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Lawmaker asks for halt to fracking plans

ANNAPOLIS — Health officials and environmental advocates in Maryland are asking for a temporary stop to fracking plans.

Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo, D-Montgomery County, on Thursday proposed the Protect Our Health and Communities Act, which includes an 8-year moratorium on the natural gas drilling method so that more information can be gathered about public health risks that critics say was not properly studied by a review board.

“I strongly feel there was not adequate representation on what arguably is the most important part of fracking,” said Fraser-Hidalgo. “That is to ensure that ourselves and our children remain unharmed from fracking.”

Hydraulic fracturing is a process by which sand, chemicals and pressurized water are blasted underground, shaking loose rocks and releasing gas.

“Given the nature of the chemicals we do know about that are used in the fracking process, we may well see an increases in cancers, neurological diseases, cardiac and respiratory illnesses and developmental disorders in the coming years,” said Dr. Gina Angiola, co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland. “But it will take time for these effects to show up, which is why it is critically important that we get a moratorium in place in Maryland while further health studies are being completed in states where fracking is already underway.”

Currently, Maryland does not have any fracking within its borders, but a portion of the western side of the state sits atop the Marcellus Shale, which runs underground from New York to Tennessee. Neighboring West Virginia and Pennsylvania allow fracking, while New York banned the practice due to health concerns.

Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. has acknowledged the natural gas opportunity in western Maryland, spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said.

“Fracking has been studied for well over three years now and we don’t need another eight years of studies before making a decision,” Montgomery said. “If it can be done in an environmentally safe way, then we should move forward with it.”