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Feds deny request for gas plant rehearing


This temporary pier in Solomons will be the off-loading location for large pieces of equipment to be used during the Dominion Cove Point Liquefaction project. The barge transports are expected to begin sometime this month.

Lusby, MD – The federal agency that gave final approval for a controversial expansion project at a gas plant in Lusby last September has denied requests from several environmental agencies that the plan be halted and reconsidered.

A 33-page summary was issued May 4 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denying the requests to halt the Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Plant exportation project. The commission authorized Dominion to construct and operated liquefaction facilities at the Cove Point plant, a project that will take three years to complete and cost $3.8 billion. The Sept. 29 order also gave Dominion authorization to construct ancillary facilities at two Virginia locations.

The groups identified by FERC as filing requests for a rehearing are Allegheny Defense Project and Wild Virginia, BP Energy Company, EarthReports Inc., Potomac Riverkeeper, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna. Two of the entities—Alleghany and EarthReports—requested a stay.

In the summary, FERC found there was no unlawful or undue discrimination by Dominion in regards to BP. That corporation had alleged that Dominion had provided Statoil “with inappropriate preferential treatment in consideration for commercial benefits to Dominion’s parent company.”

Among the environmental issues cited by project foes seeking a rehearing were air emissions from the plant and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Marcellus shale.
Regarding the emission nitrogen oxide, FERC affirmed that Dominion’s detailed air dispersion modeling documented in the project’s environmental assessment demonstrates the impacts “will be below the Natural Ambient Air Quality standards which are set by the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] to be protective of human health and welfare.”

In regards to fracking, FERC affirmed that its Sept. 29 order “explained that potential environmental effects associated with shale region production are not sufficiently casually related to the Cove Point Liquefaction project to warrant detailed analysis as indirect impacts. The order explained that future Marcellus shale production is not an essential predicate for the Cove Point Liquefaction project, which can receive natural gas through interconnects with three interstate natural gas pipeline systems. Further, development of the Marcellus shale region will likely continue regardless of whether the Cove Point Liquefaction project is approved.”

Regarding safety concerns expressed by project foes, FERC stated in the summary, “we find that the Sept. 29 order and the environmental assessment independently analyzed potential safety impacts and that the order adequately explained our rationale for not performing a quantitative risk assessment.”

Since the September order was issued work on the liquefaction project is well underway. Dominion held a groundbreaking ceremony March 25. The attendees included Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and the Japanese Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae. Temporary construction offices and a workers’ parking area are located across from the Route 2/4 – Cove Point Road intersection.

According to the newsletter Cove Point Connection, work has begun at the plant on the construction of a permanent sound wall to minimize the noise impact on residents living in proximity to the plant. Dominion officials stated the wall “should start taking shape this summer.”

Late last year a temporary pier was constructed on the Patuxent River near the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge in Solomons. “The largest pieces of equipment will arrive by barge at the temporary pier,” Dominion officials reported. “The transports are scheduled to begin in May and will involve the Calvert County Sheriff, Maryland State Police, State Highway Administration and emergency responders. An extensive communication outreach will be implemented to make certain that the public and our neighbors will be aware when loads will be transported here.”

Meanwhile, local project foes continue to voice their displeasure in the project during the public comment segment of the Calvert County Commissioners’ weekly meetings. Additionally, several groups are sponsoring “The March for Calvert County to be Dominion-Free” Saturday, May 30. The sponsoring groups include We Are Cove Point, Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community, Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club Southern Maryland Group and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The march will commence in Solomons near the temporary pier, up Route 2/4 to Southern Connector Boulevard. The marchers will stop at the Patuxent Friends Quaker Meetinghouse. Resuming the march the group will travel on H.G. Trueman Road and then travel down Cove Point Road. The march will conclude at Cove Point Park and the participants will then have a picnic at 1 p.m.

Captain Steve Jones of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office told The Bay Net local law enforcement is aware of the event and will be taking steps to ensure the safety of the marchers.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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