The Politics of SB862
Senate Bill 862 written and offered by Senator Joan Carter Conway, chairperson of the Maryland Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee looks like a reasonable offer in the political debate over fracking on its surface. SB862 even has the co-sponsorship and prestige of Senate President Mike Miller and bi-partisan support from Republican Senator George Edwards who represents District 1. The key part of Conway’s bill states: AT THE 2018 GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION, EACH LOCAL JURISDICTION IN THE STATE SHALL SUBMIT TO A REFERENDUM OF THE VOTERS OF THE LOCAL JURISDICTION THE QUESTION OF WHETHER TO AUTHORIZE HYDRAULIC FRACTURING IN THE LOCAL JURISDICTION. which gives the voters in each county in Maryland the power and the right to choose whether they want to ban fracking in the county where they live and vote. What could possibly be wrong with this idea? It’s power to the people in its most direct form. If you are Senator Conway or the bill’s two most notable co-sponsors, Senators Edwards and Miller, I believe a lot of things could go wrong. At this point in time, Senator Edwards, District 1 is the only part of Maryland that faces the threat of being fracked. The Marcellus Shale in that area is the only shale basin in Maryland the Gas & Oil Industry is currently interested in drilling and exploiting. If successful SB862 allows the Gas & Oil Industry to focus their formidable public relations and advertising machine entirely on the voters of Garrett and Allegany Counties.
The rest of the state will not matter to them, or to the outcome of the referendum. If you have a 2nd home near Deep Creek Lake, ski, bike, hike or vacation there, you are disenfranchised from this voting process. Much of Garrett County’s funding for its schools, Parks and other public projects come from non full-time residents who won’t be able to vote directly on this. Does anyone in Maryland believe that is appropriate in this case, for the people who fund services to not be represented? (taxation without representation) In the last comparable general election in 2014 approximately 9,000 votes were cast by just under 50% of the registered voters in Garrett County. This means the Industry only needs 4,600 votes to start fracking. So the registered voters of Garrett County can expect more robo-calls, more yard signs, more door knocking, more slick commercials about Jobs and “clean energy” on their favorite Pittsburgh TV stations during Steelers games and on Fox News than they have ever seen, read or heard before. This election cycle will also coincide with Governor Hogan's, Senator Edwards' and Delegate Beitzel’s re-elections making it a referendum on them as well. I’ve never been a one-issue voter. I’ve never understood the logic of it. But, a lot of people do it on emotional, heartfelt issues like guns and abortion. I believe fracking is one of those issues… and no amount of money and outside influence will sway those voters. The Gas & Oil Industry has nothing to lose by supporting SB862… and I believe they are ruthless. Senator Edwards, Delegate Beitzel and Gov. Hogan could be “collateral damage” in 2018 if SB862 is on the ballot instead of passing SB740 to ban fracking now. Senators Conway and Miller might be prudent to also consider that possibility in their 2018 re-election bids.
If I owned a million or multi-million dollar home on Deep Creek Lake, I would not leave Miller's office until he promised me he would support SB740.
Information from the Garrett County Finance Department shows there are 8,226 primary residents (property owners) on the tax roles valued at $1.2 billion and 21,351 secondary property owners valued at $3.1 billion. Secondary property owners pay 75% of Garrett County's real estate tax (property tax). This tax base funds county services, such as schools, fire, law enforcement, or many of the social programs; many of these property owners also pay ad valorem taxes for water and sewer projects or services.
Read more about the disenfranchised voters of Garrett County. CLICK HERE