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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Anti-fracking lawmakers oppose gas pipeline agreement

Two state legislators who led the fight to ban fracking in Maryland say they oppose a plan to allow construction of a pipeline under the Western Maryland Rail/Trail.

The agreement with Columbia Gas Transmission would allow for the construction of the pipeline 100 feet underground using a 50-foot wide easement. The contract, which would require the company to pay the state $5,000, is scheduled for a vote before the Board of Public Works Wednesday. None of the gas in the pipeline would be extracted in Maryland using the controversial natural gas extraction method known as fracking.

Sen. Robert A. 'Bobby' Zirkin, D-Baltimore County

Sen. Robert A. ‘Bobby’ Zirkin, D-Baltimore County

“Maryland banned fracking in 2017 because of the threat it posed to public health and our environment,” said Senator Robert Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. “Fracked gas infrastructure like the proposed Potomac Pipeline pose the same threat to the Potomac River, which supplies drinking water for our region. The Board of Public Works should keep Maryland frack free and reject the easement for this dangerous fracked gas pipeline.” That is why I will be introducing legislation to improve the environmental review and oversight of new pipelines proposed in Maryland.”

Zirkin and Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo, D-Montgomery County, led the successful effort in 2017 to ban fracking in Maryland. The passage of the legislation came after Gov. Larry Hogan announced his support for such a ban, breaking a deadlock in a key Senate committee.

“With several new pipelines currently under consideration, this is the time for Maryland to improve its process for evaluating the environmental risks of fracked gas infrastructure,” said Fraser-Hidalgo “This year I will be introducing legislation to improve the environmental review and oversight of new pipelines proposed in Maryland. Given the environmental concerns, I question why we are continuing to build and invest in climate-polluting fossil fuel infrastructure when that time and energy should be spent on renewables.”

The project is meant to increase the ability to supply natural gas. The proposed pipeline has the approval of both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Maryland Public Service Commission.

“Maryland has a responsibility to properly evaluate the environmental and economic impacts of large infrastructure projects to ensure they are truly in the interest of the state and its residents,” said Josh Tulkin, Director, Maryland Sierra Club “In the case of the Potomac Pipeline, Maryland agencies fell short, and it is now up to the Board of Public Works to be the responsible backstop. We urge the Board to reject this easement, and call on the General Assembly to improve how Maryland responds to pipeline applications in the future.”

The Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network oppose the project.

Environmental groups said geology under the proposed right-of-way could threaten the pipeline and the drinking water in the region if it is drilled or disturbed by construction.

The Karst geology under the proposed right-of-way presents too great a threat to be drilled and constructed through, due to the potential negative impacts pipeline construction could have on our region’s drinking water resources.

Brooke Harper, Maryland Policy Director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said a coalition opposed to the pipeline will be present at the board meeting Wednesday morning in an attempt to stop the project.

“Communities who rely on the Potomac for their drinking water from Hancock to D.C. are calling on Governor Hogan to once again oppose the Potomac pipeline and keep our state frack-free,” said Harper.

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