When Senator Bobby Zirkin moved to his new residence in Reisterstown nearly a year ago he did so because he loved the natural environment.
"It's a beautiful, pristine property," Zirkin said, an 11th District Democrat. "It's a beautiful treasure that's now under attack."
The senator was one of more than a dozen people to testify against a gas pipeline extension proposed by Columbia Gas Transmission at a public hearing before a panel of representatives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at on Tuesday evening.
The 21.4 mile-extension to an existing pipeline would impact about 300 property owners.
Zirkin wouldn't be directly impacted by the construction, but the pipeline is proposed to cut through his neighbors' properties.
"All across this route is beautiful land with...endangered species and non-endangered species and...the environment, which deserves our attention," Zirkin said.
The senator said he learned about the project from Columbia lobbyists who called him during the legislative session and presented him with what he thought was a fairly benign "variation" of the project. After speaking with community association leaders, however, he was convinced otherwise.
"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 said that the process has been rushed given that many residents are only recently finding out about the project, but the scoping period—the time in which the commission would gather input from the public and other interested stakeholders—ends on May 16.
Doug Sipes, a federal commission representative, clarified that though the paperwork sent out to residents marked May 16 as the end of scoping, comments will still be accepted after that date, until a permit is issued.
Zirkin also criticized Columbia for not doing their homework and realizing the Rosewood property that the gas line would cut through is environmentally contaminated. He added that the Beaver Dam area is also protected and owned by the Department of Natural Resources.
"I have hundreds of letters in my hand right now [from residents opposing the extension]," he said. "We'll be getting thousands more, I promise you."
Denise and Robert Kulinski, who live in Reisterstown, said they would be severely impacted if the project came to fruition. Constructing the pipeline would require Columbia to cut down about 75 trees on their property that are around 80 feet tall.
"I know that the impact is different for all the residents in this area but it is just very worrisome," Kulinski said. "It's a hardship and it's not going to happen quickly."
Columbia intends to with federal regulators in August.
Another public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Youth's Benefit Elementary School cafeteria in Fallston.