Natural gas pipeline from Wicomico to Somerset County, public comment open
MARYLAND – A natural gas pipeline is proposed to be built on the Eastern Shore by the end of 2021. Many are voicing their support and citing economic growth but environmentalists aren’t too happy with the project.
The Maryland Department of Environment held the first public hearing on this proposal on Tuesday night. Lawmakers say this has been in the works for more than two decades. Supporters say this will entice more businesses to set up shop in Somerset County as well as benefit the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Eastern Correctional Institution. However, critics say there are safer alternatives that won’t put residents’ health at risk.
“It’s either the pipeline or nothing. But my perspective is that there are choices,” says Susan Olsen with the Lower Eastern Shore Group of the Sierra Club.
Residents and officials are making their voices heard about an almost 18-mile long proposed natural gas pipeline extension, stretching the Del-Mar Energy Pathway Project from Wicomico County to Somerset County.
“We want a clean environment. We want a sustainable environment. We also need a sustainable economic future,” says Jim Mathias, the director of government relations for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
According to proposals, 91 percent of the pipeline would be under existing roadways like Route 13 but it would also cross some areas with water to reach Princess Anne and Westover.
Environmental groups are concerned about this project because these pipes can leak which some research links to health issues including cancer. “I don’t think we have to go to fracked gas. It’s too dangerous,” says Olsen.
Officials say this change would make Somerset County more attractive to new businesses and offer a cheaper more eco-friendly alternative to places that currently use diesel fuel including the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Eastern Correctional Institution.
“The conversion to natural gas would reduce CO2 emissions at ECI by 64 percent and reduce CO2 emissions at UMES by 23 percent,” says Maryland Senator Mary Beth Carozza.
Some say wind, solar and geothermal energy are better alternatives. However, others say natural gas is still better than the current situation. “We hear your concerns. We are acting upon your concerns but it’s all very positive and I’ll say what I have said: Please don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good,” says Mathias.
Senator Carozza says this pipeline would support the creation of a renewable natural gas facility while at the same time addressing the issue of nutrient runoff from poultry waste. Meanwhile, Olsen is urging residents to do more research about this proposal because she says residents aren’t aware this may happen let alone the pros and cons of the situation.
Chesapeake Utilities Corporation sent 47 ABC the following statement about the proposed pipeline:
The Del-Mar Energy Pathway Project enables our Company to meet the growing customer demand for natural gas service in the region. This project further expands our partnership in the local communities in which we live and work, bringing natural gas service to Somerset County, one of the few counties in the state without access to natural gas, and providing a cleaner, reliable and more cost-effective energy choice for customers on the Delmarva Peninsula.
Studies have shown that a project like this will create more job growth and expansion of services, particularly increased demand and additional local services. Furthermore, the project entails installing critical energy infrastructure and extending natural gas to the Eastern Shore Correctional Institute (ECI) and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) , significantly reducing the carbon footprint for both facilities by removing the equivalent of more than 11,000 cars from the road. The project will also facilitate the future delivery of renewable natural gas into the natural gas distribution system on the Eastern Shore.