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Much has been made of Maryland state legislators’ failure to pass an adequate state budget. But they left other important matters unfinished.

Even though Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles) strongly supported it, legislation to place Maryland at the forefront of offshore wind power died in the finance committee despite clear indications that sufficient votes for passage existed in the full Senate. The House earlier had passed it 88-47. Southern Maryland Dels. John F. Wood (D-St. Mary’s, Charles), Mark Fisher (R-Calvert) and Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) opposed the bill. Our local papers also reported that two St. Mary’s College students were arrested for protesting this failure on the steps of the State House in Annapolis.

In another energy-related matter, HB1204 never reached the Senate floor. The American Petroleum Institute lobbied heavily against the measure which would have studied the effects of the hydraulic “fracking” drilling method for natural gas which is proposed for three western Maryland counties. Again Dels. Wood, Fisher and O’Donnell voted “nay.”

Del. Wood defended his vote by commenting that many jobs and “proven, low-cost energy” would result from such drilling in Maryland. But studies indicate that many fewer jobs than projected by the industry would be developed, and that other economic sectors of the state economy, such as agriculture and tourism, would suffer.

Unfortunately, the potential costs of the fracking process are far greater than economic: Accidents and leaks have polluted air, streams and drinking water. Toxic chemicals present in fracking fluids have caused cancer and other health problems in Pennsylvania, New York and western states.

Food & Water Watch and Sierra Club are hosting a presentation of the award-winning documentary film “Gasland” Thursday, May 3, at the Charlotte Hall Library meeting room. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a brief discussion. For more information about the event, contact ff725@yahoo.com, or call 301-472-4279.

“Gasland” documents widespread incidents of pollution near drilling sites, and many households have discovered their water is not only undrinkable after gas drilling, it’s even flammable. Filmmaker Josh Fox talks to dozens of property owners, environmental experts, industry spokespersons, and legislators about fracking and the challenges of natural gas extraction.

Our energy needs would be far better served by aggressively investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources like wind and solar which would result in a safe, sustainable future for the state, the country, and the earth.

Christine Schmitthenner, Mechanicsville