Teacher Scales Crane at Cove Point Construction Site


‘Dominion get out. Don’t frack Maryland. No gas exports.’


By SEED Coalition

Early this morning, Maryland teacher Carling Sothoron climbed a 150-foot-tall crane at a construction site in Lusby, Maryland, that is part of the Dominion Cove Point liquefied natural gas export terminal project. She hung a banner reading “Dominion get out. Don’t frack Maryland. No gas exports. Save Cove Point.” Sothoron is part of Stopping Extraction and Exports Destruction (SEED), an umbrella group of mid-Atlantic activists fighting dirty energy projects.  She remains on the crane. Heather Doyle, another SEED activist who stayed at the bottom of the crane to provide assistance to Sothoron, has been detained by law enforcement.

”The Dominion Cove Point LNG project is negatively impacting the environment and community in Lusby, MD. We are already seeing that it will directly lead to massive expansion of natural gas drilling and infrastructure throughout the mid-Atlantic region, from the coast to the Appalachian Mountains. I’m taking direct action today because I’m not willing to let the natural gas industry destroy Maryland, my home,” said Sothoron.


Virginia-based Dominion Resources’s $3.8 billion Cove Point LNG export terminal would bring over a billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from Appalachia, liquefy it, and  ship it to Asia. The project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in September of last year.

The site at which the crane is located, referred to in FERC documentation of the project as “Offsite Area A,” consists of 179.4 acres of land located on Maryland Route 2/4 about a little more than a mile west of the Cove Point terminal. Made up of 100 acres owned by Dominion and 79.4 acres leased from Calvert County, the site was undeveloped and covered with trees prior to the beginning of construction. Dominion plans to clear more than half of the site to provide space for equipment storage, warehouse space, and parking for 1,700 worker vehicles. Work began immediately after FERC approved the project and a large cleared area is already visible from the road.

Carling Sothoron at top of crane.
Carling Sothoron at top of crane.

Of the four natural gas export terminals approved by federal regulators to date, Dominion’s facility is located closest to the Marcellus Shale, a porous rock formation containing natural gas (methane) that underlies parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. Extracting the gas requires the use of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” A recent analysis of peer-reviewed studiesshowed that most have found evidence that fracking causes harm to public health and environmental health.

The recent surge in natural gas production resulting from the widespread use of fracking has led to a glut in the market and a dramatic drop in prices in the last few years. Exporting natural gas would boost its price, stimulating increased drilling and production. In addition to export terminals, this will require hundreds of miles of pipeline and other infrastructure. Despite strong community and local government opposition, Dominion recently completed a compressor station in the small town of Myersville in central Maryland to move natural gas along its interstate pipeline.

The crane is located at Cove Point's "Offsite A" construction site/Photo by Jeff Dixon
The crane is located at Cove Point’s “Offsite A” construction site/Photo by Jeff Dixon

Adding urgency to today’s action is the possibility that fracking will start soon in Maryland.  Former governor Martin O’Malley issued an executive moratorium on fracking in 2011, suspending drilling in the state’s portion Marcellus shale pending a series of studies by an advisory commission. However, the commission recently wrapped up its work and the state has proposed regulations for fracking. The new governor, Larry Hogan, who took office January 21, has shown enthusiasm for idea of fracking in Maryland, calling it “an economic gold mine.”

UPDATE from Baynet:

Lusby, MD – At about 6:00 a.m. on Feb. 3 two women were discovered climbing an unoccupied crane at the Dominion LNG project using climbing gear and possessing banners objecting to Fracking.

Dfc. Robert Brady, of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, responded to the Dominion LNG project, located on the west side of Cove Point Road and Route 4, for the report of trespassers.

Dfc. Brady and Sergeant Vladimir Bortchevsky asked the women, identified as Heather Doyle, 31 of Washington D.C., and Carling Sothoron, 28 of Baltimore, to stop climbing.

Heather Doyle and Carling Sothoron after their release on Tuesday.
Heather Doyle and Carling Sothoron after their release on Tuesday.

Doyle refused to comply and was arrested for trespassing and failure to obey a lawful order from Law Enforcement.  In addition to this Doyle was also charged with destruction of property after she is alleged to have intentionally damaged the paint on a marked patrol vehicle by scraping the handcuffs she was wearing in a manner that gouged the paint off of the vehicle.

Sothoron was asked to climb down off the crane but refused.  Dfc. Stephen Esposito climbed the crane using climbing gear and ensured that Sothoron was secured to the crane. Dave Marco from Kiewit construction responded to the scene and after ensuring the safety of Sothoron and Dfc. Esposito the crane boom was lowered and Sothoron was apprehended.

Sothoron has been charged with trespassing and failure to obey a lawful order from Law Enforcement.

Both Sothoron and Doyle are currently being held at the Calvert County Detention Center awaiting a hearing before the District Court Commissioner.

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