Protester Ann Bristow talks to a Maryland Capitol Police officer while being arrested for blocking the entrance to the Maryland State House in Annapolis on March 16. Protesters are asking the state Senate to ban fracking in Maryland. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
The Washington Post
By Josh Hicks and Ovetta Wiggins
March 16, 2017
Maryland Capitol Police arrested about a dozen anti-fracking activists who blocked an entrance to the State House on Thursday and called on Senate leaders to allow a vote on a bill to ban fracking, a controversial gas-extraction method.
The bill easily passed the House of Delegates last week, but has not moved out of a Senate committee.
“We cannot love God with all our heart if we destroy God’s creation . . . nor can we frack and love our neighbor as ourselves,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and a Sunday-school teacher at a Presbyterian church, who was among those arrested. Dozens of other activists chanted, sang and waved signs.
The protest came four days before “crossover day,” the date by which bills must pass out of at least one chamber to have a realistic chance of landing on the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
Participants said they were concerned that state Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore), who heads the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, will not allow a vote on the ban bill in time for that deadline.
A two-year state moratorium on fracking, technically known as hydraulic fracturing, is due to expire in October. Conway has proposed legislation that would extend the hold for two years and require each county and Baltimore to hold voter referendums next year on whether to ban the practice locally.
Hogan said Wednesday that he would review any fracking bill that passes out of the legislature. But he has stated in the past that he supports fracking, with strict safeguards to protect public health and the environment.
Maryland’s Department of the Environment proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations last year that would bar drilling in four watersheds and require four layers of steel casing and concrete around fracking wells to prevent water, gas and other fluids from migrating to other areas. Hogan said the rules would be the most stringent in the nation.
Sens. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) and Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), both of whom support the proposed fracking ban, showed up at the demonstration to cheer the activists’ efforts.
“Taking a stance is crucial,” Pinsky said. “There’s an old phrase, ‘Dare to struggle, dare to win,’ and I think that applies today. Keep up the struggle.”
Also Thursday, the state Senate approved a paid sick leave bill by a vote of 29 to 18, a veto-proof majority, a day after Hogan (R) said he would veto the measure if it reaches his desk. Four Democrats joined the Republican senators voting against the bill….
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