Mar 29

Mid-Atlantic gas infrastructure fights that need your help right now

By now, you’ve probably heard the good news that both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly have voted for a ban on fracking in Maryland and sent it to the governor with a veto-proof majority. This makes Maryland the third state in the US (joining New York and Vermont) to ban the harmful practice and the first to do so through legislative action.

We in Maryland have spent the last couple days celebrating and flashing each other happy smiles that are equal parts relief and disbelief that this actually happened.

Now that we’ve given ourselves a little time to let the whole thing sink in, it’s time to look at the fights all around us that are yet to be won. Of course, 47 states still need a fracking ban (including a couple that have banned fracking bans). Also, as New York has shown, banning fracking doesn’t prevent fracked gas infrastructure from running rampant across a state.

So, finish up those hearty hugs and high fives. Here are some of the gas infrastructure projects in the mid-Atlantic that could really use your help right now. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but more meant to give you an idea of places to plug in.

Cove Point LNG export terminal

Of course, this one is near to our hearts at We Are Cove Point; it’s the reason we exist. Dominion is building a massive liquefied natural gas export terminal on the edge of our town of Lusby, Maryland, in the community of Cove Point, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. This export terminal is designed to be a way to maximize profits by selling gas fracked in the Marcellus and Utica shales to companies in India and Japan at higher prices than could be reached domestically, thereby raising the value of domestic fracked gas as well. This terminal has been under construction since October 2014, and we’ve been hearing guesses on completion dates that range from this coming fall to nearly a year later — unless we stop it first. More information and ways to get involved can be found at the websites and Facebook pages of We Are Cove Point and Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community.

Mariner East II pipeline

Construction on this pipeline started earlier this year, and it’s moving along briskly. The Mariner East II is designed to bring natural gas liquids from southeastern Ohio to an export terminal in Marcus Hook, south of Philadelphia, where the NGLs will be shipped to Scotland to make plastics. Sunoco has been using eminent domain to seize people’s land for the pipeline right-away, and it’s been facing heavy resistance over it. Last year, some property owners were arrested on their own land while trying to prevent tree clearing. A treesit successfully saved some of the trees. This year, land owners and their supporters have established Camp White Pine to be a place of resistance to this pipeline in central Pennsylvania. Pipeline construction is happening nearby, but it has not yet come to the camp — though that could happen imminently. If you’re interested in helping on the ground at Camp White Pine or supporting folks from afar, visit the website and Facebook page for Resist Sunoco PA.

Atlantic Sunrise pipeline

The Atlantic Sunrise is planned to bring gas from northeastern Pennsylvania south and connect with the Williams Transco mainline, which carries fracked gas along the east coast between Texas and Maine. The biggest reason for the Atlantic Sunrise is to bring more gas to Cove Point for exports, though Williams denies that (likely because it needs to show a high percentage of domestic gas use to take people’s land through eminent domain). Tree clearing can occur at any moment for this pipeline, but is currently stalled due to ongoing court hearings of people challenging eminent domain seizures of their land — which have been going the company’s way as they’ve been decided. Pipeline construction has been expected to start as soon as April 1, though at least some people along the pipeline route are hearing that may be pushed back. A large protest camp called The Stand has been established in Lancaster County, near the southern end of the pipeline route. The Stand hold periodic direct action trainings and other events of community resistance. To learn more or get involved, visit the website and Facebook page for Lancaster Against Pipelines.

Eastern Market Access project

Dominion is seeking to add compressor capacity to the existing Cove Point pipeline. This includes building a new compressor station near Accokeek, Maryland, and expanding a compressor station near Leesburg, Virginia. Dominion is currently writing its draft environmental impact statement in the hopes to get the permits and begin construction late this fall. Meanwhile, people are organizing and fighting this on both ends — and they’d love your help, as these same people are already heavily involved in fighting the gas industry across our region. For more information and to get involved, visit AMP Creeks Council and 350 Loudoun.

Brandywine gas-fired power plants

Residents and supporters are working to stop a cluster of five gas-fired power plants that would be built near Brandywine, Maryland, just southeast of Washington, DC. This is in a predominantly lower-income, black community and has become a prime example of environmental racism in the area. Two of these power plants already exist, two are under construction and the fifth has yet to begin construction. Supplying gas to that fifth power plant is being cited by Dominion as a prime reason for the Eastern Market Access project, tying the region’s infrastructure fights together even more closely. Clean Air Prince George’s is a good place to learn more and get involved.

Atlantic Coast pipeline

This pipeline would bring gas in a Y shape between parts of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, connecting to the Williams Transco mainline, which would bring the gas virtually anywhere — including Cove Point, where much of it could be exported to India and Japan. Land owners and supporters are fighting hard to stop this before the permits are issued, and the North Carolina portion, especially, is seeing heavier indigenous resistance. Groups have been fighting this pipeline and its associated compressor stations for years, and they’re currently preparing for a decision on the permits that could happen later in 2017. Among the active groups’ websites and Facebook pages to follow for updates and ways to get involved are No ACP, the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, NC WARN, Friends of Nelson and Free Nelson, and Friends of Buckingham. There are also many other groups involved; like this list, this is not meant to be exhaustive.

Mountain Valley pipeline

Often lumped in with the Atlantic Coast pipeline because of the states it runs through (West Virginia and Virginia), the Mountain Valley pipeline is a major pipeline that is planned to cross central Appalachia, connecting with the Williams Transco mainline. Groups have been organizing and fighting against this pipeline for a while now, and are working to prevent permits from being approved later this year. Organizations to get a hold of for information or getting involved include VSEC and BREDL from the previous list, as well as local groups like Preserve Franklin County, Preserve Roanoke, Preserve Montgomery County VA, Friends of Water and others.

Eastern Panhandle Connector pipeline

TransCanada, Columbia Gas and Mountaineer Gas are seeking to build a pipeline that would connect gas running between West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, and would run across the Potomac River, through some national protected sites. Groups in eastern West Virginia, western Maryland and the surrounding area have been gearing up to fight permits, expand awareness and prevent these companies from using eminent domain or building this pipeline. More information and updates are at the websites and Facebook pages of the Upper Potomac Riverkeeper and the Eastern Panhandle Protectors.

Again, this is only intended to provide a starting point for people to get involved in nearby gas infrastructure fights that are really looking for more people to get involved. There are many more worthwhile gas-related campaigns in the area that aren’t listed here — and people and groups are working to monitor and shut down countless existing projects, as well.

Stay tuned for information about an event on May 6 in Maryland that is being organized by a coalition of grassroots groups, environmental nonprofits and health organizations calling itself Community of Communities. The point of this event is similar to the point of this post: to harness some of the amazing energy surrounding the fracking ban campaign and turn it to stopping infrastructure projects in the area. Keep an eye on the Community of Communities Facebook page for more information about this event or to get involved with its planning.

It’s literally incredible that we managed to ban fracking in Maryland, a state surrounded by so much fracked gas activity, with a portion of the most active shale basin in the US (the Marcellus shale). The thousands of us who came together to do the work that won this ban deserve major recognition. Still, that’s just one piece of how the gas industry is impacting us. Let’s recommit ourselves to organizing against its infrastructure and chasing the industry from our lives once and for all!