Marylanders are using more natural gas than ever, but the state legislature has drawn the line at producing it.
The Democrat-controlled General Assembly gave final approval late Monday to a bill that would impose a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, sending the legislation to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who announced earlier this month that he now opposes fracking.
If Mr. Hogan signs the bill, which could occur as early as this week, Maryland would become the third state, after New York and Vermont, to ban fracking statewide.
Neither Vermont nor Maryland has ever conducted fracking, a technology for extracting oil and gas from shale rock, but the potential exists in Maryland as a result of the state’s location atop a corner of the vast Marcellus shale in western Allegheny and Garrett counties.
The move represented a huge victory for the anti-fracking movement, led by Food & Water Watch, which had been stuck in something of a political rut since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo enacted a ban via administrative fiat in 2014.
“Food & Water Watch has been working towards this victory for more than five years,” the group said Monday in a statement. “We were the first national group to call for a ban on fracking everywhere, and since then we’ve kept statewide bans like the one in Maryland squarely in our sights.”
The Maryland Senate voted 35-10 to support the ban, while the House of Delegates passed the bill earlier this month by 97-40.
The vote came with state’s two-year moratorium on fracking set to expire in October and lawmakers are torn on how to proceed.
The governor had proposed tough new regulations, while Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Calvert Democrat, had suggested extending the moratorium and bringing the issue before the voters in the form of a non-binding referendum.
At his press conference, Mr. Hogan cited concerns about the idea of a referendum, saying it would “open the door to fracking in Maryland,” and blamed Democratic legislative leaders for failing to enact the administration’s proposed rules.
“Our administration has concluded that the possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits,” Mr. Hogan said on Fox45 in Baltimore.
Nicole Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the pro-industry group Energy in Depth, said the governor had broken faith with the voters in western Maryland.
“At the end of the day, his flip-flop on fracking appears to be driven by a desire to silence the voices of the people that should matter the most — residents of Garrett and Allegheny counties, where fracking would have occurred in Maryland, and where the strongest support for the practice exists,” Ms. Jacobs said in an email.