Although Maryland made history in 2017 by passing a permanent ban on fracking, our state is still threatened by fracked gas from neighboring states and our governor’s plans to expand fracked gas infrastructure across our state. Please read on for information about the 2020 Maryland General Assembly and the Potomac Pipeline.
The push for renewables is impeded by expansion of fracked gas use as well as by slow phase out of coal. Fracked gas (for power plants to create electricity) is cheap and renewables are facing challenges: offshore wind is still delayed, solar siting opposition is growing, and the solar roll-out is not fast enough. Fracked gas has major health impacts as described in this 2020 compendium.
What you can do
Support Maryland Sierra Club 2020 Legislature priority bills. We need to have tools to oppose opening new gas power plants for electricity. Please step up and support the Sierra priority bill to require the Public Service Commission to consider climate in approving gas fired power plants for electricity (and other decisions re electrical generation).
Sign this MD Sierra Club Action Alert to support the bill to require climate-based decisionmaking by the Maryland Public Service Commission
Ask all your friends and groups to sign it also!
Share the PSC-Climate Fact Sheet - Require Climate-Based Decision Making by the PSC
Get up to date bill status & actions you can take
For more information and to volunteer, contact Ruth.White@mdsierra.org
On Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019, the Maryland Board of Public Works voted 3-0 to deny a crucial easement to the fracked gas Potomac Pipeline. The unanimous decision is a major and unexpected victory and setback to TransCanada's project. This comes after years of organizing against the project. For more information, see our press release here
It's Not Over Yet
Columbia Gas is suing the state of Maryland on their right of way and the case will be heard in an Appeals Court in Richmond sometime in 2020. Stay tuned for updates.
Despite all the good efforts of the Sierra Club and the people of Maryland, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C., the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) issued Columbia Gas a state Wetlands and Waterways Permit on March 16th, 2018. It instructs the Army Corps of Engineers to institute customized conditions specific to the pipeline project to protect the Potomac River and Maryland residents’ drinking water. However, the Army Corps indicated that such conditions "relate to matters under state jurisdiction only and not federal jurisdiction,” according to Sarah Gross, public affairs specialist at the Corps' Baltimore office. For this reason they were not included in the permit that the Army Corps ultimately issued. From E&E News, March 19, 2018.
As this article explains, “after years of stonewalling and secrecy, the purpose of the [Potomac] pipeline … from Pennsylvania across Maryland to Jefferson County, WV is to provide gas” to a factory the Danish company Rockwool wants to open in Jefferson County, WV. “If the factory gets built, several smokestacks, including one 21 stories tall, will emit toxic fumes and particulate matter, including over a dozen "hazardous air pollutants" with six human carcinogens, 24 hours a day as it melts basalt rock to produce insulation….The processes to heat the furnace and turn rocks into liquid will require an enormous amount of coal and gas... Unlike residential customers, who consume more in the winter and less in the summer, Rockwool would burn hot and heavy 24/7/365.”
This factory would also carry contaminants right over the border into Frederick County Maryland.
Recap of Fracked Gas Issues in the 2018 Legislative Session
In addition to the pipeline bill, the Gas Team supported two community-led bills to improve how the Public Service Commission handles applications for gas-fired power plants, compressor stations, and other infrastructure. The idea was to make the process more transparent with better community notification and a more-user friendly website, and to require such applications to include Health Impact Assessments. Unfortunately, both bills were voted down in the House Committee.
As you may know, the Gas Team has begun to focus not just on the problem of fracked gas infrastructure, but also the solution--100% Clean Renewable Energy--which led us (and you!) to support the 100% Clean Renewable Energy and Equity Act (HB878). Although the bill did not pass this session, we recognize this will be a multi-year effort and are pleased that people are beginning to realize that 100% clean renewable energy is feasible in Maryland. Many thanks to all the Beyond Gas Team members who gave support by attending rallies and contacting their legislators to support this bill. Stay tuned for more news from us regarding how we can get the legislature ready for 100% clean energy in the 2019 session!
There was one 2018 legislative victory that bodes well for our clean energy future. A bill that could have undermined offshore wind in Maryland was soundly defeated!
And finally, many thanks to those who made calls and sent emails to support that last-minute effort to remove trash incineration from the Renewable Portfolio Standard. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 282, which passed in the Senate, did not move in the House. Obviously, we still have work to do in this area.
Read our Legislative Chair, Mark Posner’s, write up on the session.
Governor Hogan's Plan to "Kick Start a Natural Gas Expansion" in Maryland
In another example of how Gov. Hogan has broken his promise to protect Marylanders from the public health harms of fracking, his administration has approved the merger between Calgary, Canada based AltaGas and the Washington Gas Light utility. Governor Hogan heaps praise on the proposed fossil fuel buildout that will come from the deal in this press release.
The merger still needs approval from the D.C. Public Service Commission, so this isn’t a done deal, and details about administration of the $100 million settlement to expand fracked gas infrastructure in Maryland have not been announced.
Sierra Club opposed this merger settlement and sent a letter to the Maryland PSC.
These companies are mid-stream entities, linked to fracked gas production and the latest big money-making schemes: "Both companies are strong utility operators, have a sweet spot of pipeline and midstream investments in premier supply basins, and have power generation businesses weighted to clean energy and innovations," AltaGas Chief Executive Officer David Harris said in a statement.
Make no mistake--the “clean” energy they are talking about is nothing but dirty fracked gas. We will be keeping an eye on developments with the AltaGas settlement.
We also are pressuring local and state officials to boost air quality monitoring and environmental protections around the new Dominion Energy Cove Point gas export facility. The facility is located in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and lacks adequate provisions to protect nearby residents from environmental hazards posed by routine operation of the plant and potential accidents.
Despite requests from community members for a safety study, Governor Hogan has so far refused to order one. We previously lost the battle to prevent the facility from being built. For more info, visit We Are Cove Point.
Eastern Shore Pipeline
A proposed 190 mile pipeline would carry fracked gas from Rising Sun (Cecil County), cross through the Eastern Shore and end in Virginia at a proposed power plant. Residents on the Eastern Shore are organizing to oppose both the pipeline and a potential natural/fracked gas power plant in Denton.
This shows a map of the pipeline route.
Here are a few other relevant references.