Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Maryland House passes fracking ban, Senate approves tougher standards for drillers

The Maryland House on Tuesday passed a three-year ban on fracking, while the Senate approved tougher new legal standards for drillers, Erin Cox and Timothy B. Wheeler report for The Baltimore Sun. "Each bill must still clear the other chamber, but the actions signaled the legislature was willing to go further than it has before to limit natural gas drilling."

"Maryland has been under a de facto ban for more than three years after former Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, put any permit review on hold while a commission studied the industry and his administration wrote regulations to enforce it," Cox and Wheeler write. "Those regulations are now languishing on the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, who has said he supports fracking and the jobs it would bring to economically depressed Western Maryland—as long as it can be done safely."

The Senate's measure would "hold any future drillers to some of the country's strictest liability standards, declaring the practice 'an ultrahazardous and abnormally dangerous activity,'" Cox and Wheeler write. "The distinction makes it easier to hold drillers financially responsible for any contamination and health or environmental problems, even if drillers followed all regulations. It also requires them to have hefty $10 million insurance policy that extends six years beyond the drilling operation, among other provisions." (Read more)

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