Dozens Rally to Oppose Condemnation Lawsuit by Columbia Gas to Construct Pipeline Through Public Lands

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 30, 2019
CONTACT:
Stacy Miller, 518-852-0836, stacy@chesapeakeclimate.org
Fritz Schneider, Potomac Riverkeeper, 301-728-4811, fritz@prknetwork.org
Brooke Harper, Maryland State Director, 301-992-6875, brooke@chesapeakeclimate.org
Doug Jackson, Sierra Club, 252.432.9716, doug.jackson@sierraclub.org

Dozens Rally to Oppose Condemnation Lawsuit by Columbia Gas to Construct Pipeline Through Public Lands

Concerned Residents Look to Hogan Administration to Fight Back Against Columbia Gas’s “Corporate Takeover of Maryland’s Public Land”

HANCOCK, MD — Today, dozens of activists rallied to oppose Columbia Gas’s complaint in condemnation for the right-of-way to build a highly controversial fracked-gas pipeline underneath the Western Maryland Rail/Trail. Known as the “Potomac Pipeline,” this pipeline would drill under the Potomac River and put the drinking water of 6 million people at risk. In January, the Maryland Board of Public Works unanimously rejected this right-of-way easement for the project, which is proposed by a subsidiary of notorious energy company TransCanada.

See photos and video from this event here. 

“Such a corporate takeover of Maryland’s public land has never been attempted in Maryland before,” said Brooke Harper, Maryland Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “The people of Maryland said no to this pipeline, Governor Hogan said no to this pipeline, the entire state has said no to this pipeline. So it seems this fracking giant has resorted to pulling the rug from under us. We support the Hogan Administration’s decision and will stand with them in the fight to protect state land from this harmful and unnecessary pipeline.”

Brent Walls, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper, said, “We cannot let a private company take public land for profit, especially for the unnecessary Potomac Pipeline which risks the quality of life and drinking water for thousands of Marylanders.  Governor Hogan and the Board of Public Works were right last January when they denied the easement that Columbia Gas is now seeking through its lawsuit.”

The group gathered at the Rail Trail entrance in Hancock, Maryland, carrying banners and signs and chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Columbia Gas has got to go!”.

The Board of Public Works, which includes Governor Larry Hogan, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot, is responsible for protecting Maryland’s “public works,” including state-owned land. It rejected TransCanada’s proposal in January citing the fact that Maryland stood to bear no benefits of the pipeline and all of the harm. The company is now attempting to seize the land through eminent domain proceedings in federal court. To our knowledge, no pipeline company has ever tried to condemn state-owned land in Maryland.

Patrick Grenter, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club, said: “These polluting corporations just don’t get it. Maryland has already banned fracking and unanimously rejected this fracked gas pipeline. We don’t know how to make it any clearer – we don’t want fracking, we don’t want fracked gas, and we certainly don’t want TransCanada’s dirty, dangerous Potomac Pipeline. TransCanada may put their profits ahead of our water, climate, and communities, but Maryland puts Marylanders first.”

“This pipeline is being built by, and for the benefit of, powerful multinational corporations,” said Tracy Cannon of the Eastern Panhandle Protectors. “On this end, here in Maryland, Canadian multinational, Transcanada is the owner of Columbia Gas, the company trying to sue the state for the right to build the pipeline. On the other end, Danish multinational, Rockwool, would buy the fracked gas to fuel its toxic factory in Jefferson County, West Virginia. On both ends, we the people understand what an abuse of corporate power this project is and we are fighting back in every way we can.”

This pipeline has faced two years of intense opposition to the pipeline from grassroots groups statewide, as well as a growing list of legislators. In December, a letter signed by 63 Maryland legislators called on Governor Hogan to reject the easement to build underneath the Rail Trail. “Given that Maryland has banned fracking, it defies our state’s existing energy policy to bring the same public health risks to our residents by way of a pipeline,” the legislators stated.

Surface and ground waters can suffer long-term harm 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.

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