AG threatens lawsuit against Maryland over access to Potomac River

By Chris Dickerson | Nov 4, 2016

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says his office is ready to file a lawsuit against the state of Maryland regarding access to the Potomac River.

On Nov. 3, Morrisey said Maryland leaders continue to limit West Virginia’s access to the Potomac River, which is says is critical to economic expansion in the Eastern Panhandle.

He sent a letter to Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Secretary of the Environment Benjamin H. Grumbles. The governors of both states also received copies of the letter.

In the letter, Morrisey challenges Maryland’s permit process arguing the Mountain State’s neighbor has no legal authority to interfere with West Virginia’s access to the river.

“It is fundamentally unfair for Maryland to claim regulatory authority to tilt the competitive balance in its favor by limiting West Virginia’s access to basic utilities like water,” Morrisey wrote in the letter. “It is also unlawful.”

The eastern Panhandle is experiencing rapid population growth and commercial development, which is projected to increase it's daily demand for water by 2 million gallons.

Morrisey cited a Proctor and Gamble plant under construction in Martinsburg that, by itself, will require 1.3 million gallons each day to maintain operations. He said that plant's success will spur other companies to consider locating in the Panhandle, creating additional jobs and increasing residential demand for water.

Morrisey's letter cites as legal authority a 1785 compact between Maryland and Virginia, which gave Virginia a sovereign right to the Potomac’s water. The U.S. Supreme Court has suggested that West Virginia, which has a common history with Virginia, is entitled to the same rights under the 231-year-old compact.

Maryland’s leadership has 21 days to agree that its agencies lack authority to regulate West Virginia’s use of the Potomac and agree to work with West Virginia in drafting an interstate compact for submission to the U.S. Congress.

Otherwise, the letter states West Virginia will file an original action with the U.S. Supreme Court to seek a declaration of its rights to the Potomac River.

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Maryland Attorney General's Office State of Maryland State of West Virginia Virginia Attorney General's Office

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