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Bel Air Town Council hears people call for a resolution supporting a Maryland ban on fracking … but do they listen?

6 December 2016

Concerned townsfolk and friends from around the county and neighboring Cecil and Baltimore counties rallied outside the Town Hall in Bel Air and called for a statewide ban on fracking in Maryland.  After some rousing Christmas carols, the group heard from Tracey Waite, President of Harford County Climate Action, Brooke Harper of Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Steve Mogge of Citizen Shale in Garrett County which would be one of the first to be affected if the Maryland moratorium on fracking was allowed to expire without a ban to replace it.

Rally to Ban Fracking, Bel Air Town Hall.

Rally to Ban Fracking, Bel Air Town Hall.

Then we went inside to speak to the Mayor and Town Commissioners directly and hear their response to our concerns.

Tracey Waite, president of Harford County Climate Action began with a detailed overview of climate science and why we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground to slow the rise in global temperatures and sea levels.   Spencer talked about the chemicals involved in fracking, the public health impacts and the economic devastation that follows its short term gains.

Khiyali and Alison, two teenagers who visited a community affected by fracking in Dimock, PA and who have since been learning more about the issue, also spoke to the council about why it was important to ban fracking, protect our water, and prioritize renewable energy.  Scott Businsky, a librarian in the County Libraries, talked about the impacts of fracking from a wider economic, socio-political and public health perspective, and the role of activism in a democratic society.  Brooke Harper talked about bans passed in other counties and towns in Maryland and Steve Mogge appealed to the council to understand the concerns of those who would be first affected, including his home county, Garrett. Wade Williams, Peter Purol, Fawn Palmer addressed various social, economic, environmental and health impacts and urged the Council to be on the right side of history on this issue.

Judy Pentz spoke from the heart about her own friends who were directly impacted by fracking in Pennsylvania.  Believing the claims of safety and economic opportunity, they leased their land for fracking and now were facing illness and much less money than initially advertised.  “In these times, who would not want to earn some extra money?  But as my friends found out all too quickly, it is not worth it.  They are sick, their kids are sick.”

Following the presentations which addressed technical, economic, environmental, health and social aspects of fracking, the Mayor thanked the group and asked if any Commissioners would like to respond.

Bel Air Town Council. From left: Brendan Hopkins, Patrick Richards, Susan Burdette (mayor), Robert Preston, Philip EInhorn

Bel Air Town Council. From left: Brendan Hopkins, Patrick Richards, Susan Burdette (mayor), Robert Preston, Philip Einhorn

The commissioners looked blankly at each other for a moment, then Hopkins began, “Yes I would like to express my appreciation to the police for the fine job they did with the parade this weekend.”  He continued for a few minuted on the parade, how well it went and how many people enjoyed it.  Another commissioner added his praises, saying that the Christmas and 4th of July parade were making Bel Air a destination not only for people of Harford County but throughout the region.

Suzanne Burdette, Mayor of Bel AirOnly the Mayor herself, Susan Burdette acknowledged the presentations on fracking, thanking people for coming before declaring the meeting adjourned.  Outside, long after everyone had left, I saw her still engaged in discussion with a few of the people who came to the meeting.

I would think protocol would at least call for any elected official to acknowledge people’s concerns and appreciate their taking the time to bring them to the town meeting, regardless of his or her own opinion on the specific issues raised.  It was heartening to see the mayor taking the time to talk to people, even outside in the cold after the formal meeting was adjourned.  We noticed that a couple of the commissioners did show interest while people were talking, and one even asked for more information.  So we do have an opportunity for further dialogue and we need to make the most of it.

Regarding the other commissioners, if their stony silence is any indication of their response to our call for a resolution in support of a Maryland ban on fracking, they can expect the Bel Air Town Hall to become a destination not only for people of Bel Air and Harford County but throughout the region.

Hear some of the speakers:

Steve Mogge of Citizen Shale, Khiyali Pillalamarri of Harford County Climate Action, and Scott Businsky, who is a librarian spoke about the impacts of fracking – economic, environmental, health, social and asked the Council to pass a resolution in support of a Maryland statewide ban on fracking.

Alison Kinney and Wade Wiliams

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2 Comments
  1. They probably know little about the issue or franking on general. I Believe it is time to send information to each town commissioner to educate about Fracking and then a repeat visit to them in the near future

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