Maryland's Republican Gov Allows Fracking Ban

No permits will be issued until October 2017. Mark Ruffalo rejoices.

Photo Credit: Food & Water Watch

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has become the first Republican governor to permit a statewide fracking ban.

From The Daily Record (Maryland):

A two-year ban on fracking in Maryland will become law without the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan. A spokeswoman for Hogan confirmed Friday that the bill, which imposes a brief ban on the controversial process for drilling natural gas in shale deposits, would neither be vetoed nor signed by the governor. Friday is the deadline for making a decision on the fate of the bill. The bill requires that the Maryland Department of the Environment finalize regulations by Oct.1 2016. No company could begin drilling in the state until Oct. 1, 2017. The decision by Hogan was not unexpected.

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Mitch Jones, the director of the Common Resources Program at Food and Water Watch, an environmental nonprofit, said that anti-fracking victories like Maryland's moratorium and New York's ban "really do give hope to others who are fighting fracking across the United States." In 2012, Vermont became the first state to ban fracking.

Markyland's anti-fracking activists — like actor and Maryland native Ed Norton, who recorded a radio ad for the Don't Frack Marlyand Coalition — can't get too comfortable just yet: The moratorium applies for only a two-and-a-half-year period, during which time the state will conduct the kind of scientific and public health studies that led to the New York's outright fracking ban. At least that's what environmentalists hope will happen. Oil and gas companies hope that they will be issued permits when the law expires in October 2017.

“From my perspective, we’ll continue to do what we’re planning to do and that is review the comments that we got and look at the different options that have been suggested about revisiting or restrengthening items or adding items to the proposed regulations,” said Ben Grumbles, Maryland's environment secretary, in a May 18 interview. He suggested that the timeline for finalizing state regulations dovetailed with the bill's requirements.

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Particularly after the recent setback of a new Texas law that bans local fracking bans, the victory in Maryland has given the anti-fracking movement a serious boost.

"The fact that Governor Hogan, who comes from a political party that routinely panders to the oil and gas industry, felt so much political pressure to prevent fracking from entering his state at this time, is a sign that the movement to protect against the dangers of fracking is growing stronger and gaining momentum," writes Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, an environmental nonprofit, in EcoWatch.

"Protecting the health, safety and livelihoods of the people is not a partisan issue, and this moratorium is a sign that the tide is changing on fracking."

RELATED: Oklahoma Oil Billionaire Demanded University Fire Scientists Studying Dangers of Fracking

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Reynard Loki is a senior writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy’s Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016. His work has been published by Salon, Truthout, BillMoyers.com, EcoWatch, Truthdig, National Memo, Green America, Regeneration International, Revelist, Resilience and BlackBook, among others. Reynard is also the co-founder of MomenTech, an experimental production studio based in New York and Prague that has presented dozens of projects around the world exploring intersections of culture, history, politics, science and sports. Follow him on Twitter: @reynardloki or email him at [email protected]ind.media.