A Virginia energy company seeking to build a natural gas compressor station in Myersville has sued the town, its mayor and council concerning their refusal to approve the company’s plans, arguing federal laws should overrule local zoning.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, is the latest twist in the dispute that began in February, when Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Transmission Inc. filed a plan to build facilities in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, including the compressor station at the intersection of Milt Summers Road and Md. 17.
The compressor station would help maintain pressure to help move gas through the pipeline.
The project has attracted vocal opposition from some Myersville residents, who have expressed concerns about the environmental effects of the station and safety if there were an explosion or other incident at the station.
The five-member Myersville Town Council unanimously rejected the plan in August, ruling that the project wasn’t consistent with the town’s plans for an area that was zoned to attract commercial business.
The lawsuit asks a federal judge to make Dominion immune from ordinances and other zoning rules that led the council to reject the company’s application.
The complaint names the town, the town council collectively and Mayor Wayne S. Creadick Jr. as defendants.
Myersville Town Planner Brad Dyjak said the town has received a copy of the complaint but will not have a comment until the mayor and council have had a chance to review it in a closed session at their Feb. 12 meeting.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Dominion an approval to build the project in December — a decision the town has asked FERC to reconsider in another hearing.
Maryland U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D) and Benjamin Cardin (D), along with U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8), have publicly supported the town’s request for a rehearing.
In a Jan. 24 letter to FERC’s chairman and commissioners, the three lawmakers said they were especially worried about the project’s ability to comply with clean-air regulations and the Maryland Department of the Environment’s decision not to issue the project an air-quality permit
“It is critically important that this project be vetted in a thorough fashion, in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws, so that any potential negative impacts can be discovered and addressed before moving forward,” the letter said.
The Natural Gas Act of 1938 gives FERC jurisdiction over the interstate transportation and sale of natural gas, meaning FERC’s approval supersedes the Myersville council’s, according to Dominion’s complaint.
“Because DTI (Dominion) is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of FERC as it pertains to the siting, design, construction, and operation of the Myersville Compressor Station, the Town’s denial of DTI’s request to amend the Site Master Plan, as well as the Town Code and any local ordinances, rules and regulations upon which the Town Council and Mayor relied on denying DTI’s Amendment Application, are preempted by the FERC Certificate and the Natural Gas Act,” the complaint said.
Before filing the lawsuit, the company tried to work with the town to find a way that the project could move forward that is acceptable to everyone, Dominion spokesman Chuck Penn said Monday.
When the town declined, the company felt it was left with no choice but to seek a legal enforcement of FERC’s policy, he said.
“We simply need to build this project,” Penn said.