State lawmakers sign letter to stop proposed Western Md. pipeline

WASHINGTON — More than 50 Maryland state lawmakers signed a letter urging the Maryland Board of Public Works to reject a deal that would let TransCanada build a pipeline in Western Maryland.

Columbia Gas, owned by TransCanada, hopes to build a 3-mile long distribution line near Hancock, Maryland to allow natural gas to be carried from Pennsylvania to West Virginia.

TransCanada has said the construction is needed to allow economic growth in West Virginia.

Opponents, including environmental groups and dozens of Maryland state lawmakers including Delegate David Moon, D-Montgomery County, worry the pipeline could threaten waterways and wetlands in the proposed right of way.

A proposal for an easement to allow the project to move ahead goes before the Maryland Board of Public Works on Wednesday. The board — made up of Gov. Larry Hogan, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot — decides all state capital appropriations, preserves and protects all submerged lands and wetlands and handles state contracts.

Those who signed the letter argue that since Maryland banned fracking in 2017, it doesn’t make sense to allow a pipeline to run through the state. The pipeline would run underneath the Potomac River and cross part of the Western Maryland Rail Trail.

“I think a lot of us feel enough is enough, and it’s time to stop enabling fossil fuel consumption,” Moon said.

The letter reads as follows: “… it defies our state’s existing energy policy to bring the same public health risks to our residents by way of a pipeline.”

Moon said the waterways and wetlands in the Hancock area of Washington County are “delicate” and deserve protection. Despite assurances that protections will be in place, there are concerns about the potential of damage in case of a leak.

“I think that’s been one of the big fears whenever one of these big projects are proposed,” Moon said.

In March, Maryland issued a permit for the pipeline that state officials said includes a number of conditions aimed at protecting the environment. At the time, Secretary of the Department of the Environment for Maryland Ben Grumbles said the pipeline could not be built if it didn’t comply with requirements set by the state. State officials say some of the safeguards required include protection of drinking water.

“In addition to violating the spirit of our renewable energy portfolio and fracking ban, the TransCanada pipeline also directly endangers public health,” reads the letter addressed to the public works board.

 

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