Thursday, February 16, 2017

Gas Pipeline Protest in Maryland

A group of about 100 protesters peacefully dominated a Hancock Maryland Town Hall meeting hosted by Columbia Gas Transmission who is proposing a new 3.9 mile, 8-inch diameter pipeline to connect Mountaineer Gas (the West Virginia consumer gas distribution company) to gas supplies in Pennsylvania. The proposed pipeline will be run about 72 feet below the river bed. The new pipeline will bring gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and Ohio to a new proposed Mountaineer Gas pipeline, The Mountaineer Xpress project. 

Columbia Pipeline Group, Inc. (Columbia)  is planning to construct and operate approximately 165 miles of pipeline and three new compressor stations in addition to upgrading three existing compressor stations and one regulating station. The project called the Mountaineer XPress project (MXP) would be able to move an additional 2.7 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale production areas to commercial and consumer markets on the Columbia Gas Transmission system, including markets in western West Virginia.

The Mountaineer XPress project will facilitate continued use of a domestically-produced, low-cost source of energy that yields significantly lower emissions than its alternatives while reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign sources of energy. However, much of the natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale is obtained by using hydraulic fracturing methods also called fracking. This is why protesters organized by Occupy Washington DC dominated a meeting at the Hancock Maryland Town Hall. The meeting was meant to be an informational meeting about  the pipeline, which is intended to go under the C & O Canal and Potomac River. Representative from Columbia Gas were present to answer questions. 

The Mountaineer XPress Pipeline project is a significant financial investment in the state of West Virginia. According to an economic impact study conducted by Witt Economic LLC, close to 9,000 jobs will be created during the length of this project. In addition to the jobs created, the project will also generate new tax revenue for the local communities. This meeting was part of Columbia’s outreach to landowners and communities in areas where the Mountaineer XPress project will be constructed.  The Occupy Washington, DC organized group, pledged a sustained campaign against the project and their group is prepared to protest, blockade and legally challenge the pipeline every step of the way. The group says that they want to defeat the pipeline and move on to a better world powered only by solar and wind energy. 

In July 2016, TransCanada (the pipeline company who wanted to build the KeystoneXL Pipeline) completed the acquisition of Columbia Pipeline Group, Inc. (Columbia) for $13 billion. Columbia operates approximately 15,000 miles of regulated natural gas pipelines that extend from New York to the Gulf of Mexico. Columbia delivers  natural gas to the energy markets, serving customers in more than 16 states throughout the northeast and gulf. In addition, Columbia  also owns and operates one of North America’s largest underground natural gas storage systems that includes 37 storage fields in four states with over 650 billion cubic feet in total capacity, and their Hardy Storage operation has a working storage capacity of 12 billion cubic feet and provides storage services from its West Virginia natural gas storage facility.

Columbia plans to file its application for permits for the project with FERC next month. It hopes to have an answer by January next year and start construction in April 2018. The pipelines need approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, the national park Service and FERC.

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