On Friday, Oklahoma signed legislation that prevents municipalities and county from banning fracking, a week after Texas enacted similar legislation. The same day, Maryland’s governor neither vetoed nor signed a bill enacting a two-year ban on fracking, allowing it to become law.
The new legislation in Oklahoma, Texas, and Maryland has been inked in the context of a broader tug-of-war over energy extraction, which has taken place below the federal level. In recent years, environmental groups have increasingly focused on state and local bans on energy extraction.
Maryland joins New York and Vermont in enacting a state-wide prohibition on fracking.
And according to Food and Water Watch’s recent count, local- or county-level bans or moratoriums on fracking have been adopted in at least 23 states, as well as the District of Columbia; in total, more than 400 places have enacted some sort of restriction on the process.
Such a wide variety of rules can create regulatory snaggles, as Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin noted in a news release. Without state law prohibiting fracking bans, she said, Oklahoma risked “a patchwork of regulations that, in some cases, could arbitrarily ban energy exploration and damage the state’s largest industry, largest employers, and largest taxpayers.” Elected commissioners are best equipped to protect the state’s environment, she added.
The stakes are high.
Bans and moratoriums have increasingly faced legal challenges, and one study found that taxpayers in Boulder County alone could be on the line for $1 billion in compensation to land owners deprived of their property and mineral rights.
There’s also the potential loss of billions of tax dollars, which would have repercussions through all levels of government.
Given these major repercussions, it’s little surprise that states are increasingly hesitant to accept regulation of fracking as a local level.