Maryland’s state General Assembly passed a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing earlier this year that will go into effect in October after governor Larry Hogan neither vetoed nor signed it. As of the end of the day Friday, the bill automatically becomes law due to time limits for taking action.
By not vetoing the bill, Hogan became the first-ever Republican governor to allow a statewide ban on fracking. The bill will go into effect Oct. 1.
The ban passed overwhelmingly in March by veto-proof margins: 102-34 in the House of Delegates and 45-2 in the State Senate. So, if Hogan had vetoed the bill, the legislature could have overrode it.
In addition to the two-year moratorium, the law also requires the state to adopt new fracking rules by Oct. 1, 2016.
“This victory belongs to the citizens from mountain Maryland to the Eastern Shore who have fought for years to protect our air, water, economy, and climate from the gas industry,” Shilpa Joshi, Maryland campaign coordinator at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said.
“As more and more scientific studies show the health and environmental problems with fracking, more and more Marylanders oppose the practice,” Mitch Jones, the common resources director for Food & Water Watch, said in a press release.
The western corner of Maryland sits atop the Marcellus Shale, a sedimentary rock buried thousands of feet beneath the earth that stretches from upstate New York through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Natural gas is trapped inside the rock, and energy companies extract the gas by fracking, which involves blasting high-pressured water, sand, and chemicals into the formation.
It is unclear how much natural gas is actually in the portion of the Marcellus Shale underneath Maryland. Some estimates have put it at around 700 billion cubic feet of gas, or about 1.7 percent of the gas thought to be in the Marcellus Shale.
Maryland is not the only state grappling with what to do about fracking, and whether the risks, like water contamination and earthquakes, are worth the benefits. New York banned the practice last year, while Texas went in the complete opposite direction and made fracking bans illegal. Other states are also considering state-wide bans on fracking, while state legislatures in Colorado, Ohio, New Mexico and Oklahoma have passed bills limiting local governments’ ability to regulate oil and gas activities.