Before Key Hearing, Legislators and Advocates Promote Bill Protecting Maryland Waters from Fracked-Gas Pipelines

Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo Joined Coalition in Press Conference on “Pipeline and Water Protection Act” — next step on Potomac Pipeline Fight

ANNAPOLIS, MD — Today, a coalition of climate and clean water advocates promoted legislation to protect Maryland’s waters from fracked-gas pipelines. The bill, called Maryland Pipeline and Water Protection Act (HB 669, SB 387), will soon be heard in the Maryland House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee. This bill 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 highly controversial “Potomac Pipeline” was proposed.

Facebook livestream available here. Initial photos here, high-res photos available upon request.

“Today is a historic day in the fight to protect Maryland’s water sources,” said Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-15). “The Pipeline and Water Protection Act would close a harmful loophole in our Clean Water Act to protect our constituents from the harms of fracked-gas pipelines. I plan to fight for its passage in today’s hearing.”  

Senator Bobby Zirkin (D-11), who was not at the press conference but is a lead sponsor of the bill, stated: “Even though we’ve banned fracking, Maryland is not yet safe from its impacts. 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. We need to pass the Pipeline and Water Protection Act.”

This legislation would require the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) to conduct careful state review of any future pipeline impacts on water quality in Maryland. 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.

MDE waived its authority to carry out this review for the controversial “Potomac Pipeline” — which would cross Maryland and tunnel under the Potomac River — despite years of public outcry. The agency deferred instead to a Trump administration blanket permit.

“I’ve been fighting for two years to protect my neighbors from the Potomac Pipeline,” said Brooke Harper, Maryland Director of the CCAN Action Fund. “Now I’m here fighting for every single person in Maryland, to protect all communities from future pipelines. MDE needs to do its job and close the pipeline loophole — the Pipeline and Water Protection Act would make that happen.”

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.

“Pipeline construction can result in extensive deforestation and other significant land disturbances that have adverse impacts on local water quality,” said Elaine Lutz, Staff Attorney at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “We must ensure that these impacts are properly assessed and mitigated. The Pipeline and Water Protection Act would ensure a thorough review of environmental impacts and provide an appropriate public process, which is currently lacking for these projects.”

Developers are currently considering proposals for a pipeline to carry fracked gas hundreds of miles down the Eastern Shore. “Right now, developers want to build a 180-mile long fracked-gas pipeline down the Eastern shore, over dozens of waterways and tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Jake Burdett, Salisbury University student activist. “We simply cannot let the Maryland Department of Environment opt out of giving this pipeline a full and comprehensive review. Too many peoples’ drinking water sources and livelihoods are at risk.”

“Our waterways on the shore are unique and greatly contribute to our economy, tourism, and way of life,” added Elle Bassett, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper. “A fracked-gas pipeline that threatens such valuable resources should go through a thorough, democratic review. Considering that there are multiple discussions about new or expanding pipeline projects that would cross hundreds of streams on the Eastern Shore, we need to take action. The Pipeline and Water Protection Act would ensure that our waterways are not threatened by pipeline projects, and it’s needed now more than ever.”

The advocates stressed how important it is to have waterway-specific reviews, conducted with full participation of local residents. They also discussed how critical such an action is during a time when the federal government is rolling back water protection regulations.

“If fracking threatens water, public health, and the environment, then the same concerns apply to fracked-gas pipelines. Maryland has a responsibility to utilize all available tools in order to fully evaluate and review proposed pipelines and their potential impacts on the environment,” said Josh Tulkin, Director of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The Pipeline and Water Protection Act will ensure Maryland’s government is doing everything it can to protect the drinking water and environment of the state.”

CONTACT:
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, CCAN Action Fund, 608-620-8819 or denise@chesapeakeclimate.org
Doug Jackson, Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club, 202-495-3045 or doug.jackson@sierraclub.org

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CCAN Action Fund is the advocacy arm of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 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.