Pipeline

No Potomac Pipeline Campaign

Disclaimer: The information below does not reflect a formal position of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, but the position of some of its members.

A natural gas pipeline is proposed to flow under the Potomac River. Read this blog to learn more about the potential negative impacts of this pipeline and how our members are working together to stop it through the No Potomac Pipeline Campaign.  

Proposed Pipeline Could Effect Clean Drinking Water For Millions

The Potomac River is a source of water for six million people. TransCanada spilled nearly 17,000 gallons of oil onto rural land last year, and had two other leaking incidents in 2011. Many of our members believe that placing trust in TransCanada to safely build and maintain an oil pipeline under the Potomac would be putting clean drinking water for millions at risk.

via Skytruth.org

via Skytruth.org

Pipeline Would Run Through Karst Geology

via Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

via Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

Karst topography is a sensitive geology characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. Easily susceptible to the transmission of pollutants through connected underground aquifers, Karst allows for the easy migration of pollutants into aquifers that run into the Potomac River. Hydraulic directional drilling under streams in this geology may create pathways for water to drain down and dissolve the limestone around the pining. This drilling may create sinkholes that would put the pipeline at risk, and can cause subterranean ruptures and even explosions. 

Campaign Says NO to the Potomac Pipeline

via No Potomac Pipeline Facebook

via No Potomac Pipeline Facebook

The #NoPotomacPipeline campaign, initiated by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, is in full swing with the support of a few other organizations. Many of the same members of the "Don't Frack In Maryland" campaign — who saw victory in their efforts to ban fracking in Maryland though legislation and garnering support from Gov. Larry Hogan — are fighting to stop the construction of this pipeline.

Once again, Gov. Hogan holds great power in this situation, as he has the authority to approve or reject the Section 401 Water Quality Certification for this project under the Clean Water Act. A few weeks ago, hundreds of Marylanders and West Virginians united to demonstrate their resistance to the pipeline. Standing hand in hand on the James Rumsey Bridge, the "Hands Across the Potomac" demonstration was a reassuring display of unity against faceless corporations. We hope Hogan saw this demonstration and heard the voices of those who will be directly affected.

If you want to join the #NoPotomacPipeline movement, sign up for our partners' action alerts. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Waterkeepers Chesapeake are two organizations that are providing great resources to get dissenters of the pipeline involved.

On Monday, November 8th, those organizations will be hosting a meeting at the Washington County Free Library to discuss the pipeline and volunteering opportunities. Those who are interested can RSVP to the free event, which will take place from 6:30pm-8pm. 

Joe DeWitt is a communications intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

This blog was updated on May 9, 2018 by Chanté Coleman , director, Choose Clean Water Coalition. 

Protecting the Potomac River from Pipelines

In 2016, behind the scenes, without public input, a West Virginia gas company called Mountaineer Gas quietly laid the groundwork for a fracked gas pipeline that would threaten the Potomac River and the National Park Service’s C&O Canal, one of the most visited national parks. Residents in Morgan County, WV became aware of the pipeline proposal only after landmen requested access to properties for routing of the pipeline. Mountaineer Gas began bullying residents with ultimatums and eminent domain after receiving conditional approval from the WV Public Service Commission to route their gas line. The route proposed would cross five streams, all of which is in Karst geology. Karst geology is limestone that can rapidly dissolve and form pathways between the surface and groundwater, including streams. Pipelines do leak and in Karst geology pose a risk to private wells, cause stream contamination and stream flow loss, and develop sinkholes that can threaten the integrity of the pipeline.

October 23rd protest rally in Hancock, Maryland

October 23rd protest rally in Hancock, Maryland

The proposal Mountaineer Gas submitted to WV Public Service Commission is for construction of a multi-million dollar pipeline from an existing line in the Martinsburg area west to Berkeley Springs and east to Jefferson County. This pipeline is contingent on the approval and construction of a TransCanada gas pipeline from PennsylvaniaThe TransCanada gas pipeline would route south from Bedford, PA to Hancock, MD, under the C&O Canal and Potomac River, finally ending in the Berkeley Springs, WV area. Columbia Gas is currently communicating with the National Park Service to be granted a right-of-way access to drill under Park property.

There is a real risk of this combined pipeline project to the Potomac River, the drinking water source for over 6 million people, and a risk to several high quality West Virginia streams and to private property in both Maryland and West Virginia.

BACKGROUND

Mountaineer Gas Pipeline

Mountaineer Gas works exclusively in West Virginia and therefore does not have federal oversight of this pipeline proposal. Once the route is secured, the pipeline has to receive a 401 state certification permit, a 404 ACOE permit, and state regulatory permits and authorizations. Mountaineer Gas has recently received authorization to proceed after an appeal of their application modification. Because the modification was perceived to be minor, public notice of the process was not initiated. However, Mountaineer Gas describes the pipeline as a distribution line mostly catering to two large companies. The distribution line would be a “redundant” line, essentially, a back-up gas line. This pipeline is contingent on the completion of the TransCanada gas line, which has yet to submit an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC’s One-sided Approach

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has a history of downplaying potential environmental damage and property rights as they analyze natural gas pipeline development projects. The TransCanada pipeline will fall under FERC jurisdiction since it crosses state lines. The project will involve numerous stream crossings, cross land that is geologically vulnerable to spills and unnecessarily threaten the source of drinking water for millions of people.

LOCAL RESPONSE

On October 4th, environmental groups, including Potomac Riverkeeper Network, filed a motion to intervene in the Mountaineer Gas appeal. Our intention was to bring the potential of environmental damage into the case. In addition, the community gathered and submitted over 60 letters of protest to the proposed gas line. On October 23rd, over 50 people gathered in Hancock to protest the pipeline.

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper and groups in West Virginia ran a success letter writing campaign targeted at the National Park Service to demand that the NPS make the right-of-way permit request from TransCanada a public process. The NPS responded by delaying a response to TransCanada’s request and promising to incorporate public participation in any consideration of the pipeline project. On February 9, 2017, TransCanada held an informational session in Hancock and over a 100 people participated in a “silent protest.