A majority of the state Senate would support a legislative moratorium on hydraulic fracturing if such a bill is released from committee, Sen. Brian E. Frosh said Wednesday.
The Montgomery County Democrat, a likely candidate for attorney general in 2014, joined Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery, in voicing his support for a bill that would give force of law to a moratorium enacted through an executive order given by Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2011.
Hydraulic fracturing is a drilling technique that involves blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals a mile deep and then drilling horizontally for a mile in potentially every direction in the Marcellus Shale, a rock-encased natural gas formation that runs beneath much of Garrett and part of Allegany counties.
Fracking-related legislation has failed to move out of the Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee in the last two sessions of the General Assembly.
“We’ve got to convince the committee that it’s the right thing to do,” said Frosh, who was the Senate sponsor of one ill-fated fracking bill this year. “I think we’ve got a majority of the Senate that will go for us if we can get a favorable committee report.”
Raskin, who plans to join the fracking fray in 2013, said lawmakers may be more focused on the issue this year than they have been in the past.
“The Senate is a cautious, deliberative body for a reason,” Raskin said. “I think there are lots of members of the General Assembly who are just tuning into this discussion now.”
Del. Heather R. Mizeur, another Montgomery County Democrat who may have higher-office aspirations, sponsored a bill that passed through the House of Delegates last year that would have imposed a per-acre fee on natural gas companies that have leased land in Western Maryland for drilling. The fee would have been used to fund scientific safety studies a state task force is charged with completing and submitting by 2014.
She said this year, environmental and grassroots organizations would be better organized and prepared to force consideration of the bill in the Senate.
“We need to raise the level of education in the Senate to match the engagement we’ve seen in the House of Delegates the last two years,” Mizeur said.