Maryland lawmakers pass fracking moratorium

Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill that would put a three-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state.

Tuesday also saw Maryland’s Senate pass a bill that would hold any companies fracking in the future to strict standards, labeling the practice “an ultrahazardous and abnormally dangerous activity,” the Baltimore Sun reports.

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Each chamber would have to pass the other’s bill in order for them to move forward, and they both face uncertainty on the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R) who supports fracking in the economically depressed western portion of Maryland.

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) put the state under an effective fracking moratorium to study the issue, and it remains in place, despite the desires of western Maryland to take advantage of the Marcellus shale play.

“This bill is about ... when there are problems, when there's contamination, when someone is injured, who pays,” said Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D), the sponsor of the Senate bill, according to the Sun.

Zirkin’s bill would make frackers responsible for all contamination and environmental problems, even if they follow the regulations. They would also have to have $10 million in insurance.

Western Maryland lawmakers criticized the measures, with one saying that the legislature is “putting the cart before the horse,” and another saying it’s an inherently local issue, the Sun said.