BY BRYNA ZUMER, firstname.lastname@example.org
11:58 PM EDT, August 8, 2012
A batch of new homeowners in the Fallston area are set to be affected by Columbia Gas Transmission's plans to extend an existing pipeline between Owings Mills and Rutledge.
The company revealed at a Wednesday open house that the portion cutting through Fallston would now travel north of the existing line, instead of south along a BGE route.
The new route would affect the Woodsbrook community, many of whose residents were among the roughly 30 people in attendance Wednesday.
Jennifer Franco, an employee with Columbia Gas' environmental division, said the northern route would allow the company to avoid Gunpowder State Park and would save about 10 acres of trees from being cleared.
She said the number of affected property owners would be about the same.
"It's sort of a toss-up there. It's more environmental," she said about the reasoning.
Public comment is still being accepted on the new route, and Franco said the path could change if there is "significant public comment."
Some residents of Woodsbrook said they hoped to meet next week to discuss the situation and were considering legal action to stop the project.
Mike Martino was angry about the impact on 10 building lots he owns near Kings Arms Drive.
"This is not good," he said. "They just showed up on my farm and started surveying."
Owen Landis said the community was successful in getting Columbia Gas to build less-intrusive electric turbines about 18 years ago.
He did not see the point of disrupting "all these virgin lands and properties" instead of using existing rights-of-way.
Jim and Sue Quick were also hoping to stop the process, but did not feel optimistic.
Jim Quick said the project would involve 50 feet of his property, or as much as 100 feet during the construction process.
"All the landscaping we put in is right in the middle of it. We kind of feel helpless," he said.
As the treasurer of the Woodsbrook residents' association, he hoped to pursue legal action, but was not confident it would make a difference.
"It sounds like it's a done deal. We have never experienced this before," he said, explaining they moved to their property in 2005 because "there was nothing."
"Now we have an intrusion that we have no control over," he said. "I don't know where it goes. You are helpless."
Diana and Ed O'Loughlin would have less of their property impacted, but were still worried about the community.
"My main concern is our property values and how it's affecting our neighbors," Diana O'Loughlin said. "I think we were all kind of surprised by it."
Ed O'Loughlin added: "I think the bigger concern is, have they explored all the other possibilities."
Some government officials were at the meeting.
Joe Sliwka, a community liaison for Congressman Andy Harris, said he thought the meeting was very open and transparent, with many employees on hand to help.
"I think that they have been great," he said.
Harford County spokesman Ben Lloyd passed on a letter from County Executive David Craig that was sent to the secretary of the Federal Energy Regulation Commission.
The letter asked the commission to fully review the proposal, as it has generated many comments from landowners.
"If approved, [the project] will impact a number of private property owners as well as county roads and infrastructure," Craig wrote on July 30, "The ultimate plan for pipeline routing should provide for the fewest impacts on residents and the environment."
State Sen.. J.B. Jennings was also at the meeting and gave a letter that he wrote to Columbia Gas on July 16.
Jennings told project manager Jeff Barna that the project will be only 50 to 75 feet from many residents' back doors and that some homes would have disrupted septic areas as a result.
He noted it is the same community that suffered "extensive environmental damage" from a gas leak with MTBE several years ago and residents are "rightfully" worried something similar could happen.