Pipeline Development on Maryland’s Eastern Shore Could Lead to Expansion of Industrial Poultry Facilities

Communities fighting against pipelines want sustainable agriculture and clean energy

(Berlin, MD) Chesapeake Utilities is proposing to bring fracked gas from Delaware across the Eastern Shore of Maryland to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) in Somerset County. The Del-Mar Pipeline would supply industrial poultry facilities, businesses, and residential areas. The development of these pipelines has been shrouded in secrecy. The company is purposely permitting its project one small section at a time to avoid public scrutiny and make it appear to be less harmful, and perhaps to hide its true purpose.

Last week, Chesapeake Utilities announced it is partnering with CleanBay Renewables LLC’s Westover, Maryland, bio-refinery to burn poultry manure to produce so-called “renewable natural gas.”  Manure-to-energy facilities are extremely inefficient, and it is unclear if they can be financially feasible without enormous taxpayer subsidies. Since 2015 CleanBay Renewables LLC has received millions of dollars in Maryland taxpayer funded subsidies in their efforts to site and permit a location for their proposed manure-to-energy facility in Maryland.  Efforts had been unsuccessful until Somerset County rezoned two parcels of land near Westover in order to accommodate this industrial use.  CleanBay’s facility, as proposed in 2015, would depend on nearly 500 tons of poultry manure per day to operate, which could incentivize expansion of industrial poultry facilities on the already overburdened Eastern Shore. In 2017 residents of Crisfield, MD successfully stopped the siting of this plant in their town when their concerns about heavy tractor trailer truck traffic, odors, and safety issues could not be addressed.

“The utility companies, the poultry industry, and state of Maryland have not been transparent about the true purpose of the proposed pipelines. We have to question whether it is to ultimately build a pipeline down to the two processing plants in Virginia,” said Kathy Phillips, Assateague COASTKEEPER and Executive Director of Assateague Coastal Trust. “Once there is a market for burning poultry manure, there will be a push to build even more and bigger industrial poultry facilities – instead of diversifying our agricultural sector and building our renewable energy supplies.”

“The installation of this pipeline to Westover is problematic because it will be crossing even more waterways and wetlands than the current project in Salisbury but Chesapeake Utilities and CleanBay haven’t applied for construction, wetlands, sediment or erosion control permits yet,” Phillips continued. “In addition, there would be a severe environmental justice impact because the pipeline would run through Black and Latinx communities.”

Communities on the Eastern Shore are organizing against these pipelines. Currently, the Chesapeake Legal Alliance and Chesapeake Climate Action Network are preparing public comments due July 21 on the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) wetlands permit for the Salisbury/Fruitland connection, one small segment of the entire pipeline running along Maryland Rt. 13.

Media Contact: Kathy Phillips, Assateague Coastal Trust, 443-235-2014, coastkeeper@actforbays.org

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Assateague Coastkeeper, a program of the Assateague Coastal Trust, is an on-the-water advocate who patrols and protects the Maryland and Northern Virginia Eastern Shore coastal bays, standing up to polluters, and granting everyone’s right to clean water.