By Heather Wanner
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Anti-fracking activists of the Baltimore area rallied outside of state Sen. Joan Carter Conway’s office Monday afternoon to urge her to support a fracking ban in Maryland.
Demonstrators said they want the Baltimore City Democrat to support a bill in next year’s legislative session that would extend the current two-year moratorium on fracking, which is scheduled to expire next October.
Organizers of the rally said the legislative session that will run from January through April is the last chance for a ban to be placed on fracking in Maryland.
Conway, the chairwoman of the education, health, and environmental affairs committee in the Maryland state Senate, has been a leader on environmental issues, helping to pass the Maryland lead paint laws.
“Senator Conway has a lot of control as to how the bill will move forward and is a champion for environmental issues so we want her support,” said Rianna Eckel, a member of the Food and Water Watch Organization, which advocates for clean water and environmental protection.
Conway was not available for comment. Conway’s office said they had no knowledge of the rally taking place.
Hydraulic fracturing is the process of drilling into rock and shale to install wells to produce oil or natural gas. Over 21 states around the country currently allow fracking.
Fracking has stirred up controversy after it has been shown to poison water, pollute the air and cause harmful industrial explosions.
The FWW believes the moratorium does not allow enough time for more analysis of the long-term health effects of fracking.
“We’re not facing the realities we need to, we are putting so much at risk by not banning fracking,” said Andy Heinz, an anti-fracking activist who was one of 13 people who attended Monday’s rally outside of Carter Conway’s office on Hillen Road in Baltimore.
Supporters of fracking say it has been a fundamental oil and gas producing process for energy, and can be done safely.
“When fracking is done properly, by using safety precautions and regulations, it is very beneficial,” said Pat Conlon, the vice president of Harding Holdings, Inc., an oilfield development company. “This includes taking steps to minimize the risks of spills, strengthening the well systems, and using non-toxic chemicals to protect the land and water.”
But opponents argue that the process is not always performed properly and cautiously.
“The concerns are that oil and gas companies are all driven by profit and take chances or unnecessary process risks that are causing the harm,” Conlon said.
Monday’s rally was the kick off to the FWW’s statewide week of action to encourage officials to ban fracking during the upcoming legislative session. The week of action includes other events and rallies all around the state through Friday.
“Fracking will threaten the water we drink, the air we breathe, the communities we love, and the climate in which we live,” Eckel said.
The Baltimore City Council passed a resolution calling for a permanent, statewide ban on fracking later Monday evening.