WASHINGTON — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said on Friday that he supports a bill to ban fracking in the state.
At a news conference in Annapolis on Friday, Hogan said that he was throwing his support behind a bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, that would permanently ban the energy-extraction practice in Maryland, saying that “Protecting our environment, and making it cleaner and healthier has been one of the top priorities of our administration.”
Maryland currently has a moratorium on fracking that is set to expire in October, and fracking has never been executed in the state. The Hogan administration had proposed a set of regulations on the practice that “would have made it virtually impossible for anyone to ever engage in fracking in Maryland,” Hogan said.
“Our administration proposed the toughest fracking regulations in all 50 states,” the governor said. “… However, the legislature has failed to enact these tough regulations. That’s why I’ve decided that we must take the next step from virtually banning fracking to actually banning fracking.”
He claimed that Sens. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s County, and Senate President Mike Miller, D-Calvert County, and others, were “working on a plan that would that open the door for fracking.”
Therefore, “I have decided to announce my full support for the Maryland fracking ban which has been sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin of Baltimore County,” Hogan said.
Pinsky and Miller are listed as co-sponsors of Zirkin’s bill. It’s still in committee in the Senate; a ban has already passed the House.
Citing Maryland’s “unique position” and “wealth of natural resources,” Hogan said that the possible environmental risks of fracking “simply outweigh any potential benefits.”
Zirkin said that “An arbitrary moratorium has never made sense to me,” and that he appreciated the support of the governor. He also credited Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles, saying he “has really listened to what people had to say. … I just want to thank him for constantly listening to the people.”
The senator added that he’d spent considerable time working on attracting Hogan’s support for his bill in formal and informal situations, recalling “working him over a Bud Light.”
Hogan quipped, “That’s the best way to get to me.”
In a statement later Friday, Miller said, “I am not for fracking, never have been for fracking, never will be for fracking. I supported legislation that banned fracking, but let the people of Garrett and Allegany counties have their voice. The advocates for fracking have claimed that the people of Western Maryland are for fracking, and I believed it was important to let those residents’ opinions be heard.”
The nonprofit environmental group Food and Water Watch said in a later statement that it was “thrilled” about Hogan’s decision, saying it “reflected the will of most Marylanders” and proved that “protecting public health and the environment is not a matter of partisanship.”
This story has been updated.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report from Annapolis.