On Wednesday, scores of concerned Baltimore residents gathered in front of City Hall to rally attention to the danger posed by exploding trains carrying crude oil through the heart of our city. Our friends at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Clean Water Action helped organize the event. CSX bomb trains bisect Charm City; the winding route takes these dangerous vehicles by the home stadia of the Ravens and Orioles, Johns Hopkins University, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum, City Hall, the Maryland Zoo and many thousands of Baltimore’s citizens.
This week, Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a three-year moratorium on fracking. The final vote: 93-45. The House also passed a crude-by-rail measure directing the state’s environment and health departments to study risks and find out how many crude oil trains travel through Maryland. The tally: 123-14. Both have margins sufficient to sustain a veto. The Maryland Senate also passed a fracking liability bill 29-17, also a large enough margin for a veto override. The proposals now sit in the opposite chamber awaiting a hearing with the clock ticking toward the end of the legislative session.
From underneath the Howard Street Bridge, I often hear the squeak of CSX trains traveling underground on my light rail ride home. In Baltimore, we expect increases in the volume of petroleum-by-rail destined for the port terminal. The oil industry desires Baltimore as a destination so they can ship crude oil by tanker to refineries along the East Coast. And, if Congress lifts the oil export ban, these shipments will go worldwide. Targa Resources, a Texas-based company, recently filed a permit to construct a crude oil shipping facility at the Fairfield peninsula in South Baltimore.
The Marcellus Shale is a deep natural gas reserve running under parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. The Utica Shale is even deeper and larger, covering parts of these states plus Kentucky and Tennessee. For the last several years, the Marcellus has been the focus of a huge boom in exploration and extraction, and more recently activity has also started in the Utica (especially in Ohio and West Virginia). New drilling technologies, like the combination of hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, have made these deposits—long considered too difficult and expensive to drill—accessible to the industry.
This week, the Maryland General Assembly (MGA) began its 435th legislative session.
The political dynamic has changed dramatically since last year. November’s election provided us with dozens of new delegates and senators, as well as a new Republican governor, Larry Hogan.