I’ve had a chance to review the Potomac Pipeline permit approval issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and I have some more thoughts.
I continue to emphasize my disappointment – we simply don’t need this pipeline and I would say that even if there weren’t considerable risks to the Potomac River, the source of drinking water for six million of us.
But there are risks and we have repeatedly made MDE aware of them. And so did you! 2400 comments on the permit application were submitted to MDE, a truly unprecedented number for a state permit.
MDE did, I acknowledge, include some special conditions to the permit; those special conditions are completely a result of our grassroots advocacy and pressure. I really want to thank everyone who was involved and spoke out, both in writing and in person at our rally from Western Maryland to Annapolis.
Some of the special conditions:
- MDE prohibited any use of additives in bentonite/HDD (horizontal direction drilling) fluid without prior permission from MDE – this is good, but they should have prohibited the use of diesel fuel in the drilling fluid altogether. MDE should clarify that they will not allow diesel fuel to be added to the drilling fluid, under any conditions.
- Independent monitor and requirement to have boat on the river during drilling activity
- Testing of drinking wells within 500’ of workspace – before and after drilling/replacement of water if drilling causes contamination.
- Time of year restrictions for both in-stream and HDD construction (March 1-June 15 for Potomac)
- Immediate notification to downstream drinking water utilities if inadvertent release happens – from drilling site down to the mouth of the Potomac.
- Downstream water quality monitoring after inadvertent release, until water quality returns to normal.
MDE acknowledges there is no benefit to the state or its citizens from this pipeline. In discussing the purpose and need for the project, the state completely deferred to FERC’s standard, and ignored the question of whether approving a fracked gas pipeline is at odds with the state’s decision to ban fracking.
Governor Hogan and his MDE missed a valuable opportunity to be a leader among states to exercise their right to review federal projects that would impact our rivers and streams. Banning fracking was a powerful statement of states’ rights; similar would have been Maryland applying pressure to a federal agency to demand a full review of the project.
MDE and Columbia Gas should be aware that we will, and are, considering all legal and advocacy options available to us regarding this permit, and the permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers which have yet to be granted. I will be aggressively monitoring this project if it goes forward. And make no mistake: we are prepared to take enforcement action if Columbia Gas violates its permit.