Fracked Gas Pipeline Under Potomac River Receives FERC Stamp of Approval

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Rubberstamps Another Pipeline, Ignoring Science and Local Opposition

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on July 19, 2018, approved TransCanada’s application to build a new natural gas pipeline that would carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania across Western Maryland to West Virginia, passing under the Potomac River. Three out of five FERC Commissioners voted to approve the pipeline, with a fourth concurring but disagreeing with FERC’s decision to ignore climate change impacts of expanding fracked gas infrastructure in its decision. In a strong dissent, Commissioner Glick , the fifth vote, passionately disagreed with his colleagues, calling them out for ignoring the impacts of burning natural gas, and stating that “Climate change poses an existential threat to our security, economy, environment, and, ultimately, the health of individual citizens.”

The Potomac pipeline has faced widespread public opposition in local communities along its route, and numerous public officials and municipalities voiced concerns and opposition, including County Commissions and Councils from Washing- ton, Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Carroll Counties and the City Councils of Hagerstown, Boonsboro, Sharpsburg, Frederick, and Washington, DC.

For over a year, we have joined our No Potomac Pipeline coalition partners in voicing our concerns to State and Federal authorities over the serious threats this pipeline has on the Potomac River, the drinking water for 6 million people. There has been a pattern of reluctance from those authorities to hear our concerns and to fully assess this pipeline project in its entirety.

A request for rehearing was filed on August 17, 2018, that argues:

  • FERC failed in its environmental review to assess properly the climate change impacts of burning the natural gas transported by this pipeline, as well as the future expansion of fracked gas ex-traction in Pennsylvania that would be facilitated by more pipeline infrastructure.
  • FERC failed to fully examine alternatives, including use of renewable energy to meet any energy needs and alternative routes, including one that would entirely avoid a crossing under the Potomac River.
  • FERC failed to verify TransCanada’s claims that the pipeline was needed to supply gas to West Virginia.
  • FERC failed to consider the construction or climate change impacts of the 23 mile Mountaineer Gas pipeline project in West Virginia, despite the fact that the two pipelines are entirely dependent on each other. Mountaineer depends on its connection with the Potomac pipeline for its gas supply, and the only reason to build the Potomac pipeline is to supply gas to Mountaineer.

A rehearing request is the first step in appealing a FERC ruling. The pipeline project still has not received permission from the National Park Service to cross the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, nor has it received an easement from the state to cross the Western Maryland Rail Trail.

It is unfortunate that FERC continues to disregard the threats to our environment from pipeline companies like TransCanada, rather than assess the true costs and recognize the impacts to our citizens and neighbors. FERC has failed its duty to prepare its environmental assessment in accordance with law, and with common sense. Instead, they continue to rubberstamp natural gas projects like this one.

Follow campaign on Facebook. Read Upper Potomac Riverkeeper’s statement on FERC approval.


Groups Want Rehearing on Permit for Pipeline Under the Potomac River, Herald Mail Media, August 17, 2018

Waterkeepers Chesapeake Staff Attorney Katlyn Schmitt interview (below) with The Real News Network, August 22, 2018