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.
When a large energy company came to Myersville, MD, in 2011 requesting permission to build a compressor station for its natural gas delivery, Ann Nau and her neighbors thought they’d win the fight to keep it out.
Dominion Transmission, a subsidiary of Virginia-based Dominion Resources, hoped to build the station less than one mile from the Frederick County, MD, town’s only elementary school. Nau, who had a child at the school, worried about air emissions from the 16,000-horsepower station. She worried about overwhelming the town’s small fire department, about traffic on its small-town roads, noise and fumes.
In talking about ‘fracking’, oftentimes the industry tries to limit the discussion to the actual process of injecting liquid at high pressure into rock formations to extract gas. However, there is a broad network of infrastructure that is required to support that process, including storage facilities, compressor stations, metering stations, processing facilities, gathering lines, and intrastate and interstate pipelines. And regulatory oversight of those components falls to various local and federal agencies, if it is regulated at all. Very generally speaking, activities related to drilling fall under state authority while the federal government has oversight of interstate pipelines and associated facilities. And what that means for towns like Myersville is that while there is currently no fracking in Maryland, the natural gas boom has already negatively affected our community.
During the first week of November, hundreds of people from around the country flocked to a little-known federal agency on First Street in Washington, DC. Each with their own story of tainted water and air, health problems, fear for their lives and communities, and concern for the climate, they followed a path to the source of their troubles: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Maggie Henry, a farmer from Ohio, pointed the finger at FERC for approving a natural gas pipeline on the farm her family has worked for 100 years. “I’m here all week, because [FERC is] rubberstamping these permits without taking anything into account,” said Henry. “There is a 40” transmission line that is 30 feet outside my front door. In March, we had a 4.0 earthquake. I was two miles from that epicenter. My drywall is cracked, the integrity of my basement wall is gone. It leaks like a sieve in the rain.”
Damages and multiple violations during construction of a controversial compressor station in Myersville, Maryland have caused its town council to take action to delay the start of operations. What’s more, the harm done to the town’s main sewer line and right-of-ways may have originated with Dominion Transmission’s pressuring of a contractor, who seemed more than willing to take a few short-cuts.
A series of contentious email exchanges between town management and Dominion’s contractor WF Delauter was obtained by a citizens’ group opposed to the 16,000hp compressor station, which would spew 23.5 tons of nitrous oxides and 54,000 tons of greenhouse gases into the air annually. It calls the sagging sewer line “unacceptable,” with repairs requiring “extensive preparation, permitting, and organization.”
On June 17–the day FERC gave DTI the go-ahead to begin 24/7, seven-day-a-week construction–contractor head Kirby Delauter applied to a state agency for emergency clearance to begin work on the sewer line. The permit bypassed the 48-hour notice normally required by both Myersville and the state. It authorized emergency electrical repair, not excavation and replacement of utilities.