By Elisabeth Hoffman and Margaret Flowers, www.popularresistance.org
When Gov. Larry Hogan took office Wednesday, protectors of Marylanders’ air, water, soil, health and climate were in attendance. By our presence and signs, we let the new governor know from Day 1 that fracking is not safe for Maryland.
During the inauguration, about 20 people stood in the cold and, eventually, the snow — including folks from BXE (Beyond Xtreme Energy), who turned the PA inauguration, Maryland’s inauguration and a monthly FERC meeting Thursday into a 3-day roadshow.
We ended up in an area the state police (or other police agency) had designated for protesters. Officers said they were expecting protesters — and we were duly photographed by men with earpieces — but it was a good spot. We were behind the smallish crowd there for the inauguration, facing the stage (but not visible to the new governor because of trees). Many people had to walk by us, coming and going. We didn’t yell — we stood with our signs and answered questions. We were cordial, and we got some thumbs up and thanks. As we were the only opposition around, several reporters and TV folks talked to us.
One man attending the inauguration approached our group with an aggressive tone and told us we should not be there. “Why do you want a confrontation?” he yelled. We told him why we were there. He eventually said he disagreed with the science of fracking: “Oh, is that like that climate change science?” he asked. (It’s possible he didn’t know what fracking was; several people asked us what fracking was.)
Much later, when the three of us who remained were waiting in line to greet the new governor and personally give him our message, this confrontational man spotted us and yelled at us yet again for being at a “REPUBLICAN EVENT.” We told him that this was a Maryland event and that Gov. Hogan was the governor for all Marylanders. (Of course, our new governor had better not jeopardize our health, the tourism businesses of western Maryland, the property values of Western Marylanders, the climate, land, air and water for this economic bubble called fracking. If he does, we won’t be so polite.)
Then we spotted Craig Stevens (an anti-fracking activist from Pennsylvania) in a parallel line, so we joined forces, becoming a clump of four. In our group, Craig went first. The governor and lieutenant governor looked a bit stunned. Their smiles drooped. Craig said he’d be in touch. The rest of us asked them to look at the science, to not experiment on Marylanders as other states have experimented on their citizens. We asked them to protect the health and property values of people in Western Marylanders (we figured property values would be of utmost importance to this new GOP administration). The lieutenant governor, who seemed slightly more approachable/concerned, said he’d give that some consideration or some such. Hogan didn’t say much of anything, mostly nodded. Each of us kept shaking his hand and talking until the state version of the secret service made us move along. Very brief encounters.
In the evening, about a dozen environmental justice advocates gathered in the Baltimore Hilton, the location of a VIP event for the governor preceding the inaugural ball. Hundreds of people dressed in tuxedos and expensive dresses waited in a long line in front of us to be allowed into the reception room. We waited for about 45 minutes to see the new governor, but he was nowhere to be seen. We hoped to catch his attention as he arrived.
Finally, we felt that we needed to do something. The hotel security were eyeing us, definitely wondering why we were there and what they ought to do about it.
With so many politicians and politically-connected people so close to us, we decided that it was time to pull out our signs. We began chanting “Ban Fracking Now!” as loudly as we could. Security and the police moved in and ushered us down the escalator, through the open lobby and out the door. As we were escorted out, we noticed attendees taking photos of us and our signs.
We then gathered outside the hotel and held our signs. We received honks from cars passing by. We did see the governor walk across an elevated bridge between the convention center and hotel when he finally arrived and at least some in his party saw us.
Governor Hogan has said fracking in the Marcellus Shale will be a “gold mine” for Maryland. He says we have studied fracking enough. We encourage him to review the studies. They show that fracking threatens our air, water, soil, health, farm animals, pets, and climate. No regulations have been shown to make fracking safe. Every state says it can frack safely; no state has been able to do so. Regulations PERMIT harm, they don’t protect from harm.
Here’s a summary of the studies so far:
Based on those studies, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said fracking was not safe for New Yorkers. Citing the same evidence, 75 organizations are calling on Maryland legislators to place a long-term moratorium on fracking in our state.
We will let Governor Hogan know that he doesn’t have a mandate to frack in our state. Many
Maryland residents still know little about fracking, but of those familiar with fracking, nearly two-thirds say it poses a hazard to Maryland and more than half want to ban it. (Goucher poll from October 2014 here.)