Mountaineer Gas Pipeline

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Mountaineer Gas Pipeline is a proposed natural gas pipeline in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, USA.[1] It includes the Eastern Panhandle Expansion, also called the Potomac Pipeline.[2]

Phase I Location

Phase I will run from Berkley, Virginia, USA to Martinsburg, West Virginia, USA.

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Phase I Project Details

  • Owner: TransCanada
  • Proposed capacity:
  • Length: 44.3 kilometers / 27.5 miles
  • Status: Operating[1]
  • Start Year: 2019[1]

Phase II Location

Phase II runs in a 24.5 mile loop around Charleston, West Virginia.

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Phase II Project Details

  • Owner: TransCanada
  • Proposed capacity:
  • Length: 39.4 kilometers / 24.5 miles
  • Status: Operating[3]
  • Start Year: 2019[3]

Phase III Location

Phase III of the pipeline would go under the Potomac River between Berkeley Springs, West Virginia and the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

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Phase III Project Details

  • Operator: TransCanada
  • Current capacity: Million cubic feet per day
  • Proposed capacity: 4750 Million cubic feet per day
  • Length: 4 miles / 7 km
  • Status: Proposed
  • Start Year: 2020[1]

Background

The pipeline is scheduled to be constructed in three phases. The first phase will be 27.5 miles long and run from Berkley, Virginia, USA to Martinsburg, West Virginia, USA. The second phase will add a 24.5 miles loop around Charleston, West Virginia. The third phase will add an additional 4.4 miles and is called the Eastern Panhandle Expansion or the Potomac Pipeline. Phase III would run under the Potomac River and has faced significant opposition.[1] Organizations opposed to the pipeline include AMP Creeks Council, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Clean Water Action, Earthworks, Food & Water Watch, Howard County Climate Action, Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVA), Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, Maryland Conservation Council, Maryland Environmental Health Network, Maryland Sierra Club, Nature Abounds, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Savage River Watershed Association, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, and We Are Cove Point.

Originally, all three phases were expected to begin operations in 2019, but there have been no indications of construction activity since the project was first proposed.

Phase III Background

The proposed Eastern Panhandle Expansion would be built by Columbia Gas Transmission, a TransCanada subsidiary. The pipeline would connect a TransCanada pipeline in Pennsylvania to a Mountaineer Gas line in West Virginia by going under the Potomac River near Hancock, MD.[4] The pipeline would require a permit from the state of Maryland because it owns the Potomac, and it would require a permit from the National Park Service because it would run beneath the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park.[4]

In January 2019 the Maryland Board of Public Works declined to give an easement for the pipeline to go through Maryland, including a "no" vote from Gov. Larry Hogan, who has been previously supportive of expanding infrastructure for natural gas.[5]

Phase III Opposition

At a February 2017 TransCanada presentation about the pipeline in Hancock, MD, pipeline opponents cited the potential for the project to contaminate the drinking water that the Potomac River provides to more than 6 million people.

In April 2017, in response to its Notice of Intention to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) of the project, FERC received comments from the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Allegheny Defense Project, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, citing the potential for the pipeline to harm groundwater quality, karst features, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. FERC has announced that its EA will be published in January 2018.[6]

In June 2017 activists began a camp-in protest at the proposed site of the pipeline, and urged Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to deny TransCanada a certification stating that the project would not impact state water quality. Maryland has banned fracking, and activists argue that it should not be complicit in sending fracked gas to other states.[7]

Kayakers protest the proposed Eastern Panhandle Expansion pipeline in June 2017.

In December 2017 more than 200 residents and activists attended a rally outside a Maryland Department of the Environment hearing on the pipeline that was held in Hancock, MD.[8] The pipeline has also been opposed by several local governments, including the Boonsboro, MD Town Council, the District of Columbia City Council, and the Washington County, MD, Board of Commissioners.[9]

In January of 2019, a board of high-ranking Maryland officials rejected the proposed pipeline's section that would run across the western part of the state carrying natural gas produced in Pennsylvania to West Virginia. The Board of Public Works voted 3-0 against an easement for TransCanada’s pipeline. It would run under the Potomac River near Hancock, Maryland, and extend about 3 miles from Columbia Gas’ network in Pennsylvania to Mountaineer Gas’ distribution system in West Virginia.[10] In May of 2019, TransCanada filed a federal lawsuit against the state to gain access to state property to drill a pipeline under the Western Maryland Rail Trail. The state’s attorney general has moved to dismiss the suit, saying the Constitution does not allow a federal court to order a state to grant an easement in cases like this. In June of 2019, 62 Maryland lawmakers signed an open letter opposing an effort by Columbia Gas Transmission to build a three-and-a-half mile long fracked-gas pipeline under public lands in the western part of the state.[11]

In August of 2019, a federal judge in Maryland threw out a lawsuit that would have overruled Maryland state officials who had previously banned the project. The company had sought access to Maryland property through eminent domain, but the board of state officials rejected the proposed pipeline across 3 miles (4 kilometers) of western Maryland, and the company then took the matter to federal court.[12]

Phase III would also cut through Jefferson County, West Virginia to supply a new industrial park near Charles Town. At the moment, the only customer is the Rockwool mineral wool factory, which has just begun construction under much controversy. Opponents of Rockwool say local and state governments subverted the county’s comprehensive plan, manipulated zoning codes and negotiated generous tax breaks and subsidies in secrecy. They object to the polluting emissions the plant would produce close to four schools and the potential for water contamination and catastrophic accidents.[2]

The pipeline runs as close as 35 feet to some homes, and 80 homes are within the 150-foot blast radius. Mountaineer Gas took two families to court to get eminent domain. One of those sued, the Keseckers, own a 100-acre farm in Berkeley County. The pipeline cuts right through the middle. They can’t plant on it, must continue to pay property taxes on the land and are liable for damages to the pipeline. Pipeline opponents say laying pipe is more dangerous in the Eastern Panhandle because of its special geology called karst, a unique geological formation that acts as a rocky sponge. Pipeline companies have up until now purposely avoided building in karst. Leaking and explosions are more likely to happen in karst geology because of the instability of the terrain. Water contamination is also a distinct possibility when building a pipeline in karst.[2]

Articles and resources

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Planned Pipelines, Pipeline News, accessed October 2018
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mountaineer Gas Pipeline: Rockwool Foes Zero in on ‘Blood Supply’ of Unwelcome Factory, DC Media Group, accessed May 2019
  3. 3.0 3.1 Umstead, Matthew (3 January 2019). "Mountaineer Gas: First segment of distribution line project nearly complete". Herald-Mail.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Activists crowd meeting on proposed pipeline under Potomac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 10, 2017
  5. TransCanada Maryland pipeline expansion nixed by regulator, Seeking Alpha, Jan. 3, 2019
  6. Docket No. CP17-80-000, Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 196, Oct. 12, 2017
  7. Protesters vow to block gas pipeline that would go under Potomac in Md., WTOP, Jun. 30, 2017
  8. Big crowd leads to continuance of natural-gas pipeline hearing , Hagerstown Herald-Mail, Dec. 20, 2017
  9. 200 Landowners And Advocates Join To Oppose Potomac Pipeline As Hogan Administration Weights Approval, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Dec. 20, 2017
  10. Maryland Board Votes Against Natural Gas Pipeline Project, CBS Local Baltimore, January 2, 2019
  11. 62 Md. Lawmakers Release Letter Opposing Public Land Seizure For Potomac Pipeline, CBS Local Baltimore, June 18, 2019
  12. Federal judge nixes lawsuit seeking gas pipeline in Maryland, WTOP, August 21, 2019

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External resources

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