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Overwhelming opposition voiced at PSC hearing for Dominion project

By AMANDA SCOTT

Staff writer

Nearly seven hours and 85 speakers later, the Maryland Public Service Commission’s hearing about aspects of Dominion’s proposed liquefied natural gas export project came to an end Saturday evening.

The Public Service Commission hosted the hearing, which began at noon and ended shortly before 7 p.m. at Patuxent High School in Lusby, to receive public comment on Dominion’s application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to construct a 130-megawatt generating facility at its Cove Point terminal in Lusby. Specifically, the PSC, which regulates public utilities, is reviewing Dominion’s application for two 65-megawatt steam turbine generating units to operate with the waste heat from two natural gas fired turbines used to drive the compressors for liquefaction of natural gas.

Despite the major union presence at the hearing, 68 percent of the speakers, many of whom are nearby residents of the Lusby terminal, were opposed to the project for lack of available information and an environmental impact study, noise and air pollution, the project’s residential location, traffic and safety concerns and the idea that the project might pressure Maryland into permitting hydraulic fracturing and increasing the practice elsewhere.

“Nothing bad will result to the air we breathe, the water we drink or the grounds we walk if you do not” grant the certificate, resident Ken Pritchard said.

Resident Donny Williams said he wanted to point out that those who are getting money from the project are supporting it, and those who aren’t oppose it.

“The people who aren’t getting money out of this, we’re spending money to come to things like this. This means that much to us that we’re taking time out of everything else going on to come to this,” he said. “I hope that carries some weight with you, seriously.”

He said the power generating facilities are solely for Dominion’s purposes, and it is “clear” that it wouldn’t benefit the state.

“I am concerned for the future of the earth and our children and our grandchildren,” James Conklin, another resident, said. “Everybody’s going to get screwed except Dominion. … It does not benefit Marylanders on the average” and instead raises concerns about exporting jobs, global warming and climate change.

Thirty-five-year Lusby resident Leslie Starr said she is concerned about the effects of the project on her community because necessary information isn’t public without the environmental impact study being conducted.

“Is it going to be safe? I don’t know, because an EIS hasn’t been done,” she said.

As a former trades union member, Starr said, “I’d love to see them with jobs, but I don’t want to see them with this job.”

“For Maryland’s best interest, take the long-term view,” resident Brian Concannon beseeched the PSC. “Take our time with this.”

The hearing also drew opponents from the region, who tried to highlight that the project’s effects aren’t isolated to Calvert County, such as a student representative for the University of Maryland, College Park’s student government; Kelly Cannavan, president of the Accokeek Mattawoman Piscataway Creeks Council; a few Howard County residents; and an Eastern Shore resident.

In addition to the union members and officials who continually have voiced their support for the project for employment and monetary reasons, Calvert County Commissioner Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R), Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans (R) and several residents also spoke in support of Dominion’s application.

Of note was Maryland Conservation Council President Paulette Hammond speaking in support of the project. The council was party to a 2005 agreement with Dominion and the Sierra Club, which the Sierra Club has used to challenge whether Dominion has the authority to export LNG. On Friday, a judge in the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed a Calvert Circuit Court ruling stating that agreement permits the construction, operation and maintenance of additional facilities for the LNG expansion and permits Dominion to export LNG from the terminal site.

While the MCC hasn’t been part of the litigation, it hasn’t publicly given support of the project.

Hammond said Dominion has always gone above and beyond when it comes to caring for the environment, citing the marsh restoration, creating fish habitats and oyster cultivation, and she said it would be “unfounded” to suggest otherwise.

Resident Joyce Jett said Dominion is a big part of her community, and she would like it be an even bigger part.

“They are a good corporate citizen with a good track record,” she said, questioning why those who live near the plant and are opposed to it bought a house there in the first place. “I’m proud to call Dominion my neighbor.”

Resident and civil engineer Zane Rettstatt said speaking from experience, he is “very confident that the reviews [of the project] are being done correctly. … This project is getting the proper review.”

Former county commissioner Linda Kelley, who is running as an at-large commissioner candidate this election, also voiced her support for the project, saying she couldn’t support it if it was something she felt was going to negatively affect the community, and she didn’t know when it “became a criminal act for businesses to try and make money.”

Kevin Hughes, chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission, announced Saturday at the hearing that the commission will be accepting written comments on Dominion’s application until the close of business Wednesday, April 2. Written comments should be addressed to David J. Collins, Executive Secretary, Maryland Public Service Commission, 6 St. Paul St., 16th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202, and should reference “Case No. 9318.”

ascott@somdnews.com