Maryland Should Explore Opportunities With Natural Gas

This year Maryland has an opportunity to move the state forward by helping businesses create jobs, providing safe, clean, affordable energy for its people, helping get minorities out of poverty, and leveling the playing field with other energy-producing states. That is, if anti-energy activists in Annapolis don’t get their way.

Lawmakers in the General Assembly are considering whether or not to renew a ban on the natural gas retrieval method called hydraulic fracturing.

This method has been safely practiced across the country for more than six decades but has grown more popular in recent years, and has driven down the price of the fuel while also decreasing carbon emissions.

Opponents of natural gas exploration have resorted to scare tactics and bullying of legislators to stop Maryland residents from having access to this affordable, job creating resource.

My non-profit Reaching America, a 501(c)(4) education and policy organization developed to address the complex social issues impacting African American communities, works toward reducing energy poverty across the board.

Energy poverty occurs when households are unable to afford their basic electric and heating needs because of high energy prices. High energy prices are destructive for all segments of the population, but for the black community the impact is even worse. Many black Americans are already at a disadvantaged economic position, with median incomes 33 percent lower than the national average as recently as 2013.

Right now 1,113,342 homes in Maryland are heated by natural gas, and millions more are powered in part by burning natural gas. Harnessing Maryland’s energy potential will help narrow the energy gap by ensuring African American households are just as warm and secure as everyone else’s.

This should be an area where a variety of political and social viewpoints can agree. Even former President Obama’s EPA chief Gina McCarthy has praised natural gas, calling it a “game changer.”

In addition to the common sense regulations proposed by Governor Hogan, companies that extract natural gas will also comply with strict federal laws. Many of these rules have already been tested by other states and will make sure Maryland natural gas is a safe and clean energy source.

But despite natural gas being clean, plentiful, and affordable, many anti-energy activists want to continue completely blocking Maryland’s ability to mine the resource ourselves. Instead of taking advantage of the resources we have here in the Old Line State and providing good jobs and cheap energy, we’re paying the salaries of workers in other states.

While dozens of other states have embraced natural gas, Maryland has stayed stuck in the past, and it is costing us dearly.

Garrett County alone could see an increase of 2,000 jobs when the ban is lifted, boosting both the local and state economies. Not only will these jobs mean brighter futures for those workers, it also means more revenue for the state without raising taxes.

Instead of listening to the scare tactics of out-of-state special interest groups, it is time for Maryland’s leaders to do the right thing. There is too much at stake for black, low income, and other minority communities for Maryland to be bullied into continuing a misguided ban.