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Environmental groups discuss proposed effects of Dominion expansion with community


Staff writer

Community members crammed into a room Tuesday night at the Southern Community Center for a town hall meeting about the proposed Dominion Cove Point expansion project, hosted by environmental activists.

At the “Calvert at Risk” town hall meeting, residents heard about the proposed Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas exportation project from Chesapeake Climate Action Committee Director Mike Tidwell, Patuxent Riverkeeper CEO Fred Tutman, Earthjustice associate attorney Moneen Nasmith, and Cove of Calvert Homeowner’s Association member Jean Marie Neal.

The goal of the meeting, Tidwell told the crowd Tuesday night, was to present the “facts that you haven’t heard yet.”

The “community leaders and experts will outline where the project stands and the fundamentally new and far-reaching pollution, safety, traffic, noise and other impacts residents could face if it moves forward,” according to a Chesapeake Climate Action Network news release about the meeting.

CCAN is a nonprofit group that fights global warming in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., area; Earthjustice is a nonprofit environmental law group; the Patuxent Riverkeeper is a nonprofit watershed advocacy organization with the goal of protecting and restoring clean water in the Patuxent River and its connected ecosystem. The Cove of Calvert neighborhood is close to the Dominion Cove Point facility.

In April, Dominion filed its formal application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its proposed liquefied natural gas exportation project. Currently, Cove Point is an import-only facility. Within the 131-acre, fenced-in area of its more than 1,000-acre property in Lusby, Dominion proposes to add equipment to liquefy natural gas and then export it.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the panelists agreed the major concern with the proposed project is that a comprehensive environmental impact study is not yet proposed and that Dominion is claiming it isn’t necessary.

“I don’t think that I have enough information to know the full extent of this project,” Tutman said to the crowd. “... We need to get answers before it’s a done deal.”

Nasmith said, “FERC has already decided they aren’t going to do an environmental impact study. ... They’ve completely ignored the fact that they may need to do an environmental impact study.”

In its application, Dominion said the project isn’t going to significantly affect “the quality of the human environment” and so an environmental impact study isn’t necessary.

FERC is analyzing information from Dominion, the application and supplemental correspondence and is preparing an environmental assessment, according to an Oct. 18 project review update. FERC also is analyzing information other commentators have filed, the notice states.

FERC already has identified several concerns and issues, including the purpose and need for the project, effect on water resources, effect on wildlife, effect on recreational and natural areas, effect of tree removal, increased road and marine traffic, effect on nearby residences and residential property value, economic benefits, public health and safety, effect on air quality and noise, cumulative effect and evaluation of project alternatives, according to the notice.

“The matter is still pending, and there is no pre-judgment. When there is an existing facility, the commission generally prepares an environmental assessment and can require that an environmental impact study is prepared if the situation warrants that type of action,” FERC spokesperson Tamara Young-Allen said Wednesday.

She said the decision to conduct an environmental impact study will be outlined in the environmental assessment.

Following the release of the assessment, there will be a 30-day public comment period, and then the recommendations will be presented to the commission for a decision.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Tidwell said Dominion is planning to build a power plant on the grounds to power the new liquefaction equipment. There are plans to use natural gas-fired turbines to power the refrigeration compressors needed to cool the natural gas to the point at which it turns into a liquid, according to the application and previous reports from Dominion. The waste heat from those gas-fired turbines will be used to generate additional electrical power onsite to meet the power demands of the facility, the application states.

“The noise from the compressors and turbines will be heard day and night,” Neal said, adding that neighbors who currently enjoy a quiet evening on their porch “can forget that.” She did acknowledge, however, Dominion’s plans to build a 60-foot-high sound barrier wall on the southern and western sides of its property.

In regard to ship traffic, Tidwell said the community can expect between 90 and 100 ships per year coming up to the Cove Point pier. In the application, Dominion references a 2005 environmental impact statement that granted permission for up to 200 ships per year to travel to and from the pier and, therefore, isn’t requesting an increase. In previous reports, Dominion has stated it is only projecting up to 85 ships per year will be traveling to and from the terminal.

When it comes to emissions, Tidwell said the proposed facility will produce about 3.3 million tons of carbon dioxide once in service.

