Advocates Introduce Legislation to Protect Maryland Waters from Fracked Gas Pipelines

Sen. Zirkin, Del. Fraser-Hidalgo Sponsor Pipeline and Water Protection Act

ANNAPOLIS, MD — Today, a coalition of climate and clean water advocates are applauding the latest move to protect Maryland’s waters from dirty, dangerous fracked gas pipelines, the Maryland Pipeline and Water Protection Act (PAWPA). PAWPA would require the state of Maryland to conduct a full Water Quality Certification review of any proposed fracked gas pipelines, as it is authorized to do under section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Previously, state authorities abdicated this responsibility when the Potomac Pipeline was proposed. This bill follows the Board of Public Works’ recent decision denying the Potomac Pipeline’s construction easement under the Potomac River. Senator Bobby Zirkin and Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, who sponsored the state’s 2017 fracking ban, are primary sponsors of PAWPA, SB 387 and HB 669.

Senator Bobby Zirkin (D-11) stated: “We led the charge on passing a ban on fracking because we need to protect Marylanders from harmful fossil fuels. Now, we need to make sure their drinking water sources remain safe. We need our state officials to uphold their responsibilities to protect drinking water from fossil fuels by carrying out thorough reviews of fracked gas pipelines.”

Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-15) stated: “The Potomac Pipeline for fracked gas was approved without the oversight it deserved, through a harmful loophole in our Clean Water Act. With this bill, we aim to close this loophole and make sure Marylanders are protected from future pipelines.”

“Maryland took a huge step toward protecting our climate and communities when we banned fracking in 2017, and the next step in protecting our water from fracked gas projects is passing PAWPA,” said Josh Tulkin, Director of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Fracked gas pipelines threaten our clean drinking water and PAWPA would ensure Maryland’s government is protecting Marylanders, not polluting corporations,” Tulkin added.

Surface and ground waters can suffer long-term harms 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.

This legislation would require the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to use its section 401 authority to conduct full, independent reviews of new, proposed interstate gas pipelines to assess their impact on the state’s water resources.

Brooke Harper, Maryland Director of CCAN Action Fund and Political Chair of the NAACP Maryland State Conference, stated: “I’ve been fighting for two years to protect my neighbors from the Potomac Pipeline. The Pipeline and Water Protection Act is the next step in this fight. We need to protect our communities from pipelines, require MDE to do its job, and close the pipeline loophole.”

“Though he ultimately denied the easement for the Potomac Pipeline, Governor Hogan neglected his responsibility to all Marylanders by refusing to conduct a 401 water quality certification for this project,” said Mitch Jones, Senior Policy Advocate at Food & Water Watch. “The Pipeline and Water Protection Act is the critical legislation we need to ensure that no future Governor can neglect the importance of clean, safe drinking water for the sake of profiteering pipeline corporations.”

All across the country, communities are drawing attention to the dangers of fracked gas pipelines. Since 2010, pipeline accidents have injured more than 500 people, killed 121, and caused $3.5 billion in damage. In Virginia, multiple permits for the controversial Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines have been thrown out and rejected by various courts for being inadequate. In North Dakota, the Dakota Access Pipeline drew international attention for the dangers it posed to indigenous communities.

Communities oppose these projects because of the severe climate and public health effects they have. Methane, the primary component in fracked gas, is a greenhouse gas that has 87 times the impact of carbon dioxide in the 20 years after it is emitted. Because of its extensive shoreline and proximity to the ocean, Maryland is especially vulnerable to the stronger hurricanes and higher sea level rise caused by climate change. Fracked gas has also been linked to negative health impacts like premature births, breathing problems, and even cancer.

CONTACT:
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, CCAN Action Fund, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org, 608-620-8819
Brooke Harper, Maryland Policy Director, CCAN Action Fund, brooke@chesapeakeclimate.org, 301-992-6875

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CCAN Action Fund is the advocacy arm of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the first grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.