There is a threat coming to the state of Maryland in the form of a new plan by Dominion Resources,
Inc. for a $3.8 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Cove Point, Md. Dominion, a company based out of Richmond, Va., is one of the biggest producers and transporters of energy in the United States. They currently own an LNG import facility in Cove Point, and would like to further develop it into a fully functioning export facility. Natural gas, a fossil fuel found deep underground that consists mainly of methane, is touted as a cleaner burning fuel in comparison to coal or oil, yet there is some controversy about this source of energy. Natural gas is extracted from the ground by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), a process of pumping a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into a fracking well at very high pressure and exploding the layers of rock so natural gas trapped within the rock can escape and be captured aboveground. This drilling practice and the development needed for it have been known to pollute drinking water sources like ponds or aquifers with chemicals and methane, pollute the air surrounding the drilling wells with toxic gases, deteriorate local roads, and otherwise harm or endanger local people’s well-being and livelihoods. The proposed LNG export facility would depend on this harmful drilling practice, and also require pipelines, compressor stations, and its own power plant to fuel the liquefaction of the gas.
The pipelines that Dominion would need to install, along with the compressor facilities that would be situated intermittently along the route, would go through people’s backyards, farms, and over precious bodies of water from fracking-heavy states like Ohio and Pennsylvania to the facility in Cove Point, Md. Besides the obvious inconvenience of construction work and installing large series of pipes underground near peoples homes and on their land, there is also the major problem of gas leaks, fires, and explosions that are highly likely byproducts of this process. The compressor facilities needed to keep the gas compressed along the journey are noisy and polluting and would affect local conditions, including aesthetics and quality of life.
The problems do not end with the natural gas reaching the facility. The facility must first undergo massive industrialization to become an export facility, including a new power plant, more compressors, and storage tanks. The industrialization of the facility will put more pollutants into the air and water in an already threatened area, Maryland’s struggling Chesapeake Bay. It has the potential to affect the livelihoods of those who make a living off of the Bay with the increase in giant crude oil tanker ships that would come and pick up the liquefied natural gas to transport it to Asia, creating even more pollution for those in the area and those downstream.
As Dominion repeatedly touts, the expansion of this LNG facility will create a number of temporary jobs and 75 permanent positions. But compare that to how many jobs would be created by investing $3.8 billion into wind energy, (7,500 estimates the Chesapeake Climate Action Network) and there does not seem to be a strong incentive for Marylanders to support this plan if the only argument for it is a few jobs in the increasingly dangerous and unsustainable field of fossil fuel production.
This facility is bad news for Maryland. If Dominion Resources gets its way, the facility will be expanded, and there will be more impetus for fracking to begin in parts of Maryland, whose moratorium is set to expire in the summer.
On Feb. 20, twelve Goucher students attended a rally against the Cove Point facility in downtown Baltimore, Md. Along with about 500 other people, we expressed our discontent with the proposed LNG export facility by marching past the Public Service Commission in Baltimore where lawyers were deciding to approve or deny the permits Dominion needs to start the project. While we’re not sure yet whether it made a difference, any student can submit a public comment to the Md. Public Service Commission calling on them to deny Dominion’s permit application, and ask our Maryland Senators to push for a full Environmental Impact Statement on the Cove Point facility. If you are interested in learning more, check out the Chesapeake Climate Action Network website.