Year-long review results in over 20 environmental conditions including drinking water protection, drilling fluids, monitoring and notification, sinkhole prevention
BALTIMORE (March 16, 2018) – The Maryland Department of the Environment today issued a state wetlands and waterways permit for the proposed Columbia Gas pipeline in Western Maryland that includes customized conditions specific to the project and its location to ensure protection of public health and the environment.
“After a year of robust, public review, the state is insisting on extra precautions and safeguards. Our state permit is strong and balanced, adding almost two dozen environmental conditions, many of which go above and beyond what the Army Corps and FERC would typically include, while also recognizing that natural gas has a role in meeting state and regional energy needs,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “The bottom line is that this pipeline will not get built if the applicant doesn’t comply with our many requirements, regardless of what the federal agencies ultimately decide.”
Some of the state’s special environmental conditions include safeguards relating to:
• Protection of drinking water, in both public water systems and private residential wells, with a requirement that all work be done in a manner that does not damage or degrade any wells during construction. The permit includes requirements for pre- and post-construction monitoring of wells at the expense of the applicant and prescribed responses, such as provision of bottled water and well replacement, as needed.
• Horizontal directional drilling, including limitation of allowable drilling fluids to water and bentonite clay, with no additives permitted without prior MDE approval.
• Visual monitoring of the Potomac River by boat from sunrise to sunset and other actions to provide for early detection of any pollution event, along with notification requirements and water monitoring.
• A prohibition of blasting without prior MDE approval.
• Actions to prevent the formation of sinkholes and possible effects on underground water supplies.
The project would entail construction of about 3.06 miles of new 8-inch diameter natural gas pipeline in Maryland as part of a 3.37 mile pipeline originating in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, and extending south to Morgan County, West Virginia. Impacts to non-tidal wetlands, wetland buffer, stream and floodplain areas are estimated collectively to be about three-fifths of an acre in size.
Maryland permit application review
MDE received the permit application from Columbia Gas, which is owned by TransCanada, in March 2017. Maryland law and regulations establish criteria for MDE to consider when evaluating waterway construction projects. MDE considered all criteria, including protection and use of waters of the State and preservation of public safety and welfare. Based on that review and the inclusion of multiple conditions and requirements, MDE determined the project would satisfy all applicable Maryland law and regulations.
MDE fully utilized the tools provided under Maryland law to ensure appropriate public participation. MDE provided opportunity for public comment, including a public meeting in December that was continued in January to ensure that all voices were heard. MDE has given thoughtful consideration to the comments received and, to the extent appropriate, taken them into account in establishing conditions within the permit. Responses to comments received are included in a summary of the basis for MDE’s decision to issue the permit.
Federal and state authorizations
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a general permit for projects in Maryland in 2016, which included a Water Quality Certification from MDE under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. MDE’s newly issued state wetlands and waterways permit includes additional safeguards and conditions specific to this proposed project. MDE is requesting that the Army Corps and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission include MDE’s special conditions in any authorizations they might issue for this project.
“Some opponents of natural gas have created confusion by repeatedly mischaracterizing legal, procedural and technical aspects of the permit application,” said Secretary Grumbles. “State law gives MDE the regulatory tools we need to protect public health and the environment, and we are using those tools to fully supplement federal review.”
The permit, the summary of the basis for MDE’s decision and other related documents are available on MDE’s website at