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Gas plant exemption sent to agencies for comment

A proposed amendment to the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance that would exempt a “liquid natural gas import or export facility” from local regulation is going to various agencies for their comments. During their Wednesday, Sept. 18 meeting, the Calvert County Planning Commission voted to submit the amendment to various local and state agencies prior to conducting a public hearing along with the Calvert County Commissioners. That hearing was tentatively scheduled for Oct. 29.

According to Department of Community Planning and Development Acting Director Mary Beth Cook, the exemption is also being proposed as an amendment to the International Building Code. “The changes to the International Building Code do not require review by the planning commission, but will be presented for public comment at the public hearing with the zoning ordinance text amendments,” Cook stated in a memo to the planning commission.

The proposal comes as plans to expand Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Plant in Lusby continue in the permit stage. The expansion plan calls for constructing a liquefying and export facility within the confines of the plant. The project will cost $3.4 billion to $3.8 billion and take three years to complete.

A Dominion official told the county commissioners this past spring that the project will be Maryland’s largest and approximately 4,000 workers would be employed during the construction phase.

A rationale for granting the zoning ordinance exemption is the heavy federal oversight of a liquid natural gas import or export facility. The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) handles such oversight. Cook indicated there is precedent for granting a zoning ordinance exemption for a federally regulated facility since Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby has a similar exemption. According to a Department of Community Planning and Building staff report, the nuclear power and LNG plants are considered “qualified commercial power generating facilities.”

The staff report also stated the natural gas facility is consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan since it is helping build “a strong local economy.”

Planning commission member Carolyn McHugh made a motion to send the proposal to the appropriate state and local agencies for comment. After the motion was seconded planning commission chairman Maurice Lusby, sensing there were expansion project opponents and proponents in the room, called for public comment with a caveat. Lusby advised that comments about “should” the project go forward may be heard during the subsequent joint public hearing. “This is not a public hearing,” said Lusby. “A public hearing will be held October 29.”

Planning commission member Malcolm Funn added that the proposed text amendment is wording in su

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