U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski today joined U.S. Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings (MD-7), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2), and John Sarbanes (MD-3) in sending a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urging the agency to engage the public as it considers a 21.4-mile extension of the Columbia Gas Transmission, Inc. pipeline that runs from Owings Mills through Oregon Ridge to Fallston.
Many members of the Baltimore County communities that would be affected have voiced concerns about the negative impact that the project may have on the environment and public health. In the letter to FERC, Team Maryland members urged the agency to "heed the local community concerns in designing its Environmental Assessment." It also urged FERC to "involve all relevant stakeholders" throughout the Environmental Assessment process, including the evaluation of less hazardous alternatives.
The pipeline extension proposed by Columbia Transmission would run beside an existing pipeline, but would require the company to expand its current right of way from a width of 50 feet to 75 feet. It is estimated that approximately 300 property owners would be affected by the expansion.
The text of the letter is below.
July 2, 2012
The Honorable Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman
The Honorable Cheryl A. LaFleur
The Honorable Philip D. Moeller
The Honorable John R. Norris
The Honorable Tony Clark
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE, Room 11H
Washington, D.C. 20426
Re: Docket No. PF12-6-000. Proposed Line MP Loop Extension Project
Dear Chairman Wellinghoff and Fellow Commissioners:
The Line MP Loop Extension Project proposed by Columbia Gas Transmission, Inc., has raised serious concerns among residents in Baltimore and the surrounding community. Given the significance of these concerns, we strongly encourage the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to engage the public in the scoping and Environmental Assessment (EA) process to the fullest extent possible, and to thoroughly incorporate the public comments the Commission receives into its evaluation of this proposed project.
Many constituents have contacted us with specific concerns about negative impacts that the project may have on the environment and public health. Specifically, residents are concerned about the potential negative effects of this project on the safety of local drinking water supplies, on the quality of local streams and the fish that depend on them, and on the health of the Federally Threatened bog turtle species that lives in the region. We have encouraged these residents to be actively engaged throughout the scoping process and Environmental Assessment. Many of these residents have attended public hearings and meetings addressing the planned project and have voiced their opinions both to FERC and to Columbia Gas Transmission, Inc. It is of vital importance that this public input is not only solicited, but is given the significant weight it deserves as this process moves forward.
We strongly urge FERC to heed local community concerns in designing and preparing its Environmental Assessment. We further urge FERC to involve all relevant stakeholders in identifying and resolving issues and evaluating less hazardous alternatives during the pre-filing review and throughout the preparation of the EA. Finally, as the Commission defines the parameters of the upcoming EA and the purpose and need of this project, we encourage FERC to commit to evaluating this proposed project based on its ability to be protective of public health, public safety, and environmental integrity. The planned EA is an important first step in determining whether this project is compatible with local needs. Should the EA reveal possible negative environmental, health, or safety impacts, we would urge the Commission to delay implementation of the project until each such possible impact has been thoroughly investigated and an Environmental Impact Statement has been completed.
Thank you very much for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to hearing from FERC regarding its plans to fully incorporate local public input and key environmental and safety concerns into this ongoing process.