Somerset County, Md., ranks among the poorest counties in the state, comprising small, sparsely populated towns that dot the Eastern Shore roughly three hours from the nation’s capital. Princess Anne, Somerset’s county seat, boasts two institutional fixtures that attract outsiders to a town best known for wilderness, hunting, fishing, and access to the Chesapeake Bay. In a perfect irony, one of those fiixtures is a university, the other is Md.’s largest prison.

Chesapeake Utilities

Chesapeake Utilities Corporation is an American corporation formed in 1947. Chesapeake Utilities Corporation is a diversified energy company engaged, through our operating divisions and subsidiaries, in various energy and other businesses.

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The University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) generates heat from a mix of fuel oil and propane; the correctional center uses wood chips. Economic development in Princess Anne, and Somerset in general, has been exponentially tough to attract new business and employers like boat manufacturers and others to the only county on the Eastern Shore that doesn’t offer natural gas to power commercial operations.

Enter the proposed Del-Mar expansion of the Eastern Shore Pipeline that would transport gas from Del., through Md., and into Somerset County to replace dirty fuel oil, propane, and wood chips. Del.-based Chesapeake Utilities, in conjunction with the Maryland Environmental Service, looks to build a $2 million, 19+-mile pipeline to supply UMES and Eastern Correctional Institution—their tenant anchors—with cleaner fuel, and offer the county a new lifeline to stimulate business growth.

But here’s where things get sticky.

UMES pledged in 2008 to go carbon neutral by 2050, placing its bets on solar and wind renewables in an area where the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. Fact is, we’re not yet in a place where renewables can completely replace fossil fuels, especially natural gas, to power electricity or heat. Somerset’s university president now is torn, acquiescing the new pipeline would “jump-start Somerset’s economy by bringing natural gas to Princess Anne,” but “will continue making additional movement toward 100% renewable, sustainable energy.” Md., Senator Mary Beth Carozza is all aboard the Del-Mar project alongside the state’s governor.

The Del-Mar expansion of the Eastern Shore Pipeline expects a September decision to begin construction with a 2021 completion date.

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