Maryland lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a more than two-year fracking ban, marking the legislature’s most aggressive move yet to curb the controversial natural gas extraction process.
The legislation forbids drilling any wells until October 2017, and also requires the state to enact regulations next year to monitor the practice.
The plan drew accolades from opponents of hydraulic fracturing. They hope it gives them more time to build a case against the practice. But fracking supporters praised the legislation as well, saying it sets a clear timetable for when drilling could begin.
Gov. Larry Hogan has not said if he will sign the bill, which passed both chambers by veto-proof margins. The governor has said he supports fracking as a way to bring jobs to economically depressed Western Maryland as long as the process can been done safely.
Environmentalists had backed another bill that would have imposed a three-year moratorium and called for further study of the health and environmental impacts of fracking, but lawmakers instead passed a compromise that grants a shorter moratorium and forgoes another study.