Hogan’s Fracking Hypocrisy: How Governor Hogan is Promoting Fracked Gas Despite a Fracking Ban in Maryland and the Governor’s Commitment to the Paris Climate Accord.
In Maryland, our communities are now threatened by a proposed fracked-gas pipeline from TransCanada, the same company behind the climate disaster Keystone XL Pipeline. This new pipeline is known as the “Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project.” The notorious oil company TransCanada would need to drill horizontally under the Potomac River, the C&O Canal, and its tributaries to build it.
The “Potomac Pipeline” would carry fracked gas from Bedford County, PA through Hancock, Maryland and into Berkeley County, West Virginia. It would threaten the health of the millions of people who source their drinking water from the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
And this pipeline is just the beginning. Governor Hogan intends to “kick-start” an expansion of fracked-gas infrastructure throughout Maryland, despite signing a fracking ban and supporting the Paris Climate Accord.
To protect our communities and climate, CCAN is fighting to stop the Potomac Pipeline and protect the Potomac River from fracked gas.
Unfortunately, at the federal level we are moving backwards and not forward on climate. There are efforts to revitalize the coal industry and the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord. And here in Maryland, frontline communities are still under attack, with fracked-gas pipelines, compressor stations, and power plants being proposed all across the state. Governor Hogan has been throwing his weight behind an expansion of the natural gas industry in Maryland. The Public Service Commission recently approved a merger between Washington Gas and AltaGas that would invest over $100 million to jumpstart a natural gas expansion throughout our state — at Hogan’s request — a move that, thankfully, Maryland legislators blocked through legislation.
In January 2019, Governor Hogan and the Maryland Board of Public Works voted unanimously to reject a right-of-way easement for the project. We hope this is a turning point for Hogan on fracked-gas pipelines.
However, the fight is not over. The companies behind the pipeline could still sue and try to build. The reason: Hogan failed to direct his Maryland Deparment of Environment to carry out a full, comprehensive review of the pipeline. As such, MDE allowed a blanket permit for the pipeline to be approved.
Legislative Fix: Ensure that Maryland Fully Analyzes Pipelines’ Impacts to Water Quality
States have broad authority to fully review and ultimately deny a permit for an interstate natural gas pipeline if that review indicates that the project would violate the state’s water quality standards. This process is the one of only a few ways states can reject destructive pipelines from coming through their state.
In the past, MDE has waived its authority to review pipelines and has failed to analyze all critical information regarding proposed pipeline construction. In 2018 Governor Hogan’s MDE permitted the construction of a fracked-gas pipeline underneath the Potomac River, risking the drinking water of over six million people. That permit was granted without the state performing a full, individualized review under the authority granted to it by section 401 the federal Clean Water Act.
A bill called the “Pipeline and Water Protection Act,” spearheaded by our sister organization CCAN Action Fund, would fix that loophole. It would require MDE to analyze all critical information before it issues a permit for an interstate natural gas pipeline. It would ensure public access to important documentation submitted to MDE from the pipeline company and would require the pipeline company to hold public comment periods and public hearings in affected areas.
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The Pipeline Would Run Through Dangerous Karst Geology
The Potomac Pipeline would run through very sensitive topography known as “karst.” Karst is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves and is easily susceptible to the transmission of pollutants through connected underground aquifers. This would allow for the easy migration of pollutants into aquifers that run into the Potomac River.
The pipeline could degrade pristine streams and further threaten public and private water supplies. Using hydraulic directional drilling under streams in karst geology will create pathways for water to drain down the bore holes and dissolve the limestone around the piping. This activity can create sinkholes that could impact the integrity of the pipeline, causing subterranean ruptures and even explosions.
Six million people source their water from the Potomac River. This pipeline would threaten the drinking water of the millions who live downstream from the proposed construction area. During construction, the pipeline would also put hundreds of wells in the local area at risk.
We know that spills happen. Last year, TransCanada spewed nearly 17,000 gallons of oil on rural land. In May 2017, the federal government suspended horizontal drilling on a pipeline in Ohio after crews discharged about two million gallons of drilling fluid into a wetland. A spill from the Potomac Pipeline during construction or operation would be a disaster.
Pipeline Would Deepen Dependence On Fossil Fuels, Contributing To Climate Change
The tremendous growth of Marcellus shale gas production in Pennsylvania and beyond has led to a rapid rise in the production of natural gas, which is often “flared off” on-site – so much so that it can be seen from space. Another area of concentrated flaring is in the Bakken shale oil fields in North Dakota, where the gas industry flared the equivalent of 4.5 million metric tons of CO2 in 2012 alone, roughly the equivalent of adding 1 million new cars to U.S. highways.
Fracking wells leak gases into groundwater and into the air. One of the gases, methane, is approximately 86 times as potent a greenhouse gas pollutant as carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. The combination of flaring and methane leakage during Bakken oil extraction contributes to cumulative heat-trapping emissions that are potentially much higher than other sources of oil.
Pipeline Would Bring More Harm Than Good
This pipeline would benefit only Transcanada — a foreign oil company — and create only temporary jobs for out-of-town workers, putting our health at risk for their bottom line. Furthermore, the pipeline is unnecessary, as our region makes bounding leaps to a clean energy future. And there is already a growing movement of opposition among citizens that live along the route.
The TransCanada application has no justification or evidence that substantiates a “need” for natural gas in the Eastern Panhandle. Yet, Transcanada is already moving in, trying to bully and intimidate landowners that would be affected by the pipelines into signing contracts with eminent domain.
TransCanada Is Threatening Landowners’ Property Rights
The pipeline means farmers and landowners will have to fight to protect their property rights.
In fact, they already are: TransCanada’s landmen are using the same scare tactics that have been used for decades: “Sell your rights or we’ll take them for free through eminent domain.” It’s a dirty trick that divides neighbors and hurts communities. The only winners are pipeline owners.
The pipeline does nothing for Maryland — yet it puts Maryland’s natural resources, and the drinking water of millions downstream, at risk.
We must protect our climate, our communities, and our water, and STOP Hogan’s Pipeline.
Governor Hogan can direct the Maryland Department of the Environment to reject the 401 Water Quality Certificate for this project under the Clean Water Act. Together, we can urge him to deny this permit and reject the Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project today.
Banning fracking in Maryland was the first step. Now we need to protect our rivers from fracked-gas pipelines. Speak up today!
- FACTSHEET: Hogan’s Fracking Hypocrisy, CCAN, February 2018
- FACTSHEET: Stop the Potomac Pipeline, CCAN, June 2017
- LETTER: National environmental and justice leaders call on Governor Hogan to reject new pipelines.
- Synopsis of State Efforts to Repair Gas Leaks, CCAN February 2018
- Submit Comments to Stop Fracked Gas Pipeline Under the Potomac, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, May 2017
- Pipelines: The new battleground over fracking, NPR, accessed July 2017
- Protecting Potomac River from Pipeline Campaign, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, accessed July 2017
- “Maryland Legislators Announce Steps to Combat Governor Hogan’s Efforts to Expand Fracked-Gas Pipelines and Combustion in Maryland,” Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 2/13/17
- “National Park Service Weighs in on TransCanada Pipeline,” Eastern Panhandle Protectors, 1/02/17
- “Activists crowd meeting on proposed pipeline under Potomac,” Associated Press, 2/9/17
- “Natural Gas Pipeline Would Run Under Potomac River, C&O Canal,” Associated Press, 2/9/17
- “Maryland Just Banned Fracking, But a New Fight’s on the Horizon,” Food and Water Watch, 4/24/17