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MD Officials Pushed to Reject Gas Pipeline in Black Communities

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Advocates opposed to Maryland's new gas pipeline project say that drilling can cause sludge, mud and sediment to back up into nearby houses. (Adobe stock)
Advocates opposed to Maryland's new gas pipeline project say that drilling can cause sludge, mud and sediment to back up into nearby houses. (Adobe stock)
November 6, 2020

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Coming just days after Maryland committed to a regional wind-energy partnership, a group of environmental advocates is urging Gov. Larry Hogan and the state's Board of Public Works to reject a key permit for a proposed gas pipeline project.

They say Maryland officials need to be aware that the Eastern Shore pipeline will run through mostly minority, disenfranchised communities from Delaware to Salisbury, Maryland - according to a new study.

Anthony Field, Maryland campaign coordinator with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, pointed out that it's well-known that fracking poses serious health risks to nearby communities.

He said officials need to know Black and Brown residents continually sacrifice well-being for infrastructure projects such as pipelines and landfills that other communities can fight against.

"It is counter to Maryland's climate commitments to continue building out gas," said Field. "But to also kind of just brush aside the issue that this pipeline brings to the local community is an insult and an injustice to those communities. You know, this isn't just a climate concern but it's a justice concern."

Supporters of the pipeline say it will bring gas heat to an area, including the historically Black University of Maryland Eastern Shore, for the first time ever. The Board of Public Works is expected to announce its decision on construction in wetlands at its November 18 meeting.

Field said the pipeline will impact 1,200 square feet of streams and more than 30,000 square feet of wetlands.

Just as important, the kind of drilling used to place pipes can impact residents by what's known as involuntary blowback. That's when sludge, mud and sediment back up into houses.

"There was a home in New Jersey that was nearby where horizontal directional drilling was being used to lay a pipeline," said Field. "And it actually caused a small tremor, cracking the foundation in the basement of the home and causing sludge and mud and floodwater to flood up to the first floor of the house. And the house was actually condemned."

The pipeline already is under construction in Delaware by the Chesapeake Utilities Corporation. Maryland's Department of the Environment recommended approval for the wetlands permit in October but still is assessing the project's impact on wetlands.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD