MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A recent decision by the Maryland Board of Public Works to deny an easement for a natural gas pipeline leading to West Virginia’s eastern panhandle is stirring reaction from the company behind the project.
TransCanada subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC previously requested an easement for an eight inch, 3.37 mile fracked gas line from Fulton County, Pennsylvania into Morgan County, West Virginia. Known as the “Potomac Pipeline”, this would connect an existing line in Pennsylvania to the Mountaineer Gas line from the Berkeley Springs area through Martinsburg.
This line would eventually extend into Jefferson County and some of it would serve the controversial Rockwool insulation plant in Ranson. The West Virginia Public Service Commission approved a $119.8 million plan for that extension in December.
In a letter dated January 1 and addressed to the Maryland Board of Public Works, a group of 65 Maryland delegates and senators expressed concern over the Potomac Pipeline. The effort was a two year campaign spearheaded by environmental advocates Potomac Riverkeeper Network. Primary concerns of Columbia’s pipeline include potential impact to the Potomac River and the Western Maryland Rail Trail, which the proposed line would go underneath.
“We’re going to be drilling more than 100 feet below the rail trail and the river, so there will be no impact to either one,” TransCanada spokesperson Scott Castleman said on MetroNews Talkline. “There will be no impact during construction, recreation activities, business activities, everything else can continue as usual.
The Potomac River originates in Preston County, snakes around the northern edge of the eastern panhandle before making its way through Washington, DC and into the Chesapeake Bay.
“In the unlikely event of a leak under a water body, natural gas will bubble to the top and dissipate into the atmosphere. There’s no impact to the water with a pipeline of this nature.”
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources previously approved the project. It also included stricter standards for for water well projection and additional requirements for pre- and post-construction monitoring of wells. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has also given its approval.
“Our current route has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” said Castleman. “Our crossing of the Potomac River has been approved by the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection. We’re committed to this route.”
Jefferson County Vision, opposed to Rockwool coming to Jefferson County, released a statement following the announcement of the blocked easement.
“Many people in Maryland are joining us in speaking out against Rockwool’s plan to build heavy industry next to schools,” said board member Amanda Foxx. “We are grateful for Governor Hogan’s leadership in helping protect the air, water, and historical resources of the mid-Atlantic region.”
While Maryland’s decision puts a temporary halt on progress on the pipeline, Castleman said they hope to be able to work around it.
“We’re looking at all of our options to move forward to keep this project on track. We’re not ready to announce or discuss this in detail, but over the coming days we’re going to firm this up and be announcing those as it becomes available.”