Vote Could Stop Controversial Fracked Gas Pipeline Under the Potomac River
In a surprising move, Governor Hogan joined other Maryland Board of Public Works members in voting to reject a permit necessary for a fracked gas pipeline known as the “Potomac Pipeline.” During the Maryland Board of Public Works’ meeting on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019, Hogan and the other members of the board unanimously rejected a right-of-way easement under the Western Maryland Rail/Trail. The proposed Potomac Pipeline would tunnel under the Potomac River to transport fracked gas from Pennsylvania to West Virginia.
“For two years, we have joined our partners in the No Potomac Pipeline coalition in calling on Maryland to protect its residents from the harms of fracking, including ejecting a permit for this dangerous fracked gas pipeline proposed by TransCanada,” said Katlyn Schmitt, Staff Attorney for Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “With several new pipelines currently under consideration, including on the Eastern Shore, it is time for Maryland to improve its process for evaluating the environmental risks of fracked gas infrastructure.”
The decision comes on the heels of a letter signed by 63 Maryland legislators calling on Governor Hogan to reject the easement. “Given that Maryland has banned fracking, it defies our state’s existing energy policy to bring the same public health risks to our residents by way of a pipeline,” the legislators stated.
Without the right-of-away easement, the pipeline will not be constructed over the route originally proposed. According to Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls (pictured right), TransCanada can take legal action against Maryland over the vote, abandon the project, or seek an alternative route, which would require a new application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
In the upcoming General Assembly session, we will be supporting bills that will require the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) to carry out comprehensive environmental reviews of all new natural gas projects, like the Potomac Pipeline, that fall under section 401 of the Clean Water Act. MDE refused to carry out a full review under section 401 for the Potomac Pipeline, as well as other earlier pipelines, deferring instead to the Army Corps of Engineer’s blanket permit.
This pipeline is one of many being proposed or in the process of being built across several states in the region. Environmental activists and residents in Virginia have been waging fights against two fracked gas pipelines proposed to run through rural sections of that state.
Opponents of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline have won a string of legal victories that have brought work on the $7 billion, 600-mile fracked natural gas pipeline to a halt, at least temporarily. Several rulings are under appeal, while an even bigger case looms in the new year. That project, spearheaded by Dominion Energy, would carry fracked natural gas through rugged mountain terrain and several national forests from West Virginia through central Virginia and into North Carolina.
A second pipeline, Mountain Valley Pipeline, would carry fracked natural gas 300 miles from West Virginia through some of Virginia’s most rugged mountains and into North Carolina. It is being built by a consortium of companies led by EQT Midstream Partners of Pittsburgh but has also faced several setbacks, including a lawsuit filed last month by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.