Maryland Legislators Release Open Letter Opposing Columbia Gas Lawsuit to Seize Public Lands for Dangerous “Potomac Pipeline”

Sign-on Letter Comes Day After AG Files Motions/Briefs to Fight Back Against Attempted Land Grab

ANNAPOLIS, MD — Today, 62 Maryland legislators released a letter publicly opposing Columbia Gas’ attempt to seize through eminent domain the right-of-way to build a highly controversial fracked-gas pipeline underneath the Western Maryland Rail/Trail. The legislators also declared their support for the Department of Natural Resources’ defense against this lawsuit. In January, the Maryland Board of Public Works unanimously rejected this right-of-way easement for what is known as the “Potomac Pipeline” project.

This letter comes the day after the Office of the Attorney General, representing the Department of Natural Resources, filed a response in opposition to Columbia Gas’s motion for a preliminary injunction and a motion to dismiss the entire case. The State argued in its response that “the pipeline project directly contravenes not only the State’s sovereignty, but also the State’s energy policy” and asked the federal court to dismiss the case.

This pipeline has faced two years of public opposition from the public, grassroots groups, and legislators representing Maryland, West Virginia, and DC. In December, 63 Maryland legislators called on Governor Hogan, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, and Comptroller Peter Franchot to reject the easement to build underneath the Rail Trail. Dozens of activists also rallied at the Western Maryland Rail/Trail in Hancock on May 30th after the Columbia Gas filed the complaint.

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 can release methane, an explosive safety hazard and a potent greenhouse gas.

QUOTES

Delegate Lorig Charkoudian, District 20

My colleagues and I are fully committed to protecting Marylanders and our environment. We are outraged at the attempt being made by a private corporation to seize a public park through the extraordinary power of eminent domain. The plan to put a pipeline under the Potomac River puts our public health and our environment at risk. In January, Maryland unequivocally denied Columbia Gas the right to use this land to build their pipeline. We continue to stand with Marylanders to tell Columbia Gas that we don’t want your unnecessary and harmful pipeline in our state.

Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo

“In 2017 I was the lead sponsor of the legislation that banned fracking in Maryland. This bill passed with bipartisan support and was welcomed and signed into law by Governor Hogan. The fracking ban was passed in order to protect our water supply and the health of Marylanders. Columbia Gas is attempting to circumvent the will of Maryland by pumping fracked gas from other states through our communities. A fracked gas pipeline serves absolutely no purpose for Maryland and in fact only places Marylanders in peril.”

Josh Tulkin, Director of the Maryland Sierra Club

“Marylanders have said time after time that we don’t want fracking, we don’t want fracked gas, and we don’t want Columbia Gas’ dirty pipeline. This letter signed by legislators from across Maryland shows how united we are against it, because our water, climate, and communities are too important to let polluting corporations run roughshod through our state. Columbia Gas may put their profits over our people, but we applaud the 62 Maryland legislators who are standing up for Marylanders.”

Brooke Harper, Maryland Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

“Marylanders have consistently opposed the threats that fracked-gas pipelines pose to our health, water, climate, and communities. We shouldn’t be deepening our dependence on dirty fuels such as fracked gas at a time when clean, renewable energy is abundant and affordable. That’s why we applaud the state for doing everything in its power to fight back against Columbia Gas’s attempted land grab, why we thank the legislators who stand with us and not Columbia Gas.”

Brent Walls, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper

“For over two years voices from the community rose up together to oppose the Potomac Pipeline. Voices from Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the DC area stood together as neighbors, as friends to defend  against an unnecessary pipeline that threatens the drinking water and the quality of life for 1000’s of their neighbors. Columbia gas does not care what the people want or that the State of Maryland has made a choice to say no to the pipeline. So the community that rose up to fight against columbia gas and their fracked gas pipeline, stands in solidarity with the state of Maryland.”

 

CONTACT:
Doug Jackson, Sierra Club, 202.495.3045, doug.jackson@sierraclub.org
Denise Robbins, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 240.630.1889, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org
Delegate Lorig Charkoudian, 410-227-4941, Lorig.Charkoudian@house.state.md.us

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About the Sierra Club:

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

About Chesapeake Climate Action Network:

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the oldest and largest grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 16 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  For more information, visit www.chesapeakeclimate.org

About the Potomac Riverkeeper Network:

Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization with three regional Waterkeeper branches: Potomac Riverkeeper, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper and Shenandoah Riverkeeper. Our mission is to protect the public’s right to clean water in our rivers and streams. We stop pollution to promote safe drinking water, protect healthy habitats, and enhance public use and enjoyment. For more information, visit http://www.potomacriverkeepernetwork.org.