Appalachian Basin

Allowing Fracking In Maryland “Will Help Narrow the Energy Gap” For Minorities

Derrick Hollie is the President of Reaching America, a non-profit education and policy organization developed to address the complex social issues impacting African American communities today, including education, criminal justice reform, occupational licensing reform and energy.

Dozens of Maryland residents showed up this week in Annapolis to voice their disproval of two pieces of legislation — Senate Bill 0740 and House Bill 1325 — that would prohibit the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Maryland.

As I said in my testimony, there is too much at stake for Marylanders to allow the misinformation from activists to influence policy in the form of a ban:

“Madam Chairman, Mr. Vice-Chair, and members, thank you for allowing me to give my testimony opposing SB 740, the Oil and Natural Gas – Hydraulic Fracturing – Prohibition and SB 862 – Environment – Hydraulic Fracturing – Moratorium and Referenda.

My name is Derrick Hollie and I’m the president of Reaching America, a 501(c)(4) education and policy organization developed to address the complex social issues impacting African American communities today. Our country is divided in ways we haven’t seen since the 1960s and 70s. We address issues we feel like everyone can agree on, whether you’re white, black or on the right or left side of the aisle.

These issues include education, criminal justice reform, occupational licensing reform and what we’re discussing today — energy.

When I first graduated from college, I moved back home to Chesapeake, Va., and worked for Norfolk Southern Railway as a brakeman. Our job was to load ships that transported coal all around the world and I’ve always asked the question, “If our coal and natural resources are good enough for other countries, then why is it not good enough for us right here at home?” My grandfather was also a black coal miner and fossil fuels have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

This year Maryland has an opportunity to move our state forward by helping businesses create jobs, providing safe, clean, affordable energy for our people, helping get minorities out of poverty, and leveling the playing field with other energy-producing states.

As lawmakers in the General Assembly, you are currently considering whether to renew a ban on the natural gas retrieval method called hydraulic fracturing.

This method has been safely practiced across the country for more than six decades but has grown more popular in recent years, and has driven down the price of the fuel while also decreasing carbon emissions.

One of the issues Reaching America does the most work on is reducing energy poverty across the board.

Energy poverty occurs when households are unable to afford their basic electric and heating needs because of high energy prices. High energy prices are destructive for all segments of the population, but for the black community the impact is even worse.

Right now, 1,113,342 homes in Maryland are heated by natural gas, and millions more are powered in part by burning natural gas. Harnessing Maryland’s energy potential will help narrow the energy gap by ensuring African American households are just as warm and secure as everyone else’s.

This should be an area where a variety of political and social viewpoints can agree. Even former President Obama’s EPA chief Gina McCarthy has praised natural gas, calling it a “game changer.”

But despite natural gas being clean, plentiful, and affordable, many anti-energy activists want to continue completely blocking Maryland’s ability to mine the resource ourselves. Instead of taking advantage of the resources we have here in the Old-Line State and providing good jobs and cheap energy, we’re paying the salaries of workers in other states.

It is time for Maryland’s leaders to do the right thing. There is too much at stake for black, low income, and other minority communities for Maryland to be bullied into continuing a misguided ban.

Thank you for your time and attention this afternoon, and thank you for your consideration of voting against continuing this ban on natural gas exploration.”

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