In Response to Hogan Fracked Gas Plans, Legislators Call for Mandates to Protect Drinking Water From Controversial Pipelines
Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39) announced “emergency” legislation that would require the Maryland Department of Environment to go through an individualized and robust permitting process for dangerous proposed fracked-gas pipelines.
Legislation could also affect TransCanada’s pipeline, favored by Hogan, that endangers Maryland’s water resources
ANNAPOLIS, MD- Today, Maryland leaders announced the first legislative attempt to curb Governor Larry Hogan’s major plan to expand fracked-gas pipelines across Maryland.
Supported by lawmakers and environmental advocates, Maryland Delegate Shane Robinson (D-29) outlined emergency legislation — House Bill 1826 — that would require the Hogan Administration to go through a thorough and necessary review process for proposed fracked-gas pipelines that travel through fragile karst geology in Maryland to protect drinking water and other water resources. This legislation could also affect TransCanada’s proposed Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project, known as the “Potomac Pipeline,” which would cut through this fragile geology and threatens the drinking water of 6 million people.
“Governor Hogan has issued a flawed permit for the dangerous Potomac Pipeline, despite the concerns and pleas of thousands of Marylanders,” said Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39). “We are calling on him to listen to his constituents directing the MDE to fully examine the risks of this pipeline through section 401 of the Clean Water Act. This is what Marylanders want and what they deserve.”
House Bill 1826 would prevent the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) from continuing to cede to the Trump Administration its authority to review and regulate potential impacts on Maryland’s water resources from fracked-gas pipelines. Earlier this month, the Hogan Administration waived its authority to review and regulate the controversial “Potomac Pipeline” that would cross Maryland and tunnel under the Potomac River.
This emergency bill would require careful state review of any future pipeline impacts on water quality in Maryland and potentially require the Hogan Administration to reconsider TransCanada’s controversial Potomac Pipeline and its effects on water. This careful review would be done under the “401 Certification” authority given to all states under the Clean Water Act. This process looks cumulatively at the impacts to Maryland’s water from a proposed pipeline and gives MDE the authority to reject the pipeline if it were found to threaten water quality.
“We simply must do more to protect Maryland communities from the harms of fracked gas,” said Senator Will Smith (D-20). “We already passed a ban on fracking itself. Now we need to take a strong, close look at fracked-gas infrastructure like the Potomac Pipeline. If Governor Hogan won’t direct his MDE to do so, we’ll do it for him.”
“Maryland should not cut corners when it comes to protecting our water” said Josh Tulkin, Director of the Sierra Club’s Maryland Chapter. “This legislation would simply require MDE to use all its legal options under the Clean Water Act when reviewing the impact of projects that drill through sensitive geology, including the Potomac Pipeline. Maryland has a goal to reduce climate pollution 40 percent below 2006 levels by 2030, which means we need to focus on clean renewable energy rather than fracked gas infrastructure. We hope the General Assembly steps up to address this critical bill.”
“Even if you fail to grasp the science of climate change, you shouldn’t fail to learn the lessons of our neighbors in Pennsylvania,” said Thomas Meyer of Food & Water Watch. “Just as we looked to them to learn that fracking shouldn’t be allowed in Maryland, we can look to them again to see the dangers posed by siting fracked gas pipelines in karst geology. We shouldn’t threaten our drinking water and the residents of Western Maryland. The General Assembly must pass Delegate Robinson’s emergency legislation.”
Since signing a ban on fracking in 2017, Governor Hogan has worked consistently to undermine the spirit — if not the letter — of the law. Documents show that Governor Hogan collaborated with TransCanada to allow the Canadian gas company to carry out a dangerous drilling method called “Horizontal Directional Drilling” without oversight from the Maryland Department of Environment. And despite repeated pleas from groups ranging from the Potomac Riverkeeper Network to the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Hogan administration refuses to follow a standard set by Virginia and other states when it comes to reviewing impacts to water quality from fracked-gas pipelines.
Governor Hogan also supports using settlement money from the proposed merger between Washington Gas and Calgary-based AltaGas to construct fracked-gas pipelines at the expense of Maryland ratepayers. Governor Hogan has advocated for a virtually unprecedented settlement wherein the state of Maryland would spend $33 million in settlement money to assist gas companies in the construction of more fracked-gas pipelines all across Maryland. The settlement — which must be approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission later this year — also requires that AltaGas spend an additional $70 million (which could be charged to ratepayers) to promote pipeline construction and other fracked-gas infrastructure in the state.
A letter opposing the Governor Hogan’s pipeline expansion efforts was recently released by some of America’s best known climate change and fracking activists. The protest letter, signed by 11 national leaders including writer Bill McKibben and filmmaker Josh Fox, calls on Governor Hogan to honor his pledge to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement by rejecting fracked gas pipelines like the Potomac Pipeline and embracing renewable energy instead.
The movement against the Potomac Pipeline has been growing for over a year, and actions against the pipeline have included a rolling protest encampment along the pipeline’s route, kayak activists paddling down the Potomac in protest, “Hands Across the Potomac” where nearly 400 people stood hand-in-hand to cross a bridge spanning the river, and the first-ever encirclement of Governor Hogan’s mansion by protesters on February 15.
Brooke Harper, Maryland Policy Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, stated: “Governor Hogan has let all of Maryland down. Despite the unprecedented outcry, his administration repeatedly refused to take a thorough look at how the Potomac Pipeline could threaten our communities. He’s ignored the letters and resolutions from councils across Maryland and Washington D.C. He ignored the five mothers who got arrested outside his office. We’re taking his responsibilities into our own hands by supporting legislation that would require MDE to listen and to protect our water.”
Groups who organized the press conference include the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Food & Water Watch, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, and the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Denise Robbins; Chesapeake Climate Action Network; firstname.lastname@example.org; 608-620-8819
Brooke Harper; Chesapeake Climate Action Network; email@example.com; 301-992-6875