About 20 people made passionate pleas Tuesday for and against a proposed parallel Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline which would go through a number of agricultural and residential properties and nature areas in Baltimore and Harford counties.
The public hearing, hosted by representatives of the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Army Corps of Engineers took place in the cafeteria of Fallston High School.
The hearing is part of Columbia's process of obtaining a Section 401 Water Quality Certification, which is needed, among other federal, state and local permits, before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can approve the construction of the pipeline.
Residents of the Woodsbrooke community and the Hess Road area of Fallston are encouraging regulators to approve an alternate pipeline route they have developed, working with experts.
If Columbia's current pipeline route is approved, the Harford County portion would cut through the yards and farm fields of some of those residents.
Frank and Susan Tedeschi, who reside in the 2300 block of Kings Arms Drive, are among the residents who would be affected.
Frank Tedeschi testified Tuesday that the proposed route cuts through the septic drainage area in the rear of his family's home, then 50 feet from the house and 5 to 10 feet from the well on the property.
"The construction activities will impact the existing well," he said "There's no doubt about that."
Columbia plans to build a 21.1-mile pipeline about parallel to its current Baltimore and Harford County pipeline, which transports natural gas to markets north of Baltimore, and further north and east of the city.
The pipe would be 27 inches wine, and Susan Tedeschi held up a large bicycle wheel of similar size to illustrate how large the pipe would be.
"It's a West Virginia company taking Maryland property to make money in other states," she said after the hearing.
Columbia Gas Transmission is based in Charleston, W.Va. and is a subsidiary of Columbia Pipeline Group, headquartered in Houston.
Brendan Neal, manager of community relations and stakeholder outreach for the company, said Columbia maintains 15,000 miles of natural gas pipelines serving the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
Neal said Columbia is investing $4 billion over 10 to 15 years to modernize its infrastructure.
"A daily commitment to pipeline safety and the focus on strengthening our infrastructure have long been a cornerstone of the Columbia organization," he said in a statement read to the MDE and Corps representatives.
The company also issued a press release Tuesday stating its pledge to hire local unionized workers to build the pipeline, and representatives of several Baltimore-area unions testified during the hearing.
"We've been through a very, very downturn in our economy and our members have suffered dearly with it, but I can assure you that the operating engineers the laborers and any other craft involved in this project will do it in the most efficient and safe way it can be done," Joe Shanahan, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 37, said.