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A natural gas well in West Virginia. (AP Photo/David Smith)

Fracking moratorium becomes law without Hogan signature

A two-year ban on fracking in Maryland will become law without the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan.

A spokeswoman for Hogan confirmed Friday that the bill, which imposes a brief ban on the controversial process for drilling natural gas in shale deposits, would neither be vetoed nor signed by the governor. Friday is the deadline for making a decision on the fate of the bill.

The bill requires that the Maryland Department of the Environment finalize regulations by Oct.1 2016. No company could begin drilling in the state until Oct. 1, 2017.

The decision by Hogan was not unexpected.

The bill was passed in the House and Senate by veto-proof margins which almost certainly would have resulted in the legislature overriding Hogan if the Republican governor had decided to kill the bill.

Additionally, Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles hinted in an interview earlier this month that the timeline for reviewing public comments and finalizing state regulations closely tracked the requirements of the bill.

“From my perspective, we’ll continue to do what we’re planning to do and that is review the comments that we got and look at the different options that have been suggested about revisiting or restrengthening items or adding items to the proposed regulations,” Grumbles said during a May 18 interview.

The environment secretary said his agency is considering re-opening the regulation process and making changes to rules proposed in the last days of Democratic Gov. Martin J. O’Malley’s term.

The decision is being met with approval by sponsors of the bill and environmental activist groups.

“Governor Hogan is rightly following the will of the public in allowing Maryland’s first statutory moratorium on fracking to become law,” said Shilpa Joshi, Maryland campaign coordinator at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “This victory belongs to the citizens from mountain Maryland to the Eastern Shore who have fought for years to protect our air, water, economy, and climate from the gas industry. The grassroots movement that flooded Governor Hogan’s office and the General Assembly with emails and calls this spring will only grow and get louder over the next two years to ensure our communities remain protected.”