Monday 27 May 2019

Advocates Introduce Legislation to Protect Maryland Waters from Fracked Gas Pipelines

Sen. Zirkin, Del. Fraser-Hidalgo Sponsor Pipeline and Water Protection Act

Last week, the Maryland Pipeline and Water Protection Act (PAWPA) was introduced, the latest move to protect Maryland’s waters from dirty, dangerous fracked gas pipelines. PAWPA would require the state of Maryland to conduct a full Water Quality Certification review of any proposed fracked gas pipelines, as it is authorized to do under section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Previously, state authorities abdicated this responsibility when the Potomac Pipeline was proposed. This bill follows the Board of Public Works’ recent decision denying the Potomac Pipeline’s construction easement under the Potomac River. Senator Bobby Zirkin and Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, who sponsored the state's 2017 fracking ban, are primary sponsors of PAWPA, SB 387 and HB 669.

Surface and ground waters can suffer long-term harms during the construction of fracked gas pipelines. A drilling blowout can release toxic drilling chemicals into the soil and adjacent waters and construction can alter routes and rates of water flow. Once in operation, gas pipelines continue to pose contamination dangers. Gas leaked from a pipeline includes toxic chemicals and a pipeline failure will release explosive methane.

This legislation would require the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to use its section 401 authority to conduct full, independent reviews of new, proposed interstate gas pipelines to assess their impact on the state’s water resources.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake supports both bills with an amendment to have the public notice, comment and hearing provisions apply to all projects that fall under CWA Section 401. With the proliferation of proposed gas pipelines, this Act is critically important. There are other types of projects that fall under the 401 section of the Clean Water Act that should also receive improved reviews as outline in the Act.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake is part of a coalition of climate and clean water advocates supporting this Act. Read full press release.