The Public Service Commission (PSC) held a public hearing on Saturday March 1, 2014 at Patuxent High School tp receive public comments. This hearing was in reference to permit number 93-18. The high school auditorium was packed with citizens. The PSC explained that prior to any action, they wanted to hear from the governing body of Calvert County, the effect on economic, historic, air and water quality, disposal ofwaste, , Federal and State regulations, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) on laws and standards, and licensing conditions. They said the record would be left open for public comments.
The Dominion Cove Point LNG export project received overwhelming support at the public hearing, with approximately 80% of the estimated 750 people in attendance indicating they back the project. The supporters wore “Yes” hats and t-shirts or “Yes” Cove Point stickers with those that opposed it wore red. Over 120 speakers signed up and each was to hold teir comments to 5 minutes, but from the first speaker the rule was not adhered to and the crowd became unruly, shouting over the speakers. The PSC said that they would like to hear the rest of the speaker’s comments and asked the crowd to let the speaker be heard.
Among those who spoke in favor of the project was Commissioner Jerry Clark, representing Calvert’s 1st District. Commissioner Clark told the audience that the project was a boon to the local economy, and that the economy has been stagnant for awhile. The taxes will help to continue to provide the services that the residents want, everything from good schools to amenities such as the parks.
Sheriff Evans said that it might seem odd that a law enforcement officer would be commenting on something technical like CPCN but he has had a lot of experience working with plant personnel on public safety issues and thought that the experience offered unique insights into how Dominion approaches Calvert County. Calvert County Sheriff