The Maryland House of Delegates voted to pass a bill banning fracking in the state Friday, but the legislation may not advance in the Senate if supporters cannot garner a veto-proof majority.
The bill passed 97-40. State Sen. Joan Carter Conway, chair of the senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee, said she supports a fracking ban, but does not plan to hold a committee hearings for the bill if Gov. Larry Hogan would veto it, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of injecting water and chemicals into the ground to release natural gas. Supporters say fracking could bring economic benefits to Western Maryland, where drilling is most likely to occur, but opponents have raised environmental concerns that the practice can cause earthquakes, contaminate groundwater and pollute the air.
Hogan has said he supports fracking with strict safeguards in place, but has not commented on the House bill. If Hogan were to veto the bill, Conway said supporters won’t be able to amass enough votes to override it.
“People can’t add,” she told The Sun. “I’m saying veto-proof your bill, and I’ll let you do whatever you want.”
A 2-year state fracking moratorium will expire in October. Conway has said she believes extending the moratorium, rather than banning fracking altogether, could survive a veto, according to The Sun.
A Goucher College poll released on Feb. 27 found 40 percent of Marylanders oppose a ban on fracking, while 36 percent support a ban and 24 percent don’t know.
A veto override would require 29 of 47 votes in the Senate and 85 of 141 votes in the House.
The University of Maryland’s MaryPIRG chapter has called for a permanent ban on fracking in this state, citing environmental concerns and health impacts. But the group told The Diamondback earlier in the semester they would “move the target” to extending the moratorium if Hogan were to veto a ban.
The Student Government Association voted on Feb. 22 to support extending the moratorium. SGA Governmental Affairs Director Mihir Khetarpal said student legislators “weren’t quite ready to fully support a ban without knowing the full effects of fracking.”