Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Print this Article

In a meeting open only to members of the community living closest to Dominion Cove Point, more than 50 people gathered Wednesday evening at the Southern Community Center in Lusby to learn about and discuss potential safety issues regarding the possible expansion project at the plant.

Sue Allison, of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community, said so much tension has built up over the issue of the proposed Cove Point expansion that the organizations wanted to bring residents in for information.

“We don’t want to debate,” she said. “We want to present information.”

Co-sponsored by Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network — two groups against the proposed liquefied natural gas export facility at Cove Point — Dale Allison gave a presentation followed by a period of time for questions and comments.

Dale Allison, a retired aerospace engineer and Sue Allison’s husband, said there is not enough information on all the different kinds of emergency events that could happen with the plant as it currently stands and with how it could function as an export facility of liquefied natural gas in the future.

For the 2006 expansion of Cove Point, Dominion conducted a failure analysis, which did not take all possible factors into account, Dale Allison said. For instance, an ignition happened on site with no offsite ignition. This means adequate testing was not done on the impacts of a vapor cloud offsite.

Michael Frederick, Dominion Cove Point’s vice president of LNG operations, said in a phone interview Thursday that the plant’s thermal exclusion zone remains on the property, so vapor wouldn’t travel beyond the exclusion zone of 1,423 feet. Standing beside the outer edge of the exclusion zone during an emergency would result in sunburn-like burns after 30 seconds, Frederick said.

The testing in 2006 was done with a worst-case scenario, so the 1,423-foot exclusion zone is the largest one possible. There are smaller exclusion zones, all within the property, for less severe incidents, Frederick said.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission needs to look at all possible mishaps, the consequences, the probability of all such mishaps and the probability of individual fatalities, Dale Allison said at the meeting.

Nothing exists quite like Cove Point, Dale Allison said. The proposed liquefaction equipment will be put in very close proximity within the existing footprint of the plant. He cited a Department of Natural Resources report from 2006 that said to decrease the risk of escalating an emergency, equipment should be isolated. Other LNG export plants have their equipment spread out over a larger area.

The plant will be designed with the risks in mind, Frederick said Thursday, with barriers within the plant to isolate the equipment.

“We’re very familiar with the risks of LNG and have the capability to design the plant around those risks,” Dominion Cove Point spokesman Karl Neddenien said Thursday.

Also, Dale Allison expressed concern about how other plants do not exist in populated areas. Allison said he estimates there are more than 300 homes within a 4,500-foot radius of the plant. Another defining issue with Cove Point is the plan for a 60-foot-tall sound barrier wall, which also might function as a containment wall for vapor clouds, he said.

“No other facilities have 60-foot walls,” he said. “We will be an experiment.”

Some in attendance said the expansion already seems like it has been decided. But Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, encouraged the group to press on and continue meeting, making phone calls and asking questions.

“They want you to think it’s a done deal,” Tidwell said. “They keep waiting for us to give up. We’re still here.”

The group plans to meet again at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Southern Community Center to discuss the next steps.