By Anne Meador
Eleven people, including two photographers, were arrested on November 4 at the Maryland construction site of a pier to service Cove Point LNG, a natural gas export facility.
Nine activists wearing blue jumpsuits and yellow hardhats scaled a massive dirt mound at the site. Three protestors were stopped by sheriff’s deputies, but six reached the summit and held a banner aloft saying, “WE > Dominion Profits”.
They sat down as they were approached by law enforcement officers, who then cuffed them. The officers led some down the dirt hill but carried others.
The nine protestors were charged with trespassing and failure to obey. The two photographers were charged with trespassing. All were held in jail overnight.
“I see the huge risks that [Cove Point] poses,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers, a protestor who climbed the hill. “The risks to the surrounding community are huge, and that alone is a reason to stop it.”
Cove Point has attracted regional and even national opposition because it will export fracked gas from Pennsylvania and requires pipeline and compressor station infrastructure.
Dr. Flowers believes gas exports from Cove Point and the TTIP, a trade agreement, will incentivize fracking, the unconventional method of extracting natural gas by injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure. “That’s a threat to the whole world,” she said.
The pier, at the junction of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay, will be used to receive heavy equipment and machinery too large to deliver by land to the nearby terminal. Construction has just begun to convert Cove Point LNG from an import terminal into an export facility.
Several supporters of the civil disobedience action at the site held signs and chanted, “Shut it down, shut it down!”
“If more people like us take a stand and resist the site, we can stop it,” said protestor Martine Zundmanis. “Our leaders’ inaction on this issue forced us to get involved, and if more people get involved, then we can stop this.”
Many local residents feel that Dominion Resources, the energy company which operates Cove Point, has not addressed their health, safety and environmental concerns. The conversion of the terminal will involve the addition of a full-scale power plant, a liquefaction train and storage tanks of chemicals and fuels to the 120-acre site.
“This Cove Point LNG export terminal will present immediate risks to the residents all around it, as well as the river and local ecosystem,” Zundmanis said.
The Cove Point project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September, in spite of widespread opposition.
“The community has tried other avenues of stopping this, and those have not been successful,” Dr. Flowers said. “They’re moving really quickly with this path, so I just feel like we’ve got to move quickly into this next phase of slowing it down and shutting it down in order to try to delay this, while others are still trying others avenues like the courts.”
Dominion must finish construction on the pier by December 15, else wait out the winter to complete it.
On Monday, one woman was arrested at the pier construction site and charged with trespassing when she locked herself to a construction vehicle.
Many of the activists who turned out on Tuesday feel that conventional methods have been exhausted. “I took part because our leaders are simply ignoring all of the risks of these extreme energy projects, and the public needs to be made aware of it and take action,” Zundmanis said.
“People must stand up to fight the corporate moneyed interests, or it is game over for all of our future generations.”