects, including more tax credits for electric vehicles and $3 million to help train workers in the solar, wind and hydroelectric industries.

The governor is also promoting what he calls his “Clean Water Commerce Act.” The bill w…

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