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Baltimore County Property Owners Sued by Gas Company Over Pipeline

Dozens of property owners are refusing to grant Columbia Gas access to their land.

Columbia Gas says its surveyors need to begin marking property lines to prepare for installation of a new pipeline. (Credit: Scarsdale Patch)
Columbia Gas says its surveyors need to begin marking property lines to prepare for installation of a new pipeline. (Credit: Scarsdale Patch)
The Columbia Gas company filed suit this week against at least 25 Baltimore County property owners for access to 370 acres of land, according to The Baltimore Sun.

The land is needed to complete the 21.3-mile pipeline installation from Owings Mills to Fallston, according to Columbia Gas, an out-of-state company that said the new gas line is needed "to increase service reliability."

It would run parallel to an existing line and provide "redundancy in the system" for BGE customers to ensure that if power went out, there would be a backup line, a spokesperson for Columbia Gas told Patch in 2012.

In 2013, the company told WJZ that the pipeline was needed to perform maintenance on the first line.

Project officials estimated that approximately 300 property owners would be affected by the installation. Those property owners would need to grant the company easements so it could flag construction boundaries, clear vegetation, grade the area and install the pipe with three feet of ground cover, according to Columbia Gas.

Not all property owners are reportedly complying with the request, and so the company has turned to the courts.

Columbia Gas sued 30 property owners in Harford and Baltimore counties in January to get easements, according to The Baltimore Sun, which reported the company has filed two additional suits since then, including one on Tuesday.

Landowners are refusing to grant the easements for various reasons, including not enough compensation, fear of decreasing property values, vague information about plans to drill and the project's lack of federal environmental permits, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Some oppose the project altogether, fearful that it is a ploy to get access for fracking, according to WJZ.

Fracking is the process of using hydraulic pressure to fracture rocks for natural gas. Gov. Martin O'Malley placed a moratorium on fracking in 2011 which expires in August 2014.

Senator Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County said the pipeline was not essential, testifying against the proposal when it was introduced. "Not once has someone told me that this project is necessary," Zirkin said. "I understand that (Columbia) wants it, but I don't know why it's needed."

Zirkin told The Baltimore Sun this week that "utter silence" from Baltimore County officials said to him they were "kowtowing to the oil and gas industry."

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