On Wednesday, Dominion spokesman Dan Donovan, who said he attended the meeting, said the existing facility is currently permitted to emit 1.4 million tons of carbon dioxide and has never reached that level. Dominion is requesting a second emissions permit to be able to emit up to 2 million tons of carbon dioxide as an export facility, he said. During a recent meeting, the manager of LNG operation at Cove Point, Michael Gardner, said the emissions numbers are still under review by several national and state agencies.

“But you can’t add them together,” Donovan said, because one level is for gasifying the LNG, and the other is for liquefying the gas, “and you can’t do them at the same time.” In recent years, Dominion has not received LNG imports.

Another issue the panelists brought up is Dominion’s proposed use of two offsite locations and increased traffic. Earlier this year, Dominion contracted the use of offsite property (split between two areas) for temporary construction laydown, parking and offloading large equipment from barges.

The first area is 179.1 acres across from Cove Point Road on the southbound side of Route 2/4. About 96.9 acres will be cleared and graded for use as construction worker parking, contractor staging for equipment and supplies and equipment assembly areas, the application states.

Earlier this month, Dominion shared its plans for road improvements there, including a traffic light at Route 2/4 and Cove Point Road and a turning lane along eastbound Cove Point Road at Little Cove Point Road. Those plans still are under review by the Maryland State Highway Administration.

The second area is about 11 acres in Solomons below the Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge, being leased from its current owner for use as a temporary barge unloading facility for two years. Only about 5.9 acres of the property will be disturbed during construction, according to Dominion’s application.

In previous reports, Dominion has said the Solomons site solely is a loading area for large equipment coming off ships for construction, and the equipment will be moved to the Cove Point facility at night when it is less of an inconvenience to motorists.

Dominion, in its application, is requesting FERC’s decision no later than Feb. 7, 2014, so construction can begin shortly thereafter. Dominion anticipates the export facility to be complete in 2017.

Dominion has said the construction phase will support up to 4,000 jobs for Maryland. Neal said, “The construction jobs are temporary. They’re not going to buy homes for temporary work. They’re not going to spend money in Solomons for a nice lunch. They probably won’t even stay in local hotels.”

Steve Zimmerman of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 26 said Wednesday he and about 30 other Local 26 members were at the meeting.

Zimmerman, of Owings, said he brought other Calvert residents from the union to the meeting to listen to the concerns. More than 60 members of Iron Workers Local 5 also were in attendance. The highlighter-colored shirts they were wearing, and the signs of the same color they were carrying, said, “Convert Cove Point.”

Zimmerman said, “I’m glad it was such a good turnout for the community because people have concerns.”

Dominion project meetings coming up
• Tuesday, Oct. 29: The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners will hold a joint public hearing with the Calvert County Planning Commission at 7 p.m. in the Planning Commission Hearing Room at Courthouse Square, 205 Main St., Prince Frederick, to consider proposed text amendments to the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance and amending the International Building Code. The amendments would provide an exemption for liquid natural gas import or export facilities from the requirements of the county ordinance, provide a definition of liquid natural gas import or export facility to Article 12 and propose to delete reference to the Land Use Article of the Maryland Annotated Code. In the building code, an amendment is proposed that would provide an exemption from the International Building Code for those buildings and structures of a qualified liquid natural gas import or export facility that are subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission review and inspection and not intended for human occupancy.
• Tuesday, Nov. 5: The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing at 10:30 a.m. at the Calvert County Courthouse, Commissioners Hearing Room, 175 Main St., Prince Frederick, to consider the adoption of an ordinance exercising the county’s authority to grant a property tax credit against the imposed county property tax and approve an agreement for a negotiated payment in lieu of taxes and tax credits for Dominion Liquefied Natural Gas LLC.
• Wednesday, Nov. 6: The Chesapeake Climate Action Network will be stopping from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at St. Mary’s Hall, Auerbach Auditorium, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St. Mary’s City, as part of its nine-stop “Maryland Crossroads 2013: Clean Energy, Not Cove Point!” tour to educate residents about what they can do “to stop this pollution disaster — and to demand the things we DO want: solar and wind power.”