Cumberland Times-News

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March 7, 2013

All bills to ban, place moratorium on fracking dead

CUMBERLAND — A bill that would have placed a moratorium on drilling for natural gas via hydraulic fracturing, pending further study, has been withdrawn in the House of Delegates after late adverse action on a similar Senate bill Wednesday night.

All bills that would have imposed a moratorium or banned fracturing have now been defeated or withdrawn in the Maryland General Assembly. However, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s advisory commission continues its work, and during that time, no permits for drilling will be issued in Maryland.

A Senate committee also defeated a bill that would have outright banned fracturing Wednesday, as reported in Thursday’s Times-News.

House Bill 1274 was withdrawn after a similar Senate bill, SB 601, was reported unfavorably by the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. SB 601 was defeated by a single vote in committee.

Those favoring the moratorium are not giving up.

“The narrow loss will only energize our movement further,” said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “We’ll only grow and not slow down until we can positively say that no Marylander will ever face the widespread harms linked to fracking in nearby states. The more the public learns about fracking, the more concerns they have about the impacts of drilling on our drinking water, health, climate and local communities.”

Delegate Heather Mizeur’s bill would have prevented fracking from occurring in Maryland until the state completes a series of 14 studies laid out in O’Malley’s executive order on gas drilling, which also established the advisory commission.

O’Malley’s fiscal 2014 proposed budget includes $1 million in funding for Marcellus shale natural gas extraction studies. Marcellus shale formations throughout the eastern U.S. harbor large untapped natural gas resources. The shale formations in Maryland are located only in Garrett and Allegany counties.

In order to get the gas that is trapped in the shale to the surface, chemicals, water and sand are pumped underground to break apart rock formations and free the gas. The process is called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”

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