2017-06-28 / Front Page

Maryland DNR urges feds to ensure water protections for Potomac in gas project

by Kate Shunney

Officials with the Environmental Review Program of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have made further recommendations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relating to a proposed interstate natural gas line project between Fulton County, Pa. and Morgan County, W.Va.

The proposed 3.4-mile natural gas transmission line would take gas from an existing pipeline in Fulton County and transport it underground to an outlet on the West Virginia side of the Potomac River. There, a West Virginia company, Mountaineer Gas, plans to construct a 23-mile natural gas transmission line from Berkeley Springs to Martinsburg.

In a three-page letter submitted to FERC on June 16, Greg Golden of the DNR urges the federal agency responsible for approving the gas line project to evaluate several environmental aspects of the proposal.

“There is strong interest in protecting and conserving streams and the Potomac River, and the diverse aquatic life that they support. There is also important recreational values associated with these waterways, and of course the significant importance of water quality for fish and wildlife, and downstream water supply systems for human consumption,” the DNR letter says. “Permitting and environmental studies should thoroughly evaluate impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation for aquatic resources.”

The letter specifies that special attention should be paid to “optimized use and application of HDD drilling technology for installation under waterways” – referring to horizontal directional drilling that would drive a proposed 8-inch natural gas line beneath streams and the Potomac River.

It also urges “inspection, maintenance, and repair protocols and measures throughout the life of the project.”

“Water quality and hydrology should be a special focus for this project, especially in relation to the Potomac River,” Golden wrote. “Associated with that water quality and hydrology protection, soil science and geological considerations (referenced below) should be made important components of the planning, design, construction and maintenance actions associated with this project.”

The DNR mentions, in the letter, a need to review the impact of the gas line on DNR-managed state public lands, specifically the Western Maryland Rail Trail.

Agency officials also list aquatic habitat, fisheries, terrestrial habitats and forest resources, protected species and geology as considerations for the project.

“The Wildlife and Heritage Service of DNR has potential concerns for impacts to freshwater mussels in the Potomac River,” the letter says. Officals say the use of horizontal directional drilling could lessen the impact of construction on the river.

“[W]e would want to be sure there was an appropriate contingency plan for inadvertent release accidents,” it says. The letter refers to the need for a “frackout (inadvertent release) management plan.”

Columbia Gas submitted their 1,000-plus page FERC application for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the project in March.

The company has asked for the project to be approved by 2018 so it can begin construction of the line.

FERC has announced it will complete an environmental assessment of the project, and sought public comments about environmental concerns and questions in May. A large portion of the comments received were about the possible impact of the pipeline construction on the Potomac River.

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Ugh, I cannot say enough bad

Ugh, I cannot say enough bad things in a family publication about this gas line. Mountaineer Gas is taking the Keseckers to court this friday to sue them for eminent domain of the beautiful farm that's been in their family for generations. PLEASE COME TO COURTHOUSE Friday at 9 and support the Keseckers, life-long citizens of Morgan County. They have been lied to and harrassed, even calling Mr Kesecker when he was in the ICU (after he told them not to call him anymore). This pipeline will not be available to most residents, and those that can access it will, of course, have to pay for the hookup, at least $3000 (and then buy all new appliances). WHO IS THIS PIPELINE FOR???? It's not for us, folks, and jobs? No. Maybe a couple, and you can bet they won't be hiring anyone local.

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