Concerns over fracking dominated the discussion on Thursday at a town hall meeting held by Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner to discuss items on the county’s 2017 legislative agenda.
Gardner sent letters to 75 local organizations in August, requesting suggestions for legislation to send to Annapolis when the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes in January.
In Thursday’s meeting, Gardner invited residents to weigh in on the proposals that made it to the county’s 2017 legislative package, or suggest new initiatives of their own.
Roughly 17 members of Frederick County Ban Fracking Now, a grassroots organization, attended the meeting to emphasize their support for a statewide ban on fracking. Five separate speakers from the group requested that Frederick County submit a resolution to the General Assembly requesting a statewide ban, and ban fracking within the county.
“This is bigger than us,” said Alicia Barmon, a resident of Johnsville and a leader of the Ban Fracking group. “If western Maryland is fracked, we will see the impact here in Frederick County.”
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the practice of drilling deep into the earth to reach natural shale formations, then injecting water through deep-run pipes to crack the rock and release oil and natural gas deposits. It has been attributed to the pollution of groundwater and an increase in earthquakes, though scientists tend to disagree on the true biological impact of the drilling.
Gardner opposes fracking, but she stressed in the meeting that the practice is unlikely to enter Frederick County. There are few local deposits of shale, and current zoning laws also significantly restrict where prospective fracking operations would be able to set up here, she said.
Gardner also heard suggestions on a variety of topics other than fracking. Anthony Moscato, a resident of downtown Frederick, asked that the county propose a bond bill to receive funding for repair and maintenance at Rose Hill Manor Park, a historical landmark on North Market Street in Frederick.
Jane Weir, a Middletown resident, also asked that Gardner withhold support for the downtown hotel and conference center, a future development by Plamondon Hospitality Partners in Frederick. Weir expressed concern that public funding would be used for the hotel portion of the project, despite past assurances that would not happen.
Other residents also expressed support for pre-existing legislative initiatives. Ed Hinde, the executive director of the Student Homeless Initiative Partnership of Frederick County, thanked Gardner for accepting a proposal submitted by the organization.
That proposal would allow tax-exempt hotel stays for needy families if the room is paid for by the government or a human service agency.
According to Gardner, she plans to take the ideas suggested in the town hall meeting to the County Council, which will vote on new initiatives and finalize the 2017 legislative package at a workshop on Oct. 25.