ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Opponents of fracking have taken their fight to Annapolis to try to get a ban before a moratorium ends later this year.
Demonstrators rallied in front of the Maryland State House this week, as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued his State of the State address.
Paul Roberts with Citizen Shale, a group that opposes fracking, lives in Friendsville, a community in Western Maryland. He said fracking was a danger, not a plus, for the Western Maryland economy.
“We have an existing, vibrant tourism economy, clean jobs, small business — the lifeblood of business in America,” Roberts said. “Fracking is, in fact, an anti-business solution.”
Friendsville already has instituted a ban and so has the Western Maryland community of Frostburg. But Roberts said a statewide ban was needed.
Maryland Del. Wendell Beitzl is a proponent of fracking under the regulations that the state of Maryland has drawn up. He said he thinks critics of fracking overstate the possible health and safety risks of the process to extract natural gas and oil.
“I worked in environmental health for 10 years in the county,” he said. “I understand groundwater. I understand drilling operations.”
Beitzl also stressed his ties to the area. His district includes all of Garrett County and parts of Allegany County. “I live there, my kids are there, my grand kids are there,” he said.
Thomas Meyer, an organizer with Food and Water Watch, is urging lawmakers to enact a statewide ban before a moratorium is lifted later this year. He said he’s not just concerned about land and environmental issues in Western Maryland.
“Western Maryland is the area where the Marcellus Shale that also goes under Pennsylvania and West Virginia is,” he said. “There are also four other gas basins across the state that could be targeted.”
Beitzl said the economic advantages of allowing fracking would benefit owners of farms and large properties in Western Maryland. He said it’s important for property owners to be able to exercise their property rights.
Beitzl dismissed concerns that other areas of the state could be future sites for fracking.
“You know and I know and everyone else knows that there’s no way that anyone in Montgomery, Prince George’s or any other area of the state’s going to allow it — and if they want a ban, have at it,” Beitzl said.
Bills calling for a ban could be filed as soon as next week, according to Meyer.