Residents criticize natural gas pipeline proposal

Harold Burns, president of the Falls Road Community Association, stepped to the microphone at the Oregon Ridge Lodge Tuesday night and threw down the gauntlet before representatives of a gas company proposing an underground pipeline through his part of Baltimore County.

"This is Baltimore, Hon," said Burns. "We're from here … we are going to stay here and fight you."

Burns was one of more than 100 people who showed up at the Lodge for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hearing on Columbia Gas Transmission LLC's plan to install a 21-mile line from Owings Mills to Fallston. About 20 speakers rose to ask the agency to reject the project or consider alternative routes, objecting to the potential impact on wildlife and property values, and possible safety risks.

The company plans to build the line along the right of way established when Columbia installed a pipeline about 40 years ago, but the second line means the clear-cut swath will grow from about 50 to 75 feet wide.

Federal officials said the approval process was in the early stages and the route could change, and comment would be accepted after the May 16 closing date. A company spokesman has said that Columbia hoped to file a permit application in August and start construction next June and complete the $100 million project in five months.

Burns, who said his organization represents some 2,700 families, warned about the fragility of the populations of Eastern brook trout in the area.

"I don't want to see [any more species] disappear," said Burns.

David Raymond, who lives near the proposed pipeline site, said Columbia Gas

"has not made the case for the project."

Columbia spokesman Michael Banas has said that the second line is "not an expansion." He said it was needed for service reliability and to keep gas flowing in case the existing line has to be shut down.

Chris Yoder of the Sierra Club said he has asked Columbia representatives for evidence "of a reliability problem," but they offered none. He suspected the line was needed to increase capacity to accommodate natural gas produced by hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

"There are too many unanswered questions," Yoder said.

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