Salisbury to Eden leg of natural gas pipeline gets endorsement

ANNAPOLIS — A tidal wetlands license for the first leg of a natural gas pipeline from Salisbury to Eden was recommended for approval by the Maryland Department of the Environment. A final decision is pending by the Board of Public Works.

Eastern Shore Natural Gas (ESNG), a subsidiary of Chesapeake Utilities Corporation, plans to place the 10-inch pipe from near Business 50 and East Railroad Avenue and following existing road and railroad rights-of-way to the intersection of U.S. 13 and Flower Hill Church Road.

It will be bored under the South Prong of the Wicomico River, non-tidal wetlands, and Passerdyke Creek using horizontal directional drilling and open trench and backfill construction.

This transmission line will end at Merser Road. From there the plan is to extend an 8-inch pipeline south to Princess Anne and Westover so it can serve UMES and ECI as well as commercial and residential interests along the way through spur lines.

The segment 10.75 miles long in Somerset County is being permitted separately and was subject of a wetlands and waterways hearing on Sept. 17 with the comment period closing Oct. 1.

MDE’s Water and Science Administration, Tidal Wetlands Division, held a public hearing for the first 6.83 miles on July 7. That was six days after the BPW approved over $500,000 in contracts to engineer the conversion of ECI’s 4 MW cogeneration plant from burning wood chips and fuel oil to methane.

In addition to the state institutions, ESNG reached out to existing and potential customers and found interest from unnamed commercial, residential and agri-industries.

A Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity was granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in December 2019 and Somerset County’s franchise with Chesapeake was approved in June by the Maryland Public Service Commission.

Proponents include local and state elected officials and the president of UMES. The county executive for Cecil Council, Dr. Alan McCarthy, described how drinking water was protected during the installation of a natural gas pipeline across North East Creek, saying challenges were “safely and responsibly addressed.”

Opponents include individuals and environmental organizations from the Sierra Club, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Wicomico Environmental Trust and others. Over 1,260 signatures on group petitions and individual comments were turned in by the time the comment period closed July 21.

MDE released its recommendation on Sept. 22. No date was set on when this will be considered by the BPW but comments may be forward to the board by contacting Wetlands Administrator William Morgante, That deadline is Friday, Oct. 9.