Fracking is Banned in Maryland until October 2017, Then What?

by Duane Nichols on January 3, 2017

Fracking Protest at Maryland State Capitol

Maryland’s Fracking Ban Goes Up Against Corporate Democrats

From an Article by Russell Mokhiber, Counter Punch, November 17, 2016

The Maryland legislature is controlled by the Democratic Party. The Maryland Senate by 33 to 14 and the Maryland General Assembly by 91 to 50. Of course, that doesn’t mean that corporations don’t get what they want in Maryland.

Let us take the case of hydraulic fracturing of natural gas — also known as fracking. In 2015, a grassroots movement pushed for a statewide ban on fracking — but instead got a moratorium that expires in October 2017. So, in January, the bill to ban fracking will be up again in the legislature. If it doesn’t pass, then fracking comes to Maryland.

Maryland is surrounded by states that have been fracking for awhile, in particular West Virginia and Pennsylvania. And the results are obvious for all to see. At the top of the list — contaminated well water.

Even in Trump country, people are learning their fracking lesson. So, for example, in conservative western Maryland, where most of the Maryland fracking would occur and where Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by three to one, recent polls show that people there support a ban on fracking by two to one. (That’s also the margin statewide.)

That means that there are a lot of Trump supporters who don’t want their communities turned into West Virginia or Pennsylvania. There is a growing grassroots movement to ban fracking in Maryland, led by groups like Citizen Shale and Don’t Frack Maryland.

But they are up against the wall of corporate Democrats. Take the case of Democratic State Senator Joan Carter Conway. She’s featured in the recent documentary — Fracking Western Maryland — which focuses her role in the 2015 fight to ban fracking.

In February 2015, the Baltimore Sun reported that “most previous attempts at a ban have been blocked in the Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee by its chairwoman, Democratic Senator Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore.”

If a bill banning fracking ever made it onto the floor of the Maryland Senate, Senator Conway had a predication. “It’s never going to pass,” she said. “It’s never going to pass. It’s never going to pass.”

Why is Conway, a liberal Democrat from Baltimore, so opposed to a ban on fracking?  She’s from Baltimore. No fracking there.

But corporate lobbyists galore. It’s clear from the documentary that Conway is fronting for the fracking industry. She sees a ban coming down the pike and introduces a bill that would put a moratorium on it for two years and then require the Maryland Department of the Environment to draft fracking regulations to govern the industry.

Conway’s bill bumped a bill that would have put in place an eight year moratorium and require a health study. Why did she do this?

“Why did they do that?” said Ann Bristow, a western Maryland resident who appeared in the documentary. “Because none of them wanted to know what the health research is saying. They are realizing that any place that puts health in the lead, then you end up with a ban like they did in New York.”

In the documentary, Conway says — “until we have a well in Maryland, we will never know what is going to happen.”

Same thing that’s happening in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, right? The groundwater gets contaminated? No, Conway says, Maryland is different. She doesn’t explain how.

Conway says she was insulted when protesters from Don’t Frack Maryland showed up outside her office in downtown Baltimore earlier this week. But she’s apparently not insulted by her close ties to the fracking industry. Conway is close friends with corporate lobbyists Lisa Harris Jones and Sean Malone.

Their firm — Harris Jones Malone — is the top lobbying firm for the gas industry in the state of Maryland. Conway was the matron of honor at the 2013 Jones Malone wedding in Las Vegas.

“I’m like a godmother to them,” Conway told the Baltimore Brew. “You can’t expect people who work together to not have personal relationships or to abandon their friendships because they work together.”

Last night, a group supporting the ban on fracking in Maryland showed up in Calvert County at a League of Women Voters organized gathering to allow citizens to meet their local state legislators. Aeryn Boyd and Kimberly Alexander were there. They have been walking across Maryland — west to east — to draw attention to the battle ban fracking in Maryland.

Turns out that the Senate President, Mike Miller is from Calvert County and was at the meeting. Miller has been Maryland Senate president for 30 years. Alexander was not impressed.

“He has great influence over whether or not the Maryland Fracking ban will go through,” Alexander said. “He literally sat through an entire League of Women Voters meeting watching a basketball game. We circled around him to talk about fracking, he took his phone out and continued to watch the game while his constituents told him about their concerns, about family members getting sick from the natural gas industry.”

“‘Dude, turn that shit off, these are the people you are supposed to be representing,” Alexander whispered in his ear. “It’s okay sweetie, it’s okay” he brushed me/us off.’”

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Extend the fracking ban in Maryland

Editorial, The Baltimore Sun, December 30, 2016

Marylanders have long held serious misgivings about the use of hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas, and we have shared those concerns. Under the administrations of both Gov. Larry Hogan and his predecessor, Martin O’Malley, there have been efforts by the Maryland Department of the Environment to adopt what Democrats and Republicans alike have vowed would be the strictest fracking regulations in the country. Yet over and over again, there have been doubts about whether the protections involved — to ensure clean drinking water supplies and preserve Western Maryland’s scenic resources — would be adequate.

