Five arrested in State House sit-in to protest Potomac River gas pipeline

Five people were arrested on the Maryland State House steps Wednesday during a sit-in to protest a natural gas pipeline proposed to run beneath the Potomac River.

The protesters were blocking the main entrance to the State House, calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to block the project and end his support for gas industry investment in the state.

The sit-in’s organizers, including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Food and Water Watch, said the protesters are grandmothers from Maryland and West Virginia.

Capitol Police say protest organizers had contacted them days earlier “to determine what actions were needed for their members to be arrested,” spokesman Nick Cavey said. He also noted that press releases the groups issued ahead of the event “stated the demonstrators' intent to protest ‘until they get arrested.’”

“After two hours of protesting outside, demonstrators attempted to enter the State House, were denied access, detained, and peacefully removed from the State House grounds,” Cavey said.

Mike Tidwell, the climate action network’s executive director, said the protesters were quickly released. They were not charged, Cavey said.

Maryland environment officials have said they are reviewing the proposal by energy company TransCanada to transport gas from Pennsylvania, harvested from shale rock using the controversial method known as fracking, to West Virginia. The pipeline would cross through a narrow section of Western Maryland near Hancock.

In a statement Wednesday, state environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said: “Maryland will require any project of this nature to meet our stringent standards to ensure protection of the environment and public health.”

Hogan has meanwhile called for another Canadian energy company, AltaGas, to invest $100 million in natural gas infrastructure in the state.

The Hogan administration reached a settlement with the company in December as it seeks to buy utility Washington Gas. The Maryland Public Service Commission is reviewing the settlement.

The environmental groups have recently protested those actions by encircling Government House, Hogan’s residence, with signs and by stretching protesters across a Potomac River bridge.

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