Saturday 17 November 2018

Needs to Consider Risk of Spill to Drinking Water for Six Million

In comments filed, Waterkeepers Chesapeake joined several groups in calling on the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) to deny a state Nontidal Wetlands Permit for the controversial Potomac pipeline, after learning that MDE purposely exempted environmental review of impacts to the Potomac and Little Tonoloway Creek from this permit process. MDE has misled the public and allowed this project to avoid critical state permit requirements, in spite of potential risks to the Potomac as the source of drinking water for six million people downstream.

At a closed-door meeting in 2016, before the Application for the Potomac Pipeline was filed by Columbia Gas (now TransCanada), MDE and TransCanada agreed the underground crossing of the Potomac River using horizontal directional drilling (HDD) did not require a permit or analysis. As a result, the Nontidal Permit application focused only on a single wetland and six small streams and failed to consider the risks or impacts of drilling under the river.

For months, members of our coalition have been attending public hearings hosted by the MDE to express our concerns about the impact of the Potomac Pipeline and never once did the representatives of MDE tell us that they weren’t considering the impact of drilling under the Potomac.

MDE’s baseless and absurd assumption that there will be no impacts from the use of HDD drilling, ignores the reality of HDD drilling accidents over the past several years have fouled streams, destroyed wetlands and contaminated drinking water supplies. In a recent example, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered Rover Pipeline LLC to stop drilling under the Tuscarawas River in Ohio, after regulators discovered repeated spills and loss of HDD fluid at the drilling site.

The Potomac provides clean drinking water to over 6 million people in the D.C. metropolitan area downstream of the proposed drilling route under the river. It defies logic that MDE would not require the assessment of the potential impact to the Potomac River of an accident, which could result from this drilling.

In addition, our comments noted that MDE is required to consider economic value of the Pipeline in meeting a demonstrated public need in Maryland generally and the residents of Washington County specifically. However, the Application did not provide nor did MDE insist on such an analysis. In fact, Maryland receives no benefit but bears all the risk of streams polluted by construction sediment and the Potomac River. In fact, any benefits from the Potomac Pipeline solely accrue to producers of fracked gas in Pennsylvania and possibly the users of gas in West Virginia.


Maryland has until March to issue a decision about TransCanada’s application to build a fracked gas pipeline under the Potomac River. That’s less than two months away, yet the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is giving no signs that they are conducting a full review of the proposed pipeline’s impact on our water quality according to the Clean Water Act. So, we are bringing our fight to Annapolis to tell Governor Hogan to DO HIS JOB and protect Marylanders, and our regional neighbors, from the harmful effects this pipeline would have on the Potomac River and the drinking water for millions. 

Come to Annapolis the evening of February 15th to join concerned citizens of Maryland, Washington, DC, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia as we raise our voices in a rally on Lawyer’s Mall (in front of the State House), and then march to encircle the Governor’s Mansion!

Will you join us in telling Gov. Hogan to keep his “fracking” promise?

Here are the details:
Who: You and concerned residents of MD, DC, WV, PA and VA
What: Rally at Lawyer’s Mall and then March to Gov. Hogan’s Mansion, where we will join hands and encircle his home to make sure he hears our voices!
Where: Meet at Lawyer’s Mall, State Circle - Annapolis MD
When: Thursday, February 15th from 6:00 - 7:30pm

RSVP to the Rally here!

Get On the Bus!! We will have a bus picking up and dropping off people at 3 locations. Price: Free! Limited Seating - Sign up for a Bus here

  • La Vale, MD
  • Hagerstown, MD
  • Martinsburg, WV 

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls at Dec. 19th hearing.TransCanada wants to build a pipeline to carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania to West Virginia, right through Maryland, tunneling under the C&O Canal and the Potomac River. Residents of WV, MD, VA and DC have been raising our concerns about the dangers of this pipeline for almost a year now! We spent a summer hosting encampments along the C&O Canal. Over 350 of us joined hands across a bridge over the Potomac in October connecting Maryland to West Virginia. Over 300 citizens came to the MDE public hearing in December to express their opposition to the pipeline, while 100 came to the WV Dept of Environment hearing in January. And on January 22 we rallied outside the MDE hearing in Hancock, MD to boycott their process because they are ignoring our request to conduct an individual 401 water certification, which would most certainly deny this pipeline!

Now, We March to STOP this Pipeline!

We need all of you to encircle the Governor’s Mansion and tell Hogan: NO POTOMAC PIPELINE! Since he has not answered our 1,300 letters, emails, or phone calls - we’re taking our message to his doorstep!

Maryland made history by banning fracking within our borders last year. But our state is not safe from the dangers of fracking in neighboring states. Let’s tell Governor Hogan to finish the job of protecting Maryland from fracking by protecting Maryland from fracked gas infrastructure.

Come to Annapolis to tell Gov. Hogan: No Fracked Gas Pipelines!

Join us on Facebook here and help us spread the word!


P.S. With support from hundreds of our members, we were able to help build a powerful grassroots movement to ban fracking in Maryland. Please consider making a generous donation to help us in this next fight to keep fossil fuel infrastructure from causing irreversible harm to our water supplies!

Waterkeepers Chesapeake, representing 19 Riverkeepers, Waterkeepers and Coastkeepers across the Chesapeake Bay region, are concerned about the health of the Potomac River watershed, which provides drinking water for millions – and could be jeopardized by the construction and operation of the Potomac Pipeline. We are joining 17 other groups calling for the Maryland Department of the Environment to respond to our concerns, be transparent in their permitting process, and take adequate protective measures with regard to the Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project.

For the past nine months, we've been misled by MDE with inconsistent and conflicting messages on how the Potomac Pipeline would be regulated. We have explained, through every means possible, our concerns and recommended actions, and we have been ignored.

While we have conveyed the serious impacts associated with this fracked gas pipeline – MDE has made the decision to have this project fall under the broader General Permit.

This is a problem because the General Permit does not look at important indirect impacts to water quality, such as erosion and sediment from tree clearing, impacts to drinking water resources, and impacts to karst geology. Furthermore, this permit, approved in 2016, only applies to projects that have minimal adverse environmental effects. With a pipeline that could lead to contaminated drinking water aquifers, methane leakage, and impaired aquatic habitats – and is mutually dependent on the Mountaineer Gas Pipeline project in West Virginia, a new forty two mile gas pipeline proposal that relies on this project to provide the natural gas supply – it’s safe to say the impacts from this project will be far from “minimal.”

Because MDE has failed to take adequate measures to protect our water resources, and because we have pursued every avenue possible to raise MDE’s awareness of these concerns, we are joining other groups in boycotting the MDE's second hearing on Monday, Janaury 22.

Given the fact that Maryland, under Governor Hogan’s leadership, was the first state to legislatively ban fracking, thousands of citizens across the region are justifiably concerned that allowing a pipeline carrying fracked gas to be built across Maryland presents unacceptable risks and is contrary to the public interest.

We are calling on MDE to use it’s 401 water quality certification authority and deny this pipeline – in the name of protecting Maryland’s precious waterways and the region’s drinking water supplies.

You can take action and submit comments by January 25th => CLICK HERE