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Protesters rally in front of State House to oppose fracking

Protesters in Annapolis Wednesday call for legislators to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing in Maryland. (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

Protesters in Annapolis Wednesday call for legislators to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing in Maryland. (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

ANNAPOLIS – With a state moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — set to expire in eight months, Maryland legislators and activists are throwing their support behind a permanent ban.

Activist group Don’t Frack Maryland on Wednesday held a rally in front of the State House in Annapolis, attracting supporters from Maryland and nearby states who contend that fracking negatively impacts the environment in places it is used.

“What we want to see is a full, permanent, statewide fracking ban,” said Jackie Filson, field communications officer for D.C.-based consumer rights group Food & Water Watch. “Maryland’s legislators need to know (the harm fracking can cause).”

For nearly an hour protesters shouted slogans like “Don’t frack Maryland, ban fracking now” and “Fracking’s got to go,” toward the State House, where Gov. Larry Hogan was preparing to give his third “State of the State” address at noon.

Protesters claimed that fracking poses a serious risk to drinking water, a topic that has received widespread attention in recent years across the country.

In December 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency released a 666-page report that concluded that fracking could, under certain conditions, impact drinking water resources. The report was the culmination of five years of research and work.

From the report, “Identified impacts generally occurred near hydraulically fractured oil and gas production wells and ranged in severity, from temporary changes in water quality to contamination that made private drinking water wells unusable.”

Pennsylvania resident Craig Stevens says he has participated in protests in more than a dozen states where fracking has had an environmental impact.

“Fracking contamination knows no borders,” Stevens said Wednesday.

Fracking involves pumping a mix of water, sand and chemicals into deep underground wells, breaking apart rocks to extract the natural gas stored inside.

Gov. Larry Hogan has said that he supports fracking because of its potential to boost western Maryland’s economy, but he also says that health and safety rules must be put in place.

The region has experienced slower economic growth and a higher unemployment rate compared to the rest of the state. Fracking could add more than 3,000 jobs and about $100 million in wages if it were allowed, according to a 2014 Towson University study.

Legislation in Maryland to ban fracking or extend the moratorium had yet to be filed by Wednesday.

Capital News Service correspondent Natalie Schwartz contributed to this report.

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