April 24, 2018
Politics & Opinion
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Fracking Ban Driven By Safety Concerns

Senator Bryan Simonaire
Senator Bryan Simonaire's picture
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April 19, 2017

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Governor Larry Hogan at a recent press conference, I announced that I would partner with him in supporting the ban on fracking in Maryland.

Fracking is the process of horizontally extracting natural gas through the pumping of water and chemicals into the ground. The containment of these chemicals is where the debate focuses.

We have had a moratorium basically banning fracking for years. Therefore, no actionable difference will take place from this ban except knowing fracking in Maryland will not proceed until it is proven safe and in the best interest of our state.

The Debate: Jobs Versus Safety

Legislation to ban fracking was proposed this session to provide clarity for the petroleum industry and safety for Maryland residents. The proponents of fracking claimed it would create more jobs, whereas the opponents were concerned about the health risks to people and the environment and a downturn in tourism in Western Maryland.

As your representative, I entered this fracking debate with an open mind. I believe in lessening our dependency on foreign energy, but I am also for safety and clean water. Over the years, I had listened to panels and panels of testimony that documented the environmental hazards and the medical consequences to residents in neighboring states. I reviewed study after study that detailed serious medical conditions related to chemical contamination of ground wells and surface areas.

I cannot turn a blind eye to the facts and hope for the best. I am 100 percent for creating more lucrative jobs for Marylanders, but not at the expense of other Marylanders’ health and well-being.

Risk Not Worth Reward

Earlier in Pennsylvania, the industry claimed that fracking would be safe and it would create jobs. They were correct about the jobs; however, the safety claims were unsubstantiated, as people suffered the consequences. Now we are being told in Maryland that those safety problems have been addressed, and they “really” mean it is safe this time.

Forgive me if I am somewhat skeptical, but I wanted more than assurances from companies that have a vested interest in fracking. Another factor: Maryland is not a huge player when it comes to natural gas reserves. With the current regulations in place and the low price of natural gas, fracking was not in the foreseeable future with or without the ban.

Ultimately, the testimony compelled me to pause and support a ban on fracking until the facts could corroborate their safety claims. Simply put, the risks did not outweigh the benefits, in my opinion. However, to be clear, if new facts are revealed ensuring safety and addressing the other issues, then the General Assembly can listen to the facts and just as easily lift the ban.

Should Not Be Partisan Issue

In conclusion, this should not be a partisan issue. I look at the issues to see whether it will help my constituents and Marylanders across this state. Far too often in this polarizing environment of politics and 24/7 news commentaries, Washington D.C. and Annapolis try to make issues partisan.

As one of only two Republican senators to vote for the ban, I can boldly say I voted based on the facts, my conscience and the people of Maryland. The governor understands this balanced approach, and I want to publicly thank him for his leadership on this issue. If fracking becomes safe and will not endanger other human life, I would welcome the debate. Until that time, safety is primary.

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