Local Landowners Face Losing Property Through Eminent Domain
Behind the scenes, without public input, a West Virginia gas company called Mountaineer Gas is quietly laying the groundwork for a fracked gas pipeline that would threaten the Potomac River and the National Park Service’s C&O Canal, one of the most visited national parks.
Residents in Morgan County, WV became aware of the pipeline proposal only after landmen requested access to properties for routing of the pipeline. Mountaineer Gas began bullying residents with ultimatums and eminent domain after receiving conditional approval from the WV Public Service Commission to route their gas line. The route proposed would cross five streams, all of which is in Karst geology. Karst geology is limestone that can rapidly dissolve and form pathways between the surface and groundwater, including streams. Pipelines do leak and in Karst geology pose a risk to private wells, cause stream contamination and stream flow loss, and develop sinkholes that can threaten the integrity of the pipeline.
The proposal Mountaineer Gas submitted to WV Public Service Commission is for construction of a multi-million dollar pipeline from an existing line in the Martinsburg area west to Berkeley Springs and east to Jefferson County. This pipeline is contingent on the approval and construction of a Columbia Gas pipeline from Pennsylvania. The Columbia Gas pipeline would route south from Bedford, PA to Hancock, MD, under the C&O Canal and Potomac River, finally ending in the Berkeley Springs, WV area. Columbia Gas is currently communicating with the National Park Service to be granted a right-of-way access to drill under Park property.
There is a real risk of this combined project to the Potomac River, the drinking water source for over 6 million people, and a risk to several high quality West Virginia streams and to private property in both Maryland and West Virginia.
The community gathered and submitted over 60 letters of protest to the proposed gas line.
On October 4th, environmental groups, including Potomac Riverkeeper Network, filed a motion to intervene in the Mountaineer Gas appeal. Our intention was to bring the potential of environmental damage into the case.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Send a letter to the National Park Service. Tell the NPS that there is outrage over a new, unnecessary pipeline that threatens the C&O Canal and the Potomac River. Demand that the NPS needs to make this right-of-way permit a public process. Watch our website for alerts about actions we are taking and join us. Write in to your local papers. Put a sign in your yard. Talk to your neighbors.
Mountaineer Gas Pipeline
Mountaineer Gas works exclusively in West Virginia and therefore does not have federal oversight of this pipeline proposal. Once the route is secured, the pipeline has to receive a 401 state certification permit, a 404 ACOE permit, and state regulatory permits and authorizations. Mountaineer Gas has recently received authorization to proceed after an appeal of their application modification. Because the modification was perceived to be minor, public notice of the process was not initiated. However, Mountaineer Gas describes the pipeline as a distribution line mostly catering to two large companies. The distribution line would be a “redundant” line, essentially, a back-up gas line. This pipeline is contingent on the completion of the Columbia Gas line, which has yet to submit an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Columbia Gas and National Park Service
Based on conversations with Mountaineer Gas representatives and National Park Service (NPS) officials connected with the Hagerstown C&O Canal office, we know that Columbia Gas has presented a proposal to drill under the C&O Canal property and the Potomac River near Hancock, MD. The National Park Service has granted Columbia Gas a right-of-entry to survey. There has been no public information about talks between Columbia Gas and NPS or the request for the right-of-entry authorization.
FERC’s One-sided Approach
FERC has a history of downplaying potential environmental damage and property rights as they analyze natural gas pipeline development projects. The Mountaineer Gas project will involve numerous stream crossings, cross land that is geologically vulnerable to spills and unnecessarily threaten the source of drinking water for millions of people.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. We strongly believe the public should be involved when a gas company seeks a right-of-entry to national park property for private financial gain — especially when it puts our ability to use and enjoy one of the most visited national parks of the country at risk.
p.s. Want to use snail mail? Here are the NPS addresses.