A bill that would ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) wastewater imports, storage, treatment, discharge or disposal generated in other states has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly.

HB 296, also known as the Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Prohibition Act, was introduced last Friday by Del. Shane Robinson (D-Montgomery Village). During Monday's legislative session the bill was added to the agenda for the Feb. 15 meeting of the House Environmental Matters Committee. HB 296 doesn't call for a ban on wastewater generated from wells in Maryland, but there is currently no fracking in the state now under way.

"My primary concern is the safety of Maryland's citizens," Robinson told the Cumberland Times-News. "Maryland treatment plants lack the capability to safely treat this toxic wastewater, so there is no good reason why it should be transported through our state, endangering our people as a result."

Only two counties in Maryland -- Garrett and Allegany, which are in the western Panhandle -- overlay the Marcellus Shale, which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates could contain as much as 2.383 Tcf of technically recoverable natural gas. According to reports, commissioners from both counties sent a letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley in December, urging him to speed up the process to allow gas development to move forward.

In December an advisory panel formed by O'Malley recommended that the General Assembly impose a severance tax on gas production and a fee on gas leases (see Shale Daily, Dec. 14, 2011). The panel, composed of a broad range of stakeholders (see Shale Daily, July 22, 2011), is scheduled to recommend best practices for gas exploration and production by Aug. 1, and to submit a final report on Marcellus drilling by Aug. 1, 2014.

The General Assembly began its 90-day legislative session on Jan. 11 and is scheduled to adjourn on April 9.