The Maryland General Assembly kicked off the 2017 session at noon Wednesday. But while speaking with WEAA’s Marc Steiner just a few hours earlier at an event hosted by The Daily Record, Senate President Mike Miller offered a prediction on a topic expected to be controversial during the session: whether legislators will ban hydraulic fracturing, the natural gas extraction method better known as fracking.
Several Democratic legislators are pushing a fracking ban. But Miller, also a Democrat, advocated instead for a new moratorium while the state creates rules to keep the drilling practice safe.
“It affects two counties where there are no jobs whatsoever,” he said. “If you can make it clean and make certain that there’s no affecting, adverse affecting the groundwater and monitor it — we’re not going to do it anytime in the next five or 10 years, but at some point in time, you might need that clean source of fuel.”
He predicted that while the House could pass a fracking ban, the Senate is more likely to pass a moratorium.
The Maryland Department of the Environment predicts that only the state’s two westernmost counties, Garrett and Allegany, are likely to see fracking of the state’s Marcellus Shale if and when it becomes legal. As of November, Garrett County had 4.9 percent unemployment, while Allegany had 5.2 percent.
Without any legislative changes, the current two-year fracking moratorium is set to end Oct. 1. Governor Larry Hogan’s administration plans to begin issuing drilling permits at that point, after it releases updated fracking regulations.