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May 01

Opinion: Governor Hogan Disingenuous on Fracking

By Monica O’Connor in the Capital Gazette.

 

Gov. Larry Hogan’s policies on fracking — natural gas extraction through the technology known as hydraulic fracturing — are disingenuous.

Hogan did sign 2017 legislation banning fracking in the state with laudable words about protecting our “clean water supply and natural resources.” But this is just astute political maneuvering. The truth is that the governor doesn’t support clean-energy policies and has been busy bolstering a robust and statewide infrastructure for fracked gas.

After allaying concerns by signing the fracking ban into law, Hogan — along with his allies on the Public Service Commission and in the state Department of Energy — has been kick-starting a natural gas boom by aggressively promoting a dangerous web of fracked gas pipeline infrastructure and gas combustion projects throughout the state.

Take, for example, the Potomac Pipeline, recently green-lighted by Hogan despite fierce opposition from activists, health professionals and residents concerned about the safety of the drinking water that millions of people get from the Potomac River.

This pipeline is a project of TransCanada Corp., responsible for the infamous Keystone XL line that experienced leaks in 2016 and 2017. It will carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania across Maryland to West Virginia. With no oversight by the state, TransCanada will be allowed to excavate for and drill a 3.4-mile pipeline under the Potomac.

The alarming lack of independent oversight indicates that the risk and potential harm to water quality are acceptable to Hogan, despite recent spills when the same technology was used in Pennsylvania and Ohio. There is ample historic evidence that pipelines leak.

Another project, the proposed Delmarva Pipeline, would travel 190 miles from Rising Sun down the Eastern Shore, passing through eight of the Shore’s nine counties and substantial amounts of farmland. While the gas industry will surely profit, Maryland will suffer scarred landscapes, air and waterways pollution and risks to local livelihoods. Any financial gain for the Eastern Shore will come at a steep price.

The most telling indicator of Hogan’s support of for the fracked gas industry is his attitude toward the people of Lusby in Southern Maryland. They live alongside Cove Point, the newly expanded liquefied natural gas export terminal on the Chesapeake Bay. The terminal is owned by Virginia-based Dominion Energy Co.

This export terminal, the first on the East Coast, is nestled in a community of anxious residents. It will ship thousands upon thousands of gallons of liquid gas across the Chesapeake to Asia. Although the people of Lusby have petitioned and pleaded with Hogan to order a nonbiased study to assess the health and safety impact of the terminal, he has accepted Dominion’s own study and has effectively ignored the residents.

To make the burgeoning fracked gas industry more profitable requires an extensive and expanding network of new fossil fuel infrastructure. The Hogan administration recently negotiated with Canadian-owned AltaGas and approved its acquisition of the holding company for Washington Gas. This settlement encourages the promotion of infrastructure expansion throughout the state — more pipelines, more compressor stations and all the environmental degradation that come with them.

Come November, if voters are concerned with how rising waters, salination of farmland, polluted air and waterways, erratic weather and erosion will affect our health and economy, they should not look to the governor for leadership. Neither should they confuse his political posturing — his 2017 decision to support the fracking ban or his decision this year to join the Climate Alliance — with his real intentions.

As clean energy job initiatives die in the legislature because of lack of support from the administration, the fossil fuel fracked gas industry continues to grow and expand. Gov. Larry Hogan’s concessions to the environment lack credibility — the fracking ban is a hoax.

Monica O’Connor is on the steering committee of Maryland WISE Women, a group of 600 women who work towards promoting just legislation. Contact her through marylandwisewomen@gmail.com.