- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
It was a divided auditorium Tuesday night as residents argued their concerns for the Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas expansion project and officials championed its effects.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to which Dominion has submitted an application for the pre-filing process of the project, hosted a public hearing Tuesday night at Patuxent High School in Lusby to gauge what issues the public feels need to be examined in the environmental assessment.
Currently, the FERC is working toward an environmental assessment, which the five-member commission will use when deciding whether the construction and operation of the proposed expansion is in the public’s best interest, but as comments are gathered from the public and agencies, the assessment could evolve into an environmental impact statement.
The assessment, according to the FERC, will discuss impacts including geology and soils; water resources, fisheries and wetlands; vegetation, wildlife and endangered and threatened species; socioeconomics; cultural resources; land use and cumulative impacts; air quality and noise; and public safety. It will also include reasonable alternatives to the project, or portions of the project.
Calvert County Board of County Commissioners’ President Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R) told the FERC “we do have a vested interest in [Dominion’s] success.” It’s an “investment of over $2.5 billion” in the community, he said.
It will help stabilize the county budget, Clark said, citing the $40 million the county will receive in property tax revenue from the project.
Del. Mark N. Fisher (R-Calvert) said the tax revenue “is a game changer in Calvert County.”
Fisher explained the project has the opportunity to employ 3,000 people and will create “an economic multiplier effect,” as new people come to the county and spend their income in the community — a sentiment echoed by four union leaders.
“This would make us the envy of the state,” Fisher said of the success and effects of the project.
But Lusby resident Bob Hugh didn’t agree it would be worth it. He said that all the positive effects the project will have “are only short-term gains.”
“What is being proposed simply doesn’t fit into lower Calvert County,” said Lusby resident and representative for the Cove of Calvert Homeowners Association, Jean Marie Neal. “It’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole.
“We’ve failed to see how this would be in the public’s best interest,” Neal said of the homeowners association.
Neal said their concerns include the increase in natural gas prices to U.S. companies, the impact the large trucks and barges would have on Solomons, the increased noise, whether the county is prepared for the safety measures involved, increased traffic down the only emergency route, and that many of the thousands of workers aren’t going to come from the area.
Many of Neal’s concerns were reiterated by five other Lusby residents and the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Chair, David O’Leary.
Residents, including Theresa Denny, expressed their concerns of increased noise. Denny said, “I used to hear waves, now I hear a generator noise,” which resident Stephen Godfrey said keeps him awake at night.
Hugh explained that not only would the increased traffic of the workers, shuttles and large trucks use the only emergency route out of the area, but that with the current traffic to and from the plant he has been run off the “narrow two-lane road with no shoulders” multiple times.
“We can debate the environmental issues back and forth all night, but the reality: this will create thousands of construction jobs and a lot more permanent jobs,” said Vance Ayres, executive secretary and treasurer of Washington DC Building Trades Council.
Ayres said, “We wouldn’t be pushing projects if it was going to tear the environment up.”
Paulette Hammond, president of the Maryland Conservation Council, which is in contract with Dominion and the Sierra Club, said Dominion’s “concerns for their environmental impact has been well beyond legal requirements, adding that the restoration of a local marsh was “all voluntary on Dominion’s part.”
The Cove Point Liquefaction Project will expand the natural gas terminal in Lusby to include the exportation of LNG.
The project would allow the processing of an average of 750 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day for a nominal LNG train capacity of approximately 4.5 to 5 million tons per annum, said Amanda Prestage, the regulatory and certificates analyst for Dominion.
According to Dominion, the project will create an additional $40 million annually in property tax revenue, as well as $22 billion in new government royalties and other revenues to federal, state and local governments.
Dominion expects to file the application with the FERC in April 2013 and after FERC approval, for construction to begin at the Cove Point location in early 2014 with a projected in-service date for the entire project in 2017.
Currently, the FERC is the lead federal agency for the preparation of the environmental assessment to satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to examine and report on the environmental consequences of their actions.
The FERC is accepting comments focused on the potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives and measures to avoid or lessen the environmental impacts of the project until Oct. 24. Comments can be submitted on the FERC website, www.ferc.gov, or paper copy can be mailed to Kimberly Bose, secretary of the FERC, at 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426. When submitting comments, be sure to include the docket number PF12-16.
There will be another opportunity for public input after Dominion has filed its official application with the FERC and the environmental assessment has been released.