Dominion’s Cove Point: Poised to Open the Door to Fracking in Maryland

By Laurel Peltier, Baltimore Fishbowl

Soon, a shipping tanker will dock at Dominion’s Cove Point natural gas facility pier in Lusby, MD and bring U.S. fracked gas to Asia. So much for energy independence.

As Marylanders have been pushing for wind energy, installing compact fluorescent lightbulbs and shelling out storm water and ‘flush’ fees to clean the Chesapeake Bay, our federal government approved a massive energy project here in Maryland that couldn’t be farther from “eco-friendly.”

Approval to convert Cove Point, a long idle natural gas import facility, to an export facility came just as the moratorium on fracking in Maryland nears.  A coincidence? No one is admitting to a fully fleshed-out fracking plan, but in this pro-fracking administration, it is just a matter of time before one starts, environmentalists believe. When it does, don’t expect the moms in Lusby, Maryland, to take it lying down.  Some are already piping mad!

Cove Point’s hidden truths, below, reveal hypocrisy in action. It’s apparent that Cove Point’s approval was decided long ago behind closed doors between top-level government officials and key fossil fuel partners. Marylanders didn’t get a vote in this matter. The 150,000 letters of protest got recycled. The 1,000 protest marchers in Baltimore got sore throats while our elected officials stepped aside and laid out the welcome mat.

On September 29, 2014 the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based energy company, the thumbs up to retrofit its idle Cove Point, Maryland liquid natural gas import facility to an export facility.  The price tag for Dominion: $4 billion.  No company would put that kind of money into a project unless it expects spectacular returns, and the math looks like they’ll get them.

The Maryland that prides itself on forward-thinking environmental policies just happens to be home to an old natural gas import plant that sits pretty close to the Appalachian Marcellus Shale. The Marcellus is fracking’s gold mine, producing 30 percent of the U.S. fracking gas boom.    

Exporting U.S. gas is the final step in the fracking-based energy strategy that began in 2005 with the Bush administration. In nine years, nearly 100,000 fracking wells have been drilled here in the U.S.  With the supply of natural gas abundant, policy makers and oil companies have decided it’s time to start sending it overseas and bringing home big profits: Natural gas prices are four times higher abroad than domestically.

In Maryland, pro-fracking energy policy allowed Cove Point to be quickly approved. The facility is the only viable gas nozzle on the East Coast, allowing U.S. oil companies to fill up the gas tanks of India and Japan with liquified natural gas.

Dominion’s Cove Point export plant may very well affect you and your family if you pay a natural gas heating bill, care at all about climate change, live near a future pipeline path or find that your home sits atop our state’s many shale gas basins.

10 Hidden Truths About Dominion’s Cove Point

  1. Natural gas prices actually rise for homes and business.  If you heat your home with natural gas, you may have noticed your winter utility bill has been low. Fracking’s extra gas supply has forced down natural gas rates. But low prices are expected to rise as U.S. supply tightens due to rising exports. And industrial gas rates are expected to rise, too. Plastics and chemical companies are peeved about exports because rising gas prices slam their businesses.

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