By Pamela Wood
Environmentalists cheered Tuesday as Gov. Larry Hogan followed through on his promise to sign a statewide fracking ban -- and some predicted that Maryland's action could bolster efforts in other states to prohibit the controversial method of drilling for natural gas.
"We already know this victory is inspiring folks who are pushing for a ban in Florida," said Mitch Jones, a senior policy advocate for Food and Water Watch. Florida's legislature is weighing bills to ban fracking, and activists are hoping to stop or curtail fracking in Pennsylvania and California.
While New York has banned fracking by executive order, Maryland is the first state where fracking is geologically possible to prohibit the practice in law.
Environmentalists have been fighting for a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract natural gas from underground shale formations -- a practice they say has the ability to taint drinking water wells and pollute the air and water.
They found an unexpected ally this year in the Republican governor, who announced his support just as the advocates appeared to reach a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly.
"What Maryland has done here, with Larry Hogan's support, is not just to protect Maryland but will help protect other states," said Mike Tidwell, founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
The stakes in Maryland were relatively low: The rush by drilling companies to secure land for fracking has passed, at least for now. As the price of natural gas has dropped, Maryland looked increasingly unattractive for fracking.
Drew Cobbs, executive director of the pro-drilling Maryland Petroleum Council called it "more symbolic than anything else" and compared it to a ban that passed in Vermont, where there are no stores of natural gas that could be fracked.
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