ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A bill to hold fracking companies more responsible for damages they cause remained intact after senators defeated an amendment Thursday that would have removed words describing the natural gas extraction process as “ultrahazardous and abnormally dangerous.”
The vote pitted lawmakers who say hydraulic fracturing will create economic opportunities in the state against those who say not enough information is known about the drilling method, which pumps highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals into the ground.
The amendment failed by a 20-26 vote. It had been offered by Sen. George Edwards, a western Maryland Republican who served on former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s commission to study the potential for fracking in Maryland’s western Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties.
“Many rural parts of the state are dying on the vine because we’re not being allowed to do some things,” Edwards said. “It’s like pulling teeth to get things passed down here to help us out economically.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Robert Zirkin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, said the bill is not about banning fracking but holding drilling companies liable if any damage is done to residents and their property.
“All strict liability means is if you can prove the company caused the contamination, the company is responsible,” said Zirkin. “Because guess who’s responsible if the company is not responsible for paying for it: We are, the taxpayers.”
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have raised concerns that a law holding fracking companies strictly liable for damages would be a deterrent for drilling companies.
“It doesn’t ban fracking but it would make it very difficult for anyone to want to come in to Maryland, when they can go to Pennsylvania or West Virginia or some other state,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller
(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)