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Best week, worst week: Leggett vindicated; fracking advocates face setback

Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett was vindicated. Supporters of hydraulic fracturing in Maryland probably took a two-year setback.

Leggett’s triumph had to do with a matter that went back to 2012, when the county executive put on a full-court campaign to convince voters to change the county’s collective bargaining ordinance as it pertains to police. Leggett used public funds – and he showed no reluctance to direct his employees to advocate for the ballot measure as well.

The county’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge cried foul and sued, claiming that Leggett had violated strictures on the use of government resources for electioneering. And a circuit court judge agreed with that stance.

But the Court of Special Appeals, in a 3-to-0 ruling, concluded that what Leggett did wasn’t campaigning for a candidate or a partisan issue but rather for a policy. And that’s perfectly fine, wrote Judge Deborah S. Eyler.

Advocates for hydraulic fracturing weren’t perfectly fine with a move by the General Assembly to ban any drilling in Western Maryland until October 2017. The measure’s supporters say this will give lawmakers enough time to study the public and environmental consequences of the practice.

Nonsense, fracking supporters responded. The matter was intensively studied, for years, by a panel set up by former Gov. Martin O’Malley. The panel last year recommended allowing fracking, but only under a series of regulations that would provide safeguards and protections.

The fracking-ban measure now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan, who has said he would support fracking, so long as it can be done safely. It should be noted that the two-year ban passed with veto-proof majorities in the House and in the Senate.