After some confusion, a legislative committee voted 8-2 on Wednesday to defeat a bill that would have regulated hydraulic fracturing, a controversial technique used to extract oil and gas. Speaking before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, Rep. John Martin (D-Eagle Lake) said that he actually meant for his bill (LD 1453) to permanently ban the practice, not regulate it, and that it was in response to hearing reports of fracking attempts across the border in New Brunswick. 

He said he asked the Legislature’s Revisor’s Office to change the language to accommodate well drillers, who sometimes use the process to improve the yield of bedrock water wells. But the revised version of the bill only directed the state to create rules for regulating fracking, which Martin said was not his intent. He noted that there are already rules in place to control the subsurface discharge of pollutants.

“I know that it may disappoint some people in the room, but the bottom line is we don’t need the bill,” he said.

State geologist Robert Marvinney also testified that the bill is unnecessary, because, unlike parts of the Maritimes,  Maine’s geology offers no potential for hydrocarbon reserves — either for coventional oil and gas or shale gas extraction.

“The coastal area of New Brunswick near Moncton has several small oil and gas fields,” said Marvinney. “These fields are located within the Maritimes Basin of eastern New Brunswick —  a thick sequence of younger, unmetamorphosed sedimentary rocks. The Maritimes Basin does not extend westward into Maine.” 

 Nevertheless, two members of the committee supported an amendment to ban fracking anyway.