A recent ruling by a federal agency tentatively allowing a Virginia-based energy company to build a controversial natural gas compressor station in Myersville has drawn reaction from federal lawmakers as town officials begin the appeal process and eye a possible legal fight over the issue.
The mayor and Myersville Town Council decided Tuesday night to request a rehearing by Jan. 22 from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
FERC gave preliminary approval on Dec. 20 to the proposal by Richmond, Va.,-based Dominion Transmission to construct a natural gas compressor station on a 21-acre tract at the intersection of Milt Summers Road and Md. 17.
If FERC rules against the town, the council will invite members of the public to discuss whether the town’s residents want to pursue legal action, Mayor Wayne Creadick said Thursday.
The legal process can be lengthy, and the town will have to decide if it wants to bear certain expenses, such as hiring lawyers and experts, that a lawsuit would require, he said.
“It will be the will of the people,” Creadick said.
Meanwhile, Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community, which opposes the project, has asked Maryland U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D) and Benjamin Cardin (D) to speak out against the ruling.
The group was upset with FERC’s decision, maintaining that the voluminous information they presented was “summarily rejected and dismissed,” group Secretary Ted Cady said in an email on Jan. 3.
A spokeswoman for Cardin said a staff member in the office had met with the group and was reviewing a request to look into the FERC decision.
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) sent a letter to the Maryland Historical Trust, asking the state agency to review its finding that the proposal would have no historic or archaeological impact, according to Van Hollen’s staff.
A second letter asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to look into claims by MCRC that the project would lead to a violation of the federal Clean Air Act by releasing more than the legal limit of nitrous oxide allowed in the area where it is being built.
“As the Member of Congress representing this community, I am interested in ensuring that all parties are treated fairly and that the process is transparent and accountable,” Van Hollen wrote in the letters.
The Myersville mayor and council unanimously agreed Tuesday to draft a letter for their review seeking a rehearing on the FERC ruling and outlining their disagreements with the original decision, Town Planner Brad Dyjak said.
He said the town has been in contact with Van Hollen’s office, and they’ll be coordinating their efforts as the process goes forward.
The town will provide a statement laying out where it disagrees with FERC’s decision as the first step in the appeals process.
The energy commission has 30 days to respond once the appeal is filed but could also file a procedural order to provide more time if it decides to address substantive issues within the appeal, FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said.
If the commission reaffirms its decision, the issue could then be taken to the U.S. Court of Appeals if the losing side decides to pursue it, Young-Allen said.
If FERC reverses itself, the matter is subject to another rehearing within 30 days, she said.
Dyjak said the town may also look at formally requesting that Mikulski and Cardin, as well as Van Hollen, weigh in on the situation.
“That’s certainly an avenue to consider,” he said.
The town provided information to the state’s congressional delegation when the issue first arose, but wanted to let the process play out before seeking any further intervention, Dyjak said.
It represents Dominion’s third attempt to build the facility in Frederick County.
The company purchased 135 acres in Middletown in 2008 and also tried to buy a 13-acre site in Jefferson soon after.
In both instances, community groups were formed to oppose the company’s plans.
The five-member town council voted unanimously in August to deny the Dominion proposal, ruling that the project was inconsistent with the zoning for where it was proposed, an area meant to attract commercial businesses.
The compressor would work as a pumping station, providing more pressure to move natural gas through the pipeline.
Dominion’s proposal has drawn vocal opposition from Myersville residents, who fear that the facility would pose a safety risk in the event of an explosion or accidental release of gas.
A rally before a May hearing drew about 110 members of Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community and other residents, who protested outside the town’s Municipal Center.
Dominion spokesman Chuck Penn said that the company was very sensitive to the concerns of residents and the town, and still hoped to work with them to find a solution that’s acceptable to everyone.
“We’ll just wait and see how things play out,” Penn said.