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Planned new gas line would cut through Fallston

Nisource IncorporatedNatural GasEnergy ResourcesNatural ResourcesDave Williams

Columbia Gas Transmission is planning a new pipeline between Rutledge, in Fallston, and Owings Mills in Baltimore County that could affect some property owners near the western edge of Harford County.

Mike Tomko said at Tuesday's Fallston Community Council that a natural gas line could run through his new home on Preakness Drive, and said he was told Columbia Gas, which is run by NiSource, will try to buy property rights.

"I'll easily lose half my backyard, wouldn't be able to do anything with it," Tomko said. "I don't understand why they don't stay on their current route."

Columbia wants to extend Line MB, lying roughly parallel to the existing Line MA between Owings Mills and Fallston, to improve interstate natural gas service reliability for local utilities that serve residents and businesses in Central Maryland and surrounding regions, according to a NiSource press release from early March.

The release said the project is designed to reduce system vulnerability to pipeline outages and to better facilitate pipeline safety inspections without disrupting natural gas service.

Columbia held four public meetings on the plan between March 5 and 8, including one at the Fallston library branch on March 8.

A company representative told Fallston Council chairman Dave Williams that the parallel line would only be used in case of an emergency.

"I asked if they are looking to increase volume of product and was told no, this is simply for maintenance and safety concerns ... The reasoning that they're giving us is if that existing line has to be pulled down for mechanical service, then they have a parallel line already to route product through," Williams said.

A route map distributed by Williams shows the line running from Route 140 in the Garrison area of Owings Mills, through the area of Shawan Road and I-83, and just north of Jacksonville, roughly parallel to Route 145. The line would end up roughly alongside Baldwin Mill Road, north of Route 152.

Williams said he was told the company is not looking for new rights-of-way along Derby Drive, but Tomko said it definitely is.

Tomko said perhaps six residents are extremely affected by the project's trajectory and another six to eight are somewhat affected.

He was not satisfied with the recent public meeting.

"They were very short on hard answers," Tomko said.

He said he understands Columbia is negotiating with BGE, and noted he has power lines backing up to his property.

He said he does not have access to public water, so an emergency involving a gas line could be catastrophic for him.

"If I lose septic, I'm out of luck," he said.

Tomko said he talked to some neighbors, and "obviously, they're concerned as well. There's some marshland there, too. They're concerned this is protected property."

Williams suggested Tomko contact Sen. Barbara Mikulski on the issue and said he does not know if Harford County would be involved at all, or if it is only a federal issue.

He also noted the company has not gotten any permits for the project – it is still in the planning stage and the company may still be taking public input.

NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage operates about 15,000 miles of interstate natural gas pipeline and delivers more than 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year, according to its website.

NiSource spokesman Mike Banas said the route is still preliminary and the project is a fairly straightforward one for the company.

He also said the rerouting in the Rutledge area is because of growth in the area.

"There has been a lot of residential development so we have proposed an alternate route that would minimize some of the impact," he said. "I thought the public meetings were really helpful."

"We have been in communication with anybody along the right-of-way," he said. "This project is actually relatively straightforward, as it follows, for the most part, existing pipeline facilities or corridors."

For more information, contact the NiSource information hotline on the project, 888-499-3450.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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