A bill in Maryland that would implement a fee on all land leased for the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as "fracking" has passed the House of Delegates by an 88-49 vote.
Del. Heather Mizuer (D) of Montgomery County sponsored the bill, which would take the money raised by the fees and spend it on a study of the effects of hydraulic fracturing. Opponents of the practice say the technique is responsible for poisoned water supplies and earthquakes in other states that lie on top of the Marcellus Shale. Companies are seeking to extract natural gas from the rock formation in Maryland.
"It's a question of whether does the taxpayer pay or does the industry pay? And we think the industry should pay for this," Mizuer said after a floord debate in the House.
Mizuer dismissed claims that growth of the industry in the state would bring jobs with it, noting that gas companies bring in professionals on their payrolls from outside the area.
"These aren't jobs for the local area," Mizeur said. "These are jobs for oil and gas professionals that are brought in from Texas, Louisiana, and other oil producing states."
"I'm fearful that what we're going to see is the companies that would even think of coming to Maryland to drill a well will say there's a big sign at our border saying 'Gas Companies Not Welcome,'" said Beitzel.
Republican delegate Michael McDermott of the Eastern Shore took a different tacking, saying the Demoratic majority in Annapolis are picking and choosing which energy industries to support based on politics: "Would you say that it's fair that we offer incentives for people to develop wind and solar, and yet we require this industry to pay us to study whether or not we should do it?"
Eric Robison lives in Garrett County and co-founded a website that warns of the dangers of fracking. He said drilling could ruin Garrett County's main industry: tourism.
"What will be the impact of a industrial process be on a tourist economy?" asked Robison. "We've taken almost 25 years to build it up to this point, and now we're going in a very short period of time to crash it, slow it down?"
Getting the fracking fees bill through the Senate will be much tougher than its passage in the House, said Mizeur.