Maryland lawmakers approve 3-year fracking moratorium

Maryland lawmakers approve 3-year fracking moratorium

[JURIST] Maryland’s House of Delegates [official website] approved [legislative materials] a bill [HB449 text, PDF] Tuesday that would place a three-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state. The bill, HB449, passed on a third reading by a vote of 93 to 45, and will now go before the Senate for a vote. If passed, the bill would prohibit the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) [official website] from issuing permits, or accepting and reviewing applications for permits, authorizing hydraulic fracturing in the State until April 30, 2018. In addition, the legislation would require the creation of a panel of experts appointed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates to examine the “scientific literature” regarding “hydraulic fracturing for the exploration or production of oil or natural gas.” In January the MDE published draft regulations [text, PDF] governing fracking in the Maryland Register. The regulations are based on the best practices identified in studies conducted by the MDE under former Governor Martin O’Malley’s Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative [official backgrounder].

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking [JURIST backgrounder] is a controversial method of tapping natural gas deposits with high pressurized water. The method, commonly used in Marcellus shale [PA DCNR website] deposits, has raised environmental and public health concerns. Earlier this month US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell [official profile] announced [JURIST report] the publication of a rule regulating fracking on federal land. In January Scotland announced [JURIST report] a moratorium on the granting of permits for unconventional oil and gas extraction, including fracking amid environmental and health concerns. In December New York Governor Andrew Cuomo [official website] and his administration issued a report affirming their intent will block hydraulic fracturing [JURIST report] across the state.