Cove Point Still Not Done Deal, Must Be Stopped

Photo by John Zangas
Entrance to Cove Point facility. One of seven LNG tanks is in the background/Photo by John Zangas

By Linda Morin, We Are Cove Point

Recent news articles, in my opinion, paint a rosy picture for the liquefied natural gas export terminal at Dominion Cove Point, but I believe there is more to the story.

The rapid drop in oil prices, from $100 a barrel to under $50 in January, has wide impacts, including on the export of gas. In December, Excelerate Energy in Texas decided to stop construction of its export terminal because of these economics. Dominion’s terminal seems on shaky ground. Solar and wind energy are becoming cost-competitive. Communities all over the country, including Cove Point, are resisting projects like this one. Proposed and even partially built fossil fuel infrastructure is being abandoned.

The Calvert Recorder article “Dominion divulges construction plan details” [Dec. 31] touts the short-term construction jobs, but fails to note that when completed, only 75 permanent jobs will be created. I believe many concerns remain about the impact on the local economy that are not being discussed, including a potential increase in health care costs, infrastructure costs, reduced property values and negative impacts on tourism.

Cove Point LNG borders a large community of homes and a park. The only exit route passes the front gate.
Cove Point LNG borders a large community of homes and a park. The only exit route passes the front gate.

This is the first time an LNG export terminal has ever been built in such a densely populated residential area. Dominion appears to have misled the federal permitting agency by omitting the existence of 90 percent of the population in its permit request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Docket No. CP13–000, Resource Report 5, Socioeconomics, April 2013, section 5.1.1 Population). From Solomons to Prince Frederick, Dominion claimed there are fewer than 5,000 people, when the actual number is more than 44,000. Dominion left out the entire community of Lusby. Within a 2-mile radius of the plant are 2,365 homes, including 19 in-home day care centers and two elementary schools, according to data compiled using Google maps, tax records and real estate software.

Homes within an 0.8 mile radius are at risk for flash fire if there is a leak from a gas storage tank, according to a Maryland report. New liquefaction equipment will likely increase the risk. The concussive impacts of an explosion at an LNG plant traveled six miles in an explosion in Washington State last April.

The plant includes a gas refinery that will operate day and night with all its light and noise pollution, flarings, toxic emissions and health consequences. The most severe safety risks are a potential catastrophic explosion (causing fire and a concussive force that can travel miles) and a chemical spill. Dominion will maintain permanent new stockpiles of toxic and potentially explosive chemicals on site, including ammonia, propane, ethane, acid gases and cancer-causing benzene.

A prop illustrates all the pollutants that will be emitted by the Cove Point power station.
A prop illustrates all the pollutants that will be emitted by the Cove Point power station.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reports the terminal will release 20.4 tons of hazardous air pollutants — many carcinogenic — annually into the community. Annual greenhouse gas emissions from operation are equivalent to the addition of about 425,000 cars in Lusby, based on figures from the Public Service Commission’s review of the project and a table on vehicle carbon footprints compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency. Collectively, these pollutants can cause respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological and skin diseases. Some studies show they harm fetuses and many cause cancer. Children, pregnant women and the elderly would be most affected. Dominion bought emission credits that allow it to legally pollute beyond government approved levels.

Elected officials have refused to conduct a quantitative risk assessment; therefore, the full extent of the risks are unknown.

Dominion will get richer at our expense. Calvert County waived $506 million in county property taxes that Dominion would have paid over 14 years. Dominion also created a limited partnership to avoid federal taxes. The U.S. Department of Energy concluded that gas exports raise domestic gas prices and harm every sector of the U.S. economy except the gas industry, which will profit enormously.

This terminal, I believe, is not a done deal. People in Cove Point are organizing (see WeAreCovePoint.org) to protect their health, safety and local economy. We do not want Cove Point to become a “cancer alley,” a sacrifice zone for Dominion’s profits.

This project must be reconsidered and stopped.

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