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County moves to exempt gas plant from zoning regs

A proposal to exempt the Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Import or Export Facility in Lusby from the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance will be the subject of an upcoming joint work session conducted by the county commissioners and planning commission. Without taking a formal vote, the Calvert County Commissioners gave staff the green light Tuesday, Aug. 20 to move forward with the process. If the proposal is approved it would give the LNG facility a similar exemption that was granted to Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. 

In a joint memo from Department of Community Planning and Building Acting Director Mary Beth Cook and Inspections and Permits Division Chief Joseph Hawxhurst, it was stated the exemption for the LNG import or export facility was also being proposed as an amendment to the International Building Code.

County staff stated the exemption was being sought due to rigorous federal standards that must be met by the facility’s owners and operators. A synopsis of the proposal claimed the action was consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan since it supports building a strong economy based on renewable resources.

A proposed definition of LNG import or export facility as “a LNG terminal as defined by the Code of Federal Regulations that is subject to regulation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [FERC].” Once amended the building code won’t apply to structures reviewed and inspected by FERC.

The changes to the building code won’t require the review of the Calvert County Planning Commission. However, the changes will be presented for public comment at a subsequent joint public hearing.

“We don’t have the expertise to inspect these complicated facilities,” said Commissioner Susan Shaw [R].

The proposed zoning ordinance changes come as a major expansion project at the Lusby plant looms. Earlier this year Dominion Transmission Senior Vice President Diane Leopold told the commissioners the planned expansion would be “the largest single project in Maryland.” The expansion would cost between $3.4 billion and $3.8 billion, begin in 2014 and is expected to be completed in 2017. The expansion would add a liquefaction facility for exporting LNG. Approximately 4,000 workers would be employed during the construction phase. When completed and in operation, there will be 174 additional jobs at the plant. Additionally, the expansion is expected to yield large tax revenues.

Leopold told the commissioners Dominion has already signed long-term agreements with companies having ties to Japan and India. The pacts will result in the liquefaction of 4.5 to 5 million metric tons of gas per year.

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