Western Maryland

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - The Maryland Attorney General's office is weighing in on a bill to hold fracking companies more responsible for personal injury and property damage.

Labeling the natural gas drilling technique as "ultrahazardous and abnormally dangerous" would impose strict liability on the drilling company, wrote Sandra Brantley, counsel to the General Assembly, in a letter sent Wednesday.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Health officials and environmental advocates in Maryland are asking for a temporary stop to plans for fracking in the western part of the state.

Montgomery County Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo announced the proposed moratorium bill on Thursday during a news conference in Annapolis. He was joined by members of the Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland and opponents of the natural gas drilling method.

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CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) - A state panel charged with recommending safe practices for shale gas recovery in western Maryland is nearing the end of its work.

Tuesday's meeting in Cumberland includes a discussion about the final report, expected by year-end.

It's the panel's first meeting since Republican Larry Hogan was elected governor. Hogan has said he favors hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique that forces water and chemicals deep underground to crack the shale and release natural gas.

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FROSTBURG, Md. (AP) - University of Maryland researchers say there's a high likelihood that shale gas production in far western Maryland would negatively affect air quality in the region.

The report released Monday also found a high likelihood of negative impacts on occupational health and local medical systems due to surging employment in an industry with relatively high risks for respiratory ailments and truck accidents.

The report says there's a moderately high risk that water pollution from hydraulic fracturing would have public health consequences.

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HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - A state mortgage program is lowering its rates for two months in Western Maryland to entice homebuyers.

The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown reports the Maryland Mortgage Program will lower rates by a quarter percent for homes in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties. Any program loans that are reserved before Sept. 10 will be eligible.

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HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - Republican gubernatorial hopeful Larry Hogan is celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a campaign swing through western Maryland.

Hogan has appearances scheduled Monday in Oakland, Cumberland, Hagerstown and Frederick.

He says it's his first trip to the mostly rural, largely conservative region since he formally announced his candidacy in January.

Hogan's schedule includes an afternoon keynote speech at the opening of a new Allegany County Republican Party office in Cumberland.

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CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) - A group seeking separate statehood for western Maryland is holding its first official town hall meeting in Cumberland.

Volunteer Rich Biancone says the gathering Friday night at Allegany College of Maryland is for supporters, detractors and people who are just plain curious.

He tells the Cumberland Times-News that the initiative is led by Carroll County resident Scott Strzelczyk.

The group aims to form a new state composed of Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties.