VA County Bans Fracking, Maryland Close Behind

By Molly Moore

In February, Augusta County, Va., voted six to one to become the first county in the commonwealth to ban fracking.

Also known as hydraulic fracturing, this shale gas extraction process involves injecting a mixture of chemicals, sand and water into wells at high pressure to create fissures underground. Scientists have linked fracking to water contamination, air pollution and earthquakes.

Virginia code allows localities to prohibit or restrict fracking as part of their authority to determine land use. King George County approved restrictions on the practice in August 2016.

Further north, the Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed a statewide fracking ban into law on April 4. A bill to prohibit fracking had passed the state House 97 to 40 with bipartisan support on March 10.

The following week, Gov. Hogan, a Republican, called for a ban. “The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits,” he said during a news conference.

On March 27, the state Senate approved such a bill with a 35 to 10 vote. The ban replaces the state’s current moratorium on the practice and make Maryland the second state to institute a prohibition on hydraulic fracturing.

Editor’s note: At press time, Gov. Hogan had not yet signed Maryland’s fracking ban into law. This article has been updated to reflect that change.

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