By Nancy Lavin, Frederick News-Post
MYERSVILLE — An open house Tuesday night on Dominion Transmission’s expansion plans — including the addition of a second compressor at its Myersville station — drew a small but vocal group of protesters to Town Hall.
The event was the fourth and final in a series of open houses throughout the region on Dominion’s Leidy South Project, which includes expanded compression along its interstate natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. If approved, the project would add a second, 15,900-horsepower compressor at the Myersville compressor station, which went into service late last fall.
Protesters, including members of the Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community group, voiced an array of concerns with the project and the company, ranging from its environmental impact and noise pollution levels to claims about the legality of the station’s present operations.
“Our message is this: Dominion lies,” said Ann Nau, a town resident and vice president of the citizens group.
As part of her protest, Nau sported a long, Pinnochio-style nose crafted from empty toilet paper rolls to illustrate her opposition to the company.
“They told us they want to be good neighbors, and then they sued our town,” said Nau, referring to the two lawsuits the company filed against the town when its application to build the first compressor station was denied. “They’ve already exceeded the noise limits, they’ve damaged town infrastructure. They’re not good neighbors.”
Ted Cady, also a member of the citizens group, noted that the company’s announcement of a second compressor station came just two weeks after the first compressor station went into service.
“Kind of interesting,” he said, adding that the company’s reliance on and support of the natural gas industry was “raping and pillaging” inhabitants of the town and nation as a whole.
Later, Cady and Nau performed a short skit reiterating these allegations.
Frank Mack, a spokesman for Dominion, offered no response to the protest except to note their legal right to voice opposition. Instead, Mack emphasized the open house as part of the company’s commitment to open communication.
“Dominion has always been real good about trying to be as transparent as possible,” he said. “This is our way to give folks the opportunity to learn more about the Leidy South Project, and ask questions from some of our topic experts.”
A dozen such experts, with information on topics including safety, noise levels and engineering, stood throughout the room on Tuesday, equipped with maps, charts and posters to share with inquiring residents. Among the crowd of information-seeking participants was Trish Mangiaficio, who lives just outside Myersville.
Although Mangiaficio acknowledged that the protesters had some valid concerns, she framed Dominion’s presence and planned expansion as one of necessity.
“It’s an energy source, and that’s an important thing (in) too many parts of our lives,” she said. “It’s just a sign of the times.”
Myersville native John Hipkins was also unperturbed by the environmental impact of the compressor station, and in fact advocated for its benefit to the town’s economy.
“This is the first big thing that’s come along to help the town,” he said. This is going to be a big shot in the arm for us, tax-wise.”
According to Dominion’s projections, the expansion of the Myersville station would add $400,000 in yearly property tax revenue to the town, and $700,000 in tax revenue to the county as a whole. The 15-month construction period would also provide jobs for 50 to 60 contract employees.
The feedback from the event will be incorporated into the company’s application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, planned to be filed in May with the hope to receive approval by March 2016. Providing approval is granted, construction within the existing facility’s fence line would begin in May 2016 with plans to complete and put the second compressor in service by November 2017.
According to Mack, the $210 million Leidy South Project was designed to meet increasing demand for natural gas-powered electricity at Panda Power Funds and a second customer that has requested confidentiality.
The citizens group began its opposition efforts to the company’s first compressor station nearly four years ago. Although FERC ultimately overruled the town’s initial denial of the construction plans for the compressor station, the group’s appeal of the air permit issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment is still pending, with a hearing scheduled for April 20.
Responding to the appeal in a statement sent by email after the open house, Mack wrote, “We do not think the MCRC appeal has merit, feel the MDE has done a thorough job in issuing the air permit and look forward to the April 20 hearing.”