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Maryland lawmakers vote to ban drilling known as fracking

Brian Witte, Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Maryland lawmakers voted Monday to ban hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, a process better known as fracking.

The Senate voted 35-10 for a measure that already has been approved by the House. That sends the bill to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who supports the ban.

Fracking isn't being done in Maryland now, but a moratorium on issuing permits ends in October.

Fracking opponents cited health and environmental concerns for not allowing the drilling process to ever happen in the state. The drilling technique forces pressurized water and chemicals underground to break up the rock and release the gas. Critics say the process and disposal of tainted wastewater pose risks of water and air pollution, earthquakes and property devaluation.

"Let the news go forth to Congress and the White House: Fracking can never be done safely," said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. "The Republican governor closest to D.C. — Larry Hogan of Maryland — has joined scientists and health leaders in agreeing that fracking must be banned."

Supporters of fracking say it could create jobs. A 2014 Towson University study found it could create 3,600 jobs over 10 years in economically distressed Garrett and Allegany counties in far western Maryland.

Drew Cobbs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, said the Maryland General Assembly's decision to approve a statewide ban could hurt families, jobs and energy security.

"Denying Maryland consumers, businesses and job-seekers the benefits that come with in-state energy production through hydraulic fracturing shuts the door on an important share of the American energy renaissance and western Maryland's future economic growth," Cobbs said in a statement after the vote.

A portion of the western side of the state sits atop the Marcellus Shale, which runs underground from New York to Tennessee. Neighboring West Virginia and Pennsylvania allow fracking, while New York and Vermont have banned it.