Many residents in attendance during a public hearing Wednesday on another gas pipeline cutting through Harford County north of Falls ton weren't afraid to let the pipeline company know it is not welcome in their community.
More than 50 people came to the hearing at Youth's Benefit Elementary School for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hearing on Columbia Gas Transmission's plan for a 21-mile pipeline that would stretch from Owing's Mills up through Falls ton.
The so-called MB pipeline will roughly parallel an existing Columbia Gas MA pipeline across the same area, except for about a three-mile stretch through Harford County, where the path of the new line diverges to the south before joining the old at the Rutledge compression station north of Falls ton.
Most of residents' concerns at Wednesday's hearing dealt with what they said was the lack of notice for the hearing itself and with the project as a whole, the desire to have a longer public comment period, the possibility of depreciating property values and the environmental impact the line could have on the community.
Columbia is in the middle of the pre-filing process to put in an application to FERC. According to the company, the extension will theoretically improve reliability of interstate natural gas service to residents and businesses in Central Maryland and surrounding areas.
Joseph Fortier was one of several residents who spoke at the hearing.
Fortier said one concern he has is the effect construction of the pipeline could have on drinking water and what would happen if there is a leak in the line. All the homes along the Harford County path of the line have private wells.
'Big rush' for permits
"Columbia is in a big rush to get permits," Fortier said. With the company's self-imposed spring 2013 start date, he wondered how a proper environmental assessment could be done in time.
As for the wooded areas and wildlife in the community, Fortier believes they will be "destroyed or hurt by this."
"Our elected officials should be here to represent us," he said, obviously frustrated.
Wednesday's pipeline hearing was held the same night members of the Harford County Council were holding their second of two hearings on the 2013 county budget in Havre de Grace – on the other side of the county.
Teresa Moore, executive director of The Valleys Planning Council in Baltimore County, asked FERC representatives to "slow down and let the public catch up."
She said her group had its annual meeting Tuesday, the same night FERC held a similar public hearing in Cockeysville, and had just learned that the right-of-way for the pipeline will be "significantly expanded" from 50 to 75 feet.
"I don't understand the need for the project," Moore said. She called the MB line a "redundancy" that is "not an urgent need," and again asked for a longer public comment period to let the public "catch up."
Doug Sipe, outreach manager for FERC, explained the commission's review process of such applications.
While the scoping/comment portion for the pre-filing portion of the process, as dictated by the National Environmental Policy Act, ends May 16, FERC encourages and accepts all public comment until the company submits its application.
There is a minimum six-month pre-filing period, he added, and Columbia has been in the period for about three months.
"You have a lot of time to issue comments," Sipe said.
Arthur Romain told he crowd he "worked with gas" from 1970 to 1995, and even "watched over" Columbia pipelines.