Jim Willis on NGL Pipelines
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)
[Editor’s Note: PennEast won big at the Supreme Court only to then drop the project (just like Constitution earlier) but another pipeline may rise like the Phoenix from it.]
Columbia Gas, a subsidiary of Canada-based TC Energy, wants to build a tiny 3.37-mile, 8-inch pipeline under the Potomac River from Maryland to West Virginia. The Eastern Panhandle Expansion, as it is called, is being blocked by the lefties in Maryland (see Fed Judge Upholds Maryland Decision to Block Pipe Under Potomac). Maryland used the same flawed legal argument that New Jersey used to block PennEast Pipeline–that eminent domain can’t be used against land owned or controlled by a state. PennEast won its case against NJ in the U.S. Supreme Court in June (see PennEast Pipeline Squeaks Out 5-4 Supreme Court Victory Over NJ). Columbia now has grounds and is challenging Maryland in court once again. Columbia expects to win, and for good reason.
The proposed Eastern Panhandle Expansion, from Maryland on one side of the river to West Virginia on the other side, will be built to feed a larger pipeline project from Mountaineer Gas. The Mountaineer project is a new pipeline system that delivers Marcellus/Utica natural gas via local distribution channels to a new industrial facility in Berkeley County, WV, and provides gas to other local businesses and residents in the Tri-State area.
Mountaineer’s project is already done. Their customer base is expanding and they *need* the extra gas. Mountaineer is desperate for the gas. They’ve had to resort to trucking in gas to meet the demand (see Mountaineer Gas Seeks Truck Alternative to Blocked Maryland Pipe).
The proposed 3.4-mile pipeline to feed Mountaineer would be Columbia’s 13th pipeline under the Potomac. Yet antis insist THIS is the one pipeline that will explode and contaminate the Potomac and make the water flowing down the muddy Potomac even more undrinkable for millions. Poppycock.
Columbia is waiting for a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to give them a green light. In anticipation of a positive ruling, Columbia is getting all of the other permits it previously applied for reissued, including a permit from the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) for non-tidal wetlands and waterways–a permit that expired in August 2021. It took the MDE three days flat to reissue the permit, which frosted anti-fossil fuel zealots.
Yet Maryland’s far-left Attorney General, Adam Snyder, continues to fight against the project. It’s a case of mixed signals. One part of the Maryland government gives the project a green light, and another part flashes a red light.
Here’s an update on the latest for this project that has quietly revived itself following the big victory by PennEast Pipeline:
A dormant court case that could lead to the construction of a natural gas pipeline beneath the Potomac River and Western Maryland Rail Trail has come back to life, and the utility company behind it is quietly renewing its permits as it continues to fight the matter in court.
At issue is a 3.5 mile pipeline in Maryland, sought by TC Energy which is based in Canada, that would bring natural gas from Pennsylvania to West Virginia’s panhandle. Environmentalists say that this could endanger drinking water for communities in Washington County and others all the way to Washington, D.C., while business leaders have argued that natural gas is critical for the economic development of Western Virginia’s panhandle.
In 2019, the Board of Public Works voted unanimously not to grant an easement for TC Energy’s “Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project,” and the company filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The case had been sitting there until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey this summer that pipeline projects with federal approval can seize state-owned land to build natural gas pipelines.
Since then, Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC. — which is a part of TC Energy — asked the Fourth Circuit to rule in its favor based on the New Jersey decision.
Columbia Gas had received federal approval through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission back in 2018 and contended that they can use the federal government’s power of eminent domain to seize Maryland land to build a pipeline through the Natural Gas Act. TC Energy said in a statement that they plan to complete the pipeline within a year of getting approval to start constructing.
“We only consider condemnation as a ‘last resort’ when constructing a project of this nature, but it was unfortunately necessary in this case despite reaching agreement with all private landowners along the route. While the process to uphold federal authority under the Natural Gas Act continues at the 4th Circuit, we continue to work with permitting agencies to ensure that all necessary permits are in place. We plan to complete construction within a year of initiation,” TC Energy said in a statement.
While moving through the court system, Columbia Gas has also been renewing the state and federal permits necessary to start pipeline construction. In August, Columbia Gas asked the Maryland Department of Environment to extend its state non-tidal wetlands and waterways permit, which required the company to begin construction by August 2021.
Within three days, the department approved to extend the permit to allow the construction to begin by August 2023, according to documents…
The department issued a permit for the Potomac pipeline in 2018 “after a year of robust assessment and public review” Jay Apperson, the agency’s spokesman, said in a statement.
“From the perspective of impacts to the Potomac River and MDE’s confidence in the safeguards it put in place in the permit, nothing has changed since 2018. Therefore, MDE allowed the relatively routine request for an extension on the timeframe for potential construction,” he continued.
Editor’s Note: This is quite fascinating and illustrates why the PennEast and Constitution projects should both have been built; because not building them only enabled more opposition to pipeline development. The objective of environmental shill groups such as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is to kill by delay and they succeeded because the industry, in a fit of short-term thinking, caved immediately after winning. CCAN, of course, is merely a stand-in for the Rockefellers and other globalist elite pigs looking to enrich themselves at the public trough where green eggs and scam are poured out. Until the industry figures out that fighting, not appeasement or running away, is the answer, the beatings will continue. Let’s hope TC Energy grasps this because their strategy is a good one!
This post appeared first on Natural Gas Now.