Permit Update: Hogan Declines, Grumbles is Silent

Photo by Tusik Only

We keep trying!  But, boy, are we disappointed.

While we were trying to get the attention of Governor Hogan and Secretary Ben Grumbles of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), we learned that they were intent on ignoring us all along, by leaving the decision on the Potomac Pipeline to the Army Corps of Engineers.

I had written to Gov. Hogan to request that he meet with us – Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Food and Water Watch, MD Chapter Sierra Club, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Community of Communities and many more that were also involved with Don’t Frack Maryland campaign. Our membership numbers total over 160,000 Maryland residents.  And others have also tried to remind Governor Hogan of his anti-fracked gas duty.

We were hoping that the governor would spend some time with us to express some of our concerns:

  • MDE has not fully reviewed this project and has not exercised the State’s right when it comes to a federal project
  • MDE has made closed door deals with TransCanada
  • Maryland has not properly followed procedure and is inadequately providing the proper review of a project that poses several threats to Maryland Residents, in which there are no benefits to the State of Maryland.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s office declined our request.

While Potomac Riverkeeper Network appreciates the steps taken by Secretary Grumbles to weigh in on the Army Corps of Engineers’ permit review for this pipeline, I wrote to him that we believe it’s critical that he also calls on FERC to take the following steps:

  • MDE is denying the 401 certification at this time
  • MDE is putting the authorization of the Wetlands and Waterways permit on hold
  • MDE requests that FERC reevaluate the EA and incorporate a full assessment of the potential environmental impacts associated with the Mountaineer Gas portion of the Eastern Panhandle Connector Pipeline Project

I now know that they were never going to act responsibly.  Even while we thought that Grumbles was actually going to do something when he wrote to the Army Corps, look carefully at his letter.  He asks that the Army Corp to defer a decision on the pipeline till Maryland “has an opportunity to propose special conditions for inclusion in the Corps’ authorization”?

Note – this is important – Grumbles’ letter acknowledges that he expects the Army Corps to approve the project.  He did not say “decision”; he said authorization!

As of this writing, MDE has taken no action on the permit, and here’s the statement issued on March 15, the date of the deadline, by Secretary Grumbles: “Maryland will require any project of this nature to meet our stringent standards to ensure protection of the environment and public health. The Maryland Department of the Environment is working to complete a robust review of this proposed project, and we will insist that any energy facility or infrastructure project that moves forward complies with our state environmental safeguards.”


UPDATE:  Today MDE issued its permit for the Potomac Pipeline.  I am disappointed that they chose to issue its Wetlands and Waterways permit, thereby authorizing the state’s 401 certification. Although the special conditions do provide better reporting measures for Columbia Gas, again MDE has failed to recognize that the same threats exist with the Mountaineer Gas portion of the pipeline. These special conditions would only apply to half of the entire pipeline project. MDE should have denied the 401 certification, put the Maryland permit on hold, and requested that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission conduct a cumulative impact assessment of both the Columbia Gas and Mountaineer Gas portions of the pipeline.  We just learned of this development Friday afternoon and will have more to say next week.  The fact remains that this project risks the health of the Potomac River, with absolutely no benefit to Marylanders.