Local leaders react to Md. Board of Public Works natural gas pipeline permit approval
SALISBURY, Md. – Local leaders are reacting to the Maryland Board of Public Works approval of an environmental license that would expand natural gas service to Somerset County. On one hand, many argue Somerset County needs access to natural gas. But on the other hand, environmentalists have raised there own concerns about what effects this project could have.
CEO of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Bill Chambers says Chesapeake Utilities’ seven mile pipeline extension could bring a wealth of opportunity for Somerset County. Chambers says Somerset County is being left behind when it comes to access to natural gas. He adds bringing the pipeline to Somerset County wouldn’t just benefit them, it would also help out neighboring counties. “Yes, renewables are the wave of the future. They’re here now. But right now Somerset County is long overdue in getting this key piece of infrastructure as an available asset for that community,” said Chambers.
Chambers says that’s because the pipeline would bring more jobs and opportunities for already existing businesses to grow. “It’s an economic game changer for Somerset County. That county has a legacy of being an economic dead zone. They have very few infrastructure tools in their toolbox. So the addition of natural gas is a huge boost, not only to current businesses, but to future investment,” said Chambers.
Chambers says he’s confident in Chesapeake Utilities’ track record, and thinks they’re the right one for the job. “Chesapeake Utilities has an extraordinary track record of environmental stewardship, number one. You’ve got the right entity doing the project. Number two, some of these same people that are claiming the environmental destruction of the planet is going to take place in Somerset County live on the Western Shore,” said Chambers.
Meanwhile, Salisbury City Council member Michele Gregory says those allies on the Western Shore of Maryland could be key in making the opposition’s voices heard. “It’s about us without us. That was a big narrative that all the opponents of this project were on the Western Shore. I would call on those Western Shore allies to please look and see what they can do at the state level,” said Gregory.
Gregory tells 47ABC those opposed to the pipeline say they don’t feel as though they were heard during the BPW meeting. She she and multiple other pipeline opponents were not able to put in their two cents during the public comment section of the meeting.
For Gregory, she says her main concerns with the pipeline surround potential harm to the environment. “It’s going to cut through a lot of protected lands or wetlands. I’m concerned about the environmental effects because while they say they have had no accidents in over 50 years, I am reluctant to believe that there will be absolutely no impact,” said Gregory.
Gregory adds that the pipeline is also an environmental justice issue. She says marginalized communities that the pipeline would run through are in danger. “About 70% of Salisbury lives in rentals. They do not own their property. Unfortunately, the way the law is set up, the property owners are the only ones who get notified with no requirement for either the landlords or the state to let the people who actually live on the lands know,” said Gregory.