Bay Journal

Topics: Energy

Pipeline proposal may undermine Delmarva forestry industry, critics say

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​A proposal to shut down a Maryland prison’s wood-fueled boiler is generating worries about the economic future of private forests that help keep the Chesapeake Bay clean.

State officials are seeking to extend natural gas service to the Eastern Correctional Institution south of Princess Anne, replacing a more than 30-year-old woodchip-burning system as the prison’s source of heat and electricity.

About one-third of the pulpwood produced on the Eastern Shore finds its way to the prison, home to the state’s only biomass energy plant. If it goes offline, forestry leaders fear it would undercut an industry that is already shrinking in the region and possibly force some landowners to switch their acreage to other uses, such as planting crops or building homes.

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About Energy

Energy production has had a profound influence on the Chesapeake and its tributaries since European settlement. Settlers built thousands of dams across streams and rivers to provide power for mills and industry. More modern dams create hydroelectric power, but dramatically affect river ecosystems and close them to fish migration.

Combustion of fossil fuels is a major source of pollution to the Chesapeake, and activities such as drilling in the Marcellus Shale can affect stream health and permanently alter terrestrial habitats.

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