By Richelle Brown
In a show of opposition to the recent federal approval of Dominion’s Cove Point natural gas export terminal on the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland mother Kelly Canavan has locked herself to a piece of equipment at a construction site in Solomons integral to the project. Canavan is the president of AMP Creeks Council, a small nonprofit organization that focuses on land use and zoning policy. She is also part of Stopping Extraction and Exports Destruction (SEED), an umbrella group of mid-Atlantic activists fighting energy extraction and exports.
“The AMP Creeks Council has been opposing this project through several lawsuits for about a year,” Canavan said. “Now that FERC is poised to preempt any further victories we might be awarded in Calvert County, and Maryland officials at every level continue to support Dominion instead of residents, we are forced to take this stand. This is a peaceful protest to call attention to the carelessness and injustice that have characterized the course of this project from the beginning.”
Virginia-based Dominion Resources plans to build a $3.8 billion facility that would bring nearly a billion cubic feet of gas per day from fracking wells across the Appalachian region, liquefy it on the Chesapeake Bay, and export it to Asia. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the project on September 29. Opportunities for public input have been limited and inadequate, and neither the agency nor Dominion has addressed several major environmental, health, and safety concerns.
The Solomons site is about seven miles south of the site of the proposed terminal. Dominion is currently constructing a pier to bring in equipment too large to transport over land. The site is located next to a public boat launch and fishing pier at the base of the Thomas Johnson Bridge, the only route across the Patuxent River between Calvert County and St. Mary’s County, Maryland. The structural soundness of the bridge has been in doubt since cracks appeared in its foundation in 1988. In addition, construction of the pier requires the severe disturbance of oyster habitat in the river.
“The destruction of this prominent area in the Solomons community is tangible proof of the determination of both Dominion and Maryland politicians to steamroll residents’ rights.” Canavan said. “Despite the power of the Federal government in this case, state and local officials still have an important role to play in protecting residents. Instead of joining with them to demand answers from Dominion and FERC, these officials have bent over backward to ease Dominion’s path.”
Under the Natural Gas Act, the Federal government has the ultimate authority in decisions over the siting and construction of natural gas infrastructure, including interstate pipelines, compressor stations, storage facilities, and export terminals. With the recent rapid expansion of domestic gas production through the dangerous practice of hydraulic fracturing, energy companies are proposing new projects at an unprecedented rate. FERC has approved the vast majority of those projects, while failing to consider the cumulative harm they will cause to health, the economy, and the climate.
Canavan’s action coincides with the Beyond Extreme Energy initiative, a week-long series of actions in Washington, D.C. and nearby to demand greater responsiveness, transparency, and accountability from FERC and other federal agencies. For more information, visit https://sites.google.com/site/beyondextremeenergy/.