A legislator in the Maryland House of Delegates announced Wednesday that she plans to introduce a bill next year that would impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the state’s portion of the Marcellus Shale until a comprehensive scientific study is completed.

“For the last two years, oil and gas lobbyists have defeated pragmatic proposals to fund environmental and public health safety studies on fracking in Maryland,” state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), a longtime foe of fracking, said at a press conference in Baltimore. “I want to make it clear that the public policy of the state of Maryland is no fracking until rigorous scientific studies are complete.”

Both chambers of the state General Assembly are scheduled to begin their 90-day legislative session for 2013 on Jan. 9.

Two Marcellus Shale regulatory bills sponsored by Mizeur in this year’s session ultimately met different ends (see Shale Daily, March 21). The first, HB 1123, called for establishing a “presumptive impact area” within a 2,500-foot radius of a vertical wellbore, and for operators to replace water supplies contaminated by oil and gas drilling. The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley on May 22.

Mizeur’s second bill, HB 1204, called for operators to post a surety bond of between $50,000 and $100,000 for each oil and gas well they drilled and to keep liability insurance ($300,000/person, $500,000/incident) in case of an accident. The measure — also known as the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Study Fee and Performance Bond Act — cleared House muster but subsequently died in the Senate Committee for Education, Health and Environmental Affairs.

Last year the state delegate led a failed attempt to freeze permitting in the Marcellus until 2013 while state agencies reviewed various studies on the play’s development and fracking, including one being performed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (see Shale Daily, March 25, 2011; Feb. 24, 2011).

Only two counties in Maryland — Garrett and Allegany, which are in the western Panhandle — overlie the Marcellus Shale, which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates could contain as much as 2.383 Tcf of technically recoverable natural gas.