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Earlier this month, gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur announced her opposition to Dominion Cove Point’s proposed liquefied natural gas export project — a project that has been a source of contention in Calvert County during the past several months.

Mizeur (D-Montgomery) announced her opposition Dec. 12, saying, “Governing is about making tough choices for the best interests of our future. No leader in Maryland can in good faith claim to be serious about protecting the bay, its communities and economy or combating climate change without opposing the Cove Point facility. The costs of this project are simply too high,” according to a news release from the Friends of Heather Mizeur.

Dominion Cove Point has proposed the expansion of its Lusby facility to enable Dominion to export liquefied natural gas at the existing import-only facility. The project still is awaiting approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and several permitting agencies, including the Maryland Public Service Commission.

In her “full position paper,” available at www.heathermizeur.com/covepoint, Mizeur says the “dramatic expansion” would “trigger more [carbon dioxide] pollution than from all of our state’s coal-fired power plants combined” over the terminal’s life and would be “the state’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide ever.”

Mizeur claims the Lusby facility will “spew” up to 3.3 million tons of carbon dioxide “and other harmful greenhouse gases” each year.

The current Lusby plant is permitted at 1.4 million tons of emissions per year — the equivalent of everything at the plant running at the same time, according to Dominion. In Dominion’s new permit, the company is requesting 2 million tons per year — the equivalent of everything on the plant for exporting LNG running at the same time.

Dominion spokesman Dan Donovan has said the two permits cannot be added together to create about 3.3 million tons “because the processes can’t occur at the same time.”

On Tuesday during a phone interview, Mizeur said the 3.3 million tons number is coming from the way Dominion’s application is written. She said the application doesn’t ask for 2 million tons but asks for “an additional 2 million tons.”

She said environmental activists have asked Dominion to formally clarify its application, but the utility company hasn’t done so.

Whichever number it ends up being, Mizeur said, “both are still really troubling numbers.”

Allowing the construction of the project, she writes in her paper, “directly flies in the face” of the state’s 2013 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan.

In her paper, Mizeur cites environmentalist organization Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s claims that ship traffic in the Chesapeake Bay will increase by 549 percent.

“This is simply Dominion trying to a pull a fast one on the public,” Mizeur said Tuesday. Dominion is using peak ship traffic numbers from 2003, but if 2008 through 2011 numbers are used, she said, there was “the equivalent” of about 13 ships.

“The fact remains that 85 ships per year would be a huge increase in tanker traffic,” she said.

Dominion was granted permission for up to 200 ships per year to travel to and from the company’s pier in the bay and, therefore, isn’t requesting an increase, according to Dominion’s FERC application. In previous reports, Dominion has stated it is only projecting up to 85 ships per year will be traveling to and from the pier.

Mizeur also states in her paper that the facility “will mean significant increases in the construction of pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure throughout Maryland.”

No additional pipelines are being constructed for the project, and modifications are proposed at two existing Dominion compressor stations, according to Dominion’s application and previous reports.

Mizeur also said during the phone interview, “It’s almost certain that new infrastructure would be needed. ... You don’t have to jump to the very far conclusion that this is going to put more pressure on building more pipelines and compressor stations to the export terminal.”

In her letter to FERC requesting an environmental impact statement for Dominion’s proposed project, Mizeur references that the expansion “would clear forests in Charles County,” and “a thorough EIS is our only chance to evaluate the true extent of potential impacts to Charles County and across the state.”

When asked to clarify why she referenced Charles County in her FERC letter, Mizeur said, “Well, part of what we would presume that would come from an EIS, is that more information would be drawn out that Dominion is currently glossing over.” She said she can only assume the pressure to build more LNG infrastructure would spread throughout the state, and “that particular piece is trying to pull out and get more specificity about where all of this would be laid.

“… The road through Calvert leads to Charles,” she explained.

In Dominion’s project application, the only construction taking place (outside of the two existing compressor stations) would be within Dominion’s 131-acre, fenced-in area of its more than 1,000-acre property in Lusby.

For several weeks now, Mizeur said, she has been investigating, reading materials and talking to experts about the project and its effects, trying to find a way to mitigate the environmental effects while retaining the economic benefits.

“The environmental risks were just too high and couldn’t be mitigated,” she said of her conclusion.

Mizeur concludes her stance paper by calling on Dominion to invest in renewable energy instead.

“We can have massive investment that creates profit for energy companies” using renewable energy, she said.

Following Mizeur’s announcement, the Maryland Environmental Health Network called for other gubernatorial candidates to “clarify” their positions on the Cove Point project.

MdEHN is a health professionals and environmental group connector that aids the exchange of information between the two industries to promote environmental health.

“Del. Heather Mizeur made an excellent case for why the Cove Point export facility project is the wrong choice for Maryland,” MdEHN Director Rebecca Ruggles said in a statement. “… If candidates are supportive of the Cove Point project, voters deserve to know how they weigh short-term job creation against long-term health and environmental impacts.”

ascott@somdnews.com