“Both bills are coming out of my committee if I have anything to do with it.” Senator Joan Carter Conway said to the Daily Record on Thursday. “If I stand here saying, ‘They’re coming out,’ they’re coming out."
Conway, Chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee (EHEA) is referring to the much debated bills, SB740 that calls for a ban on fracking and SB862 that proposes a moratorium and referenda allowing each Maryland county to vote on fracking independently of other county decisions.
If Conway doesn't have "anything to do with it," when referring to the two bills, it raises the question - who does? Since she chairs the committee it would seem it's ultimately her decision; however, Senate President, Mike Miller has already declared his support of the moratorium bill saying, “I prefer a lengthy moratorium with a vote. Let the citizens vote on the issue,” said Miller. “That’s what democracy is all about.” Conway also has her name only on this bill.
Many disagree with Miller's opinion about his first choice being a democratic solution to fracking. Arguments over nonvoting residents of Garrett County have already been raised. Over twice as many property owners in Garrett have no local voting rights since they are not full-time residents. It is also argued the industrial activity is not contained by the political boundaries of a single county. Air and water pollution, plus heavy industrial traffic will extend beyond the boarders of each county allowing gas drilling.
EHEA heard nearly seven hours of testimony over the ban bill on March 28. Since then growing tensions over which bill will emerge the victor has Senators and their constituents on edge. Residents in other shale basins of Maryland are expressing discomfort with the moratorium bill since fracking is no longer viewed as just a Western Maryland issue.
“I’m not a proponent of fracking,” Conway continued, “and when I said they probably won’t get a ban, it’s on the analysis that the governor will probably veto the bill. I told them the issue has always been you need to veto-proof your bill.”
Conway may stay cool while being in the hot seat as Chair, but her committee will be making one of the biggest decisions in this year's General Assembly. Her statements have been consistent in asking for a veto-proof bill which places the pressure on the Senate more than herself.
Contact Senators in your district to see where they stand.