Oklahoma, Maryland, Fracking Policies Diverge

Published June 12, 2015

In late May, the Oklahoma and Maryland state legislatures charted difference courses for energy oil and gas development in their respective states.

Oklahoma Bars City Fracking Bans

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), signed a bill, May 29 preventing Oklahoma cities and counties would from banning hydraulic fracturing oil and gas development within their boundaries, whether conducted using fracking or not. The bill specifically prohibits cities or towns from banning operations such as drilling, fracking, water disposal, recovery operations or pipeline infrastructure.

The law, taking effect in 90 days, does allow municipalities or counties to enact “reasonable” regulations concerning road use, traffic, noise and odors incidental to oil and gas operation as well as allowing cities to set fencing requirements around oil and gas drilling sites as well as set-back requirements for how closly wells can be sited near homes or businesses. 

Supporters of the law, including the governor, reaffirm argue reaffirms the three-member Oklahoma Corporation Commission as the regulator of the oil and gas industry. In a statement, Gov. Fallin says, “Corporation commissioners are elected by the people of Oklahoma to regulate the oil and gas industry. They are best equipped to make decisions about drilling and its effect on seismic activity, the environment and other sensitive issues. “The alternative is to pursue a patchwork of regulations that, in some cases, could arbitrarily ban energy exploration and damage the state’s largest industry, largest employers and largest taxpayers.” 

Maryland Applies Brakes to Fracking

In contrast to Oklahoma’s embrace of fracking, a moratorium was placed on fracking in Maryland until October 2016. The bill became law without Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s. Hogan, elected in 2014, campaigned as a supporter of fracking and argued strict regulations imposed by previous Gov. Martin O’Malley signature 

The legislation will bar the state from issuing permits for the controversial drilling practice until October 2017. It requires Maryland’s Department of the Environment to adopt regulations for the practice by October 2016. As a candidate last year, Hogan expressed strong support for hydraulic fracturing criticizing restrictions then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) proposed for fracking operations. Citing a 2014 study from Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute which determined hydraulic fracturing in Western Maryland could generate more than 3,000 jobs and upwards of $5 million in new tax revenue each year during peak drilling Hogan argued the state was “sitting on an economic gold mine.” 

The law became effective without the governor’s signature or support May 29. Hogan spokesman Matt Clark said the governor “continues to support the safe and responsible development of energy to meet the current and future needs of citizens and to promote job growth in Western Maryland.” Hogan did not veto the bill since it was approved with veto-proof margins in the Democrat controlled legislature: 103 to 33 in the House of Delegates and 45 to 2 in the Senate. 

The Maryland Petroleum Council, expressed disappointment the drilling moratorium would take effect. Its Executive Director, Drew Cobbs told the Washington Post, “Most Marylanders are already benefitting from shale development because of lower energy costs and cleaner air. Unfortunately, because of this delay, the folks in Western Maryland who could benefit from natural-gas development will have to wait to take advantage of this safe and proven technology.”

H. Sterling Burnett ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.