Engage Mountain Maryland, in cooperation with Citizen Shale, and the Don't Frack Maryland Coalition, welcomed Senator Bobby Zirkin from District 11, Baltimore County Tuesday evening to address the public about fracking legislation and the process to pass a ban on the industry in Maryland. The senator has seen and sponsored many fracking bills in his time on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, which he currently chairs.
With just overnight notice, 60 residents carved out time to attend the impromptu meeting, including four local elected officials who have all expressed concern and opposition to fracking by either working on, or passing local ban ordinances for their respective towns.
Sen. Zirkin carefully laid out the challenges and strategies to pass a ban in the next legislative session. The key, in his play book is to inform his fellow senators that Western Maryland overwhelmingly does not want fracking dotting the landscape like has happened in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The impression, according to Zirkin, is that most legislators think area residents are anxious to start drilling with the notion it will be good for the economy.
Many opponents of fracking see it differently, basing their objections on the negative economic effects industrial development will have on an otherwise sustainable pristine recreational Mecca. With 60% of Garrett County's revenue coming from tourism and second home markets, its likely the invasive nature of fracking will drive tourists away and slow real estate interests.
Earlier Tuesday, Delegate Kumar Barve, who chairs the Environment & Transportation Committee, vowed to pass ban legislation if it crosses his committee. This was encouraging news to Zirkin, but underscored the need to seek that same support with state senators.
So far there is no specific ban bill, and Marylanders are anxiously awaiting what it will include. You can watch Sen. Zirkin's address and learn what he suggests for Western Maryland residents.