Baltimore-Harford County natural gas pipeline opponents say concerns dismissed

For well over a year, Columbia Gas Transmission answered concerns over plans for a 21-mile pipeline with a basic assurance.
"We must comply with all federal, state and local environmental permitting regulations and really that's a core commitment," Mike Banis, a company spokesman, told ABC 2 News in May of 2012.
But making sure the project is legal falls short of the one thing opponents wanted the most.
"The big ticket issue, as I've come now to understand this process, is safety, and they've done nothing," said Maryland Sen. Bobby Zirkin, who claims at the same time the company was balking at proposed safety measures in Annapolis last December, one of its lines in West Virginia exploded.
It was reportedly the 38th natural gas line to explode in the country last year.
Yet critics claim months of public hearings organized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on this pipeline had little or no impact on its fate.
"They are the biggest player in Washington, and they've gotten their money's worth, and you can see that by what FERC did," Zirkin said. "FERC essentially disregarded all of the objections of the community, all of the objections of the state, all of the concerns even of their own Army Corps of Engineers and they essentially gave Columbia whatever they wanted."
The new pipeline will mirror the path of an existing one, which dates back 40 years with a slight deviation around some water bodies in Harford County.
Since that time, houses, schools and entire neighborhoods have sprung up along its route.
Areas which will now have to hope the pipeline is as safe as the company would lead them to believe.
"These pipelines are here, and they better damn well be safe, and they're not," Zirkin said.
It's estimated the project will cost $130 million with construction to begin next year, and its completion is slated for 2015.
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