Senators Robert A. Zirkin and Jamie Raskin have introduced legislation aimed at drastically reducing hydraulic fracturing operations in Maryland. The bill, Senate Bill 458, would hold parties engaging in hydraulic fracturing operations strictly liable for injuries, deaths, or other losses caused by the fracking activities.

A plaintiff relying on Senate Bill 458 would have a rebuttable presumption that the defendant was jointly and severally liable for the plaintiff’s damages deriving from the hydraulic fracturing operations and the proximate cause for those damages. The bill would be limited to plaintiffs living in “a certain presumptive impact areas.”

Senate Bill 458 would also strip companies of several defenses and increase the insurance requirements currently imposed on parties engaging in hydraulic fracturing operations. Senate Bill 458 proposes to prohibit defendants from asserting that they fully complied with applicable laws and standards. Moreover, the bill purports to render void any contractual agreements in which the plaintiff may have waived claims against the defendant.

Senate Bill 458 would also set forth the awards plaintiffs should receive in certain cases and permit plaintiffs to recover economic as well as noneconomic damages. In fact, the bill triples a plaintiff’s award if the defendant has violated a state or federal law or is guilty of gross negligence or willful misconduct. Additionally, the bill would heighten the insurance requirements imposed on parties engaging in hydraulic fracturing. Under Senate Bill 458, information relating to the chemical composition of fracking fluids would not be eligible for trade secret protection.

Zirkin has expressed his desire to enact a ban on hydraulic fracturing. In fact, Zirkin has previously sponsored a bill that would have banned fracking in the state. That earlier bill was easily defeated. Many members of the oil and gas industry have stated that Senate Bill 458 would constitute a ban on hydraulic fracturing.

Read the proposed bill.