TransCanada (the Keystone XL folks) and Mountaineer Gas are currently developing a 3.5-mile pipeline to supply natural gas to West Virginia. The Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project will run from Bedford County, Pa., through Hancock, Md., under the C&O Canal and Potomac River and then connect to another natural gas pipeline in Morgan County, W.Va.
Since the pipeline will traverse one of the narrowest parts of Maryland to reduce the risk of interruptions, it doesn’t seem like there should be much controversy to this project. But, the project would involve tunneling under the Potomac River, which is the main drinking water source for the Washington metropolitan area and other smaller communities upriver.
For months, local environmental groups have campaigned against the “Potomac Pipeline” due to the potential risk of contaminating the drinking water supply for millions of people. The route proposed would run through karst geology – the land beneath the river that rapidly dissolves and is full of fractures, caves and pools. Essentially, any leak in the pipeline would easily spill chemicals or gas into underground aquifers.
In addition to the degradation of streams, any drilling under streams could drain down bore holes and impact the integrity of the pipeline, causing underground ruptures and explosions.
Currently, Maryland’s Department of Environment (MDE) has not conducted a full environmental review of all potential impacts of a federal project on the state’s water resources. In fact, MDE has misled the public by not identifying the owner operator of the transmission line as TransCanada. They even stated that drilling fluids don’t include toxic compounds but has not provided data sheets for all compounds used to horizontally drill below the Potomac River bed. Lastly, they diminished the number of drinking water wells that may experience contamination by saying the presence of karst geology is not definite.
It looks like MDE and Governor Larry Hogan are poised to support the pipeline. This is really disappointing since this is the same administration that signed a fracking ban into law last year.
The truth is that TransCanada is the only party to benefit from this project. The pipeline only creates temporary jobs and it does not provide a need for natural gas in the Eastern Panhandle. Landowners and farmers are already fighting to protect their property rights with threats of losing their land under eminent domain.
Maryland is a key state leading the country in boosting state renewable energy standards. It would be a shame for state and federal regulatory agencies to minimize the public health risks from this pipeline and roll back progress.
If you’d like to take action to stop the Potomac Pipeline, submit a public comment by February 26. You can also “March on the Mansion” in Annapolis on February 15 to protest the pipeline at Governor Hogan’s house.
Environmental advocate. Communications professional. Sports fan. I love television and press conferences.