The most recent rules, as drafted by the Hogan administration and now under review, are no different. And as the nation’s natural gas glut continues — to the extent that even oil industry advocates doubt that Maryland is likely to attract much drilling even if a temporary ban on fracking is lifted — many are asking, why risk fracking at all?

We agree. It’s a bad bet. When members of the Maryland General Assembly reconvene next month, high on the agenda should be making permanent the temporary moratorium on fracking that is set to expire next year. Fracking advocates have failed to make the case that the economic value of recovering gas from the Marcellus Shale deposits outweighs the potential economic and environmental harm that accompanies it.

And it’s highly likely that a majority of Maryland residents agree with that position. That was the conclusion of a recent poll conducted by OpinionWorks for the Don’t Frack Maryland Coalition, which found support for a fracking ban even in Western Maryland. In all, the survey determined that state residents favored a ban by a 56-28 margin with 16 percent undecided.

This is not a position we take lightly. Western Maryland has an unemployment rate above the statewide average — between 4.4 and 5.2 percent by county compared to the statewide average of 4.0 percent. But it is also highly dependent on tourism, with scenic attractions like Deep Creek Lake, the Youghiogheny River, Swallow Falls State Park, the C & O Canal and many others that are a key part of the state’s $16.4 billion visitor business. Even if fracking doesn’t cause immediate harm to any of those attractions, how might public perception of the region change?

Still, it isn’t just a matter of image. The risks posed by fracking are real. Often, the problem is the method of disposal for wastewater from well injection sites — the technology involves forcing a mixture of water, chemicals and sand under high pressure into underground rock to release trapped gas — and its impact on local groundwater. In neighboring West Virginia, for example, the U.S. Geological Survey found Wolf Creek in Fayette County contaminated with sodium, chloride, strontium, lithium and radium traced to a nearby underground well.

But that’s not all. The potential adverse impacts include damage to human health, clean air and water; excessive noise pollution and even micro-earthquakes. That doesn’t mean fracking can’t be done relatively safely compared to, say, coal mining or logging, which have also operated in Western Maryland, but it does mean that the potential for adverse impacts, even accidental ones, is quite high — the sheer volume of water required (as much as 7 million gallons to frack a single well) practically dictates that.

And even if Maryland dropped the moratorium and adopted the MDE rules, it’s unlikely there’s going to be any gold rush to purchase or extend gas leases. That’s what makes an outright ban the safest possible wager — the resource won’t be going away; it will remain buried in those shale deposits like a savings account. If at some future date, the risk is more manageable and the demand for the resource is more robust, perhaps the moratorium can be revisited. In the interim, Maryland will learn more from the mistakes of neighboring states.

That makes a ban on fracking a win-win for everyone, except perhaps the U.S. oil and gas industry. But even they may not complain too much given the multitude of more pressing problems from falling demand and low prices to high production from Middle East competitors. If Maryland earns a national reputation for being ultra-cautious about its precious water resources, so much the better.

See also: Engage Mountain Maryland at

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Citizen Shale January 4, 2017 at 10:59 am

Volunteer Training for Citizens

Posted on January 3, 2017 by Citizen Shale

Learn how to activate neighbors and legislators on the fracking issue in 2017

Learn how to organize and lead outreach and education efforts in your communities and in the state legislature.

Together we have worked to dispel the myth that Western Marylanders want harmful fracking in our communities. We have stood together and banned fracking in Mountain Lake Park, Friendsville, and Frostburg.

Now it’s time to take that message to Annapolis.

Join us for our volunteer meeting this Saturday, January 7th as we chart our way to ban fracking in Maryland.

What: Volunteer Training for outreach and action on Fracking

When:  2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m,

Where: St. John’s Episcopal Church, 52 South Broadway,
Frostburg, Maryland.

At the meeting you will have the opportunity to hear from leaders who banned fracking in their communities as well as learn how we can take this message to Annapolis.

Join the movement and volunteer today.

From educating your neighbors to marching in Annapolis — it will take all of us working to ensure that our communities, our families and our climate remains safe.

RSVP on Facebook, or just show up!

The 2017 Legislative session starts January 11, 2017.  This is the year the moratorium expires.  We need to get the legislature to pass a veto proof ban.  To make this happen we need everyone to help.  Learn what you can do.  Read the above and try to attend.  Let’s make this an unforgettable New Year..  My best to you and yours.
Jim Guy of CitizenShale, OldTown, MD



Jim Guy January 7, 2017 at 12:03 pm


Annapolis, MD – Recently, Senator Roger Manno and Delegate Sandy Rosenberg, co-chairs of the AELR Committee (Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee) requested an Attorney General opinion as to whether local jurisdictions may, through local law, preempt the State in issues of the natural gas extraction process known as Hydraulic Fracturing, or “Fracking.”

In his response, Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office opines in the affirmative — that local jurisdictions may, in certain cases of local zoning, effectively ban fracking in their own jurisdictions.

Read the Attorney General’s opinion:

Jim Guy, OldTown, Maryland

See also:


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