Marylanders can be proud that our state was the first with natural gas reserves to pass a law banning fracking. Our governor agreed, concluding that the “environmental risks of fracking outweigh any benefits” and that we should protect our water and natural resources. After years of careful evaluation, we chose to protect our health, environment and local businesses.
Now, only a few months later, the fracked-gas industry is again pounding on Maryland’s door.
This time, a Canadian company wants to build a pipeline for fracked gas that would burrow under the Potomac River and the C&O Canal Trail near Hancock in Washington County. The company is TransCanada, whose protracted efforts to build the Keystone XL Pipeline have united Native Americans, Midwestern ranchers and farmers, and climate activists in opposition. The proposed 3.5-mile Eastern Panhandle Expansion pipeline would connect the fracking fields of Pennsylvania to another pipeline in West Virginia by cutting through Maryland farms and parkland and under the drinking supply for millions.
It’s up to Gov. Larry Hogan to protect Marylanders and block this project.
All he has to do is support the Maryland (and West Virginia) communities fighting this pipeline by rejecting the permit that would let TransCanada drill under the Potomac.
This pipeline poses several unacceptable and unnecessary risks for Marylanders while providing no benefits.
First, the pipeline would run through the area’s karst topography, a landscape full of sinkholes, caves and underground streams that create easy pathways for surface pollutants. Drilling in this fragile rock threatens private and public drinking water wells, as well as groundwater, springs and streams. In addition, karst rock is an unstable, unpredictable and wholly unsuitable foundation for pipelines. Even in stable bedrock, pipelines explode or break. In this case, leaks would jeopardize the Potomac River, the drinking water source for 6 million people.
Second, there are concerning allegations that oil companies are bullying farmers and other landowners along the path of the pipeline, threatening eminent domain if they don’t hand over their property for this ill-conceived project. Mountaineer Gas Company, which is working with TransCanada to build the Eastern Panhandle Expansion, has already taken West Virginia landowners Patricia and Dean Kesecker to court for the right to build the pipeline through the 500-acre farm that has been in their family for 80 years. “It makes me angry they can take and use land I’ve worked and farmed my whole life,” Patricia Kesecker told The Journal in Martinsburg, W.Va. This does not seem to be an aberration. Across the country, particularly along the East Coast, residents are taking action to protect their communities from fracked-gas infrastructure, including the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline from West Virginia through North Carolina that could take tops off mountain ridges; the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline that crosses Pennsylvania, where Lancaster residents and local nuns have built a chapel as part of their resistance; the East Mariner 2 Pipeline, also in Pennsylvania, where a family has taken to tree sittings to fend off industry; Dominion’s fracked-gas liquefaction and export facility near homes, schools and playgrounds in Lusby, where residents are still calling for a safety study; and of course, TransCanada’s Keystone XL, which ranchers are fighting by building solar panels in the pipeline’s path.
The third and biggest reason to block this pipeline is climate change. Maryland’s environmental and energy decisions should be focused on turning the tide on climate change. Switching to an economy fired on fracked gas will not stop rising seas, ferocious storms, persistent droughts, acidifying oceans and melting glaciers that are happening already and that will only get worse by continuing to facilitate the use of more fossil fuels.
Fracked gas is not a kinder, gentler fossil fuel; it will handcuff us to old ways of thinking and generating energy for another half century. Marylanders agreed that fracking was unsafe; we should not welcome pipelines and other infrastructure for fracked gas from other states. We are fooling ourselves, but certainly not Mother Nature, every time we make massive new investments in fossil fuel projects.
Over the summer, rolling encampments are planned along the C&O trail to protest this project and call on the governor to reject the required permit. This pipeline offers nothing for Marylanders except threats to our water and land and disruption of our climate. Governor Hogan, stand again for Marylanders and our green future by rejecting TransCanada’s pipeline permit.
This appeared as an Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun on July 26, 2017