Agrees to $365,000 settlement with EPA
By Sarah Fleischman, Calvert Recorder
Dominion Cove Point has agreed to pay a settlement of $365,000 for the lack of timely reporting of ammonia emissions that occurred between December 2012 and February 2013.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited Dominion for failing to report 27 separate releases of more than 100 pounds of ammonia from its natural gas turbines while generating the site’s electricity, according to an EPA statement distributed Tuesday.
Currently, Dominion Cove Point is constructing a liquefied natural gas export facility at the existing import terminal in Lusby.
“Ammonia emissions pose no health issues and did not violate any applicable standards or limits. Dominion had an obligation to report the events in a more timely manner,” said Karl Neddenien, Dominion Cove Point spokesman in an interview.
Federal regulations require the reporting of any anhydrous ammonia release above 100 pounds to the National Response Center, the state emergency response commission and local planning officials. According to the EPA, Dominion failed to immediately notify any of these agencies following each of the 27 ammonia releases and failed to submit required follow-up reports to those agencies.
Neddenien said the delay in reporting the incidences was because the company did “careful calculations” to confirm the emissions were really happening before reporting them.
During the production of electricity to run the facility, natural gas turbines are equipped with a system that uses ammonia to control emissions of nitrogen oxides from its stacks. Controlling nitrogen oxide emissions helps maintain air quality standards and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA press release.
During the process to control the nitrogen oxide emissions, not all the ammonia reacts and a small amount, called the “ammonia slip,” is typically emitted, Neddenien said. These emissions come out of stacks 42 feet above the ground, he said.
“Ammonia gas is an irritant which can bring on asthma attacks and worsen symptoms in those who have other types of respiratory disease. When leaks occur, the community must be informed right away so it can protect itself, not years later and just because Dominion was caught violating the rules,” said Margaret Flowers, a physician and representative of the group We Are Cove Point, which opposes the $3.8 billion export facility currently under construction at the existing terminal in Lusby, in an email.
Tracey Eno, a Lusby resident and spokeswoman for the group Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community, said the violations and settlement bring about many questions.
“This announcement raises a ton of questions,” she said Tuesday. “When did the releases occur? Why did the public only find out about it after the EPA fined Dominion? How can we trust Dominion if they neglected, 27 times, to report the ammonia releases?”
Eno also wondered what is currently happening at the terminal that residents would not find out about until years later, as these ammonia emissions occurred in 2012 and 2013.
As a result of the violations, Dominion Cove Point has modified its emissions reporting.
“When manufacturing facilities experience the release of a reportable substance, they must notify emergency responders so nearby communities can be properly protected,” said Shawn M. Garvin, EPA Mid-Atlantic regional administrator, in a press release. “Dominion Cove [Point] is now providing continuous emissions reporting, which benefits the responders and the community.”