Maryland Fracking Ban is Huge Win for People Power

It’s official: Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has signed into law a statewide fracking ban. The bill was passed with bipartisan support in the state legislature, and Maryland is now the third state to ban fracking. This historic achievement is a true testament to the power of grassroots organizing, and believing that even when the odds are stacked against us, we can do extraordinary things. This victory belongs to the thousands of Marylanders who have worked for years to keep fracking out of the state. Thank you!

Here’s a short history of our campaign to ban fracking in Maryland, and five key pieces to the winning strategy.

We Stuck to Our Guns

Food & Water Watch has been working towards this victory for more than five years. We were the first national group to call for a ban on fracking everywhere, and since then we’ve kept statewide bans like the one in Maryland squarely in our sights.

When our campaign in Maryland started in 2012, there were only a small handful of advocacy groups and activists calling for a complete fracking ban. We wrote a report on the need to ban fracking in Maryland, and as we worked to educate the public and elected officials about the dangers of fracking, we stuck to one clear demand: Ban fracking now.

We focused on building political power

Our job was to make people who didn’t want to ban fracking to do it anyway. Ever since 2013, when we worked with Delegate Shane Robinson and Senator Karen Montgomery to introduce the first bill to ban fracking in Maryland, our focus was on organizing in key districts across the state so we would have the power needed to win. We knocked on doors, held film screenings and volunteer meetings, and pushed elected officials to come out against fracking. And with this victory, we proved that when we come together, people power can beat the oil and gas industry. Next up, Florida!

We Played to Win

Going up against the oil and gas industry and some of the most powerful politicians in the state would require serious muscle. So we built a team of five field organizers to work around the clock during the legislative session and pressure key legislators to vote to ban fracking.

Groups and activists across the state held dozens of meetings, rallies and actions leading up to the legislative session. We delivered 35,000 petitions and letters to lawmakers, and even recorded a radio ad with “The Addams Family” actor John Astin. Food & Water Watch organizers and volunteers generated more than 5,500 phone calls to Senate offices during the legislative session. More than a thousand people marched in Annapolis calling for a ban on fracking, and thirteen activists even went to jail demanding Senators pass our bill. All these actions, big and small, convinced legislators to side with the people over Big Oil & Gas.

We Grew the Movement at the Local Level

As the saying goes, all politics is local. From our experience in New York and elsewhere, we knew that working to pass a fracking ban in counties and towns could effectively galvanize the grassroots movement needed to win.

In March of 2013, we helped pass a ban on fracking wastewater in the Baltimore City Council, and in 2014, we worked with Montgomery County to ban fracking there. When the state legislature passed a fracking moratorium in 2015, things really started to pick up steam. Working with partners, we passed fracking bans in Prince George’s County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City and Friendsville in Garrett County. We also passed fracking resolutions in Frederick County and about a dozen other jurisdictions across the state. These local actions brought thousands of people into the anti-fracking movement, and set us up to win big at the state level.

We Organized a Statewide Coalition

When Governor O’Malley released regulations in December of 2014 that would have led to fracking in Maryland, we knew that a major campaign would be necessary to keep fracking out of our state. Governor Cuomo announcing a ban on fracking in New York inspired more groups to join the fight. We helped form the Don’t Frack Maryland coalition and against the odds won a two year moratorium on fracking during the 2015 legislative session. This gave us more time to organize across the state and lay the groundwork to ban fracking once and for all.

Between 2015 and 2017, the Don’t Frack Maryland coalition grew to include more than 170 organizations in support of a statewide fracking ban. Together, we organized sign-on letters from health professionals, businesses and faith leaders, and coordinated countless events from Mountain Maryland to the Eastern Shore. Our victory against fracking would not have been possible without the tireless work of this coalition.

Special thanks is owed to our key partners in the Don’t Frack Maryland coalition: Citizen Shale, Don’t Frack Western Maryland, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Howard County Climate Action, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland Sierra Club and Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

Source: “Maryland Band Fracking in Huge Win for People Power.” Food and Water Watch. 27 March 2017.

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