Gas pipeline proposal protested

87-mile route would run from Sparrows Point to southern Pennsylvania

June 08, 2006|By MARY GAIL HARE | MARY GAIL HARE,SUN REPORTER

The line on the map, said Ann Paskiewicz, runs right through her lot.

The Fallston resident was in tears yesterday at the thought of a natural gas pipeline blocking her homebuilding dreams. And, she could hardly believe that it would run so close to two schools.

"We are in what we are calling the blowout range," she said.

Paskiewicz and several of her neighbors were among the nearly 200 people at Harford Community College last night to fight a proposal to run the pipeline from a liquefied natural gas facility in southeastern Baltimore County to southern Pennsylvania.

The hearing was the third this week in response to a proposal by global power supplier AES Corp. to build an LNG facility at the former Sparrows Point shipyard and an accompanying $200 million to $250 million pipeline.

Shipments of super-chilled, liquefied gas would arrive by tanker ship at Sparrows Point, be transformed into gas and be pumped 87 miles, through a 28-inch-diameter pipeline, to Pennsylvania for distribution along the East Coast.

"We are facing all the dangers, all the possibilities of something happening," Diane Tobin of Fallston told the crowd and federal officials at the hearing. "We have no benefits at all. We are only a pass-through, and this flies in the face of common sense."

Donna Ichniowski of Dundalk said she has attended all three hearings and had waited until last night to offer her comment. "This is a dangerous undertaking in anybody's backyard, and it needs to be stopped," she said.

Frank Holden of Essex, secretary of the Maryland Saltwater Fishermen's Association, said AES has met with his organization several times.

"They want to bring a fully loaded tanker up the bay every three days," he said. "They think they're coming to get the stupid people in Dundalk and Essex and shove this down their throats."

Residents expressed concerns about the safety of children in classrooms close to flammable gas, about a burdened volunteer fire company and about dangers to area waterways, particularly the Susquehanna River, a source of drinking water for millions.

"There is no way to prepare for an emergency on this line," Paskiewicz said. "If there is a fire, it has to burn itself out. Our volunteer fire company sure can't put it out."

AES has said it can safely operate the shipping terminal and the pipeline, which would run about four miles north through Sparrows Point to Bethlehem Boulevard, then follow Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. rights of way and railroad tracks parallel to the Baltimore Beltway for about six miles. The route would follow overhead power lines for about nine miles before intersecting Interstate 95 close to Raphel Road near Harford County.

It would continue along the path of power lines for 13 miles northeast to the right of way for a Columbia Gas pipeline near the Susquehanna. At that point, the route would parallel the Columbia pipeline for about 54 miles to its terminus near Eagle, Pa., about 30 miles west of Philadelphia.

Opponents of the proposed Sparrows Point facility spoke at a hearing Monday in Dundalk. In addition to residents, elected officials including Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. repeated their opposition.

Harford County Executive David R. Craig spoke yesterday, saying he had waited for specifics since he heard about the project in March.

"We had questions and concerns from the very beginning and really haven't gotten any answers," Craig said. "The construction alone would be a tremendous disruption. The pipeline itself has potential safety issues. We gave them adequate time to prove their case. We really can't support it at this point."

Ninety percent of the pipeline would be within rights of way for other utilities, said Kent Morton, Sparrows Point project manager for AES. The pipeline would be buried three to 25 feet underground and would be constructed with sensors to detect any leaks.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will review the proposal, organized this week's meetings to get community input. Such sessions often provide officials with information on wetlands, endangered species, nearby cultural resources and possible alternative routes, commission spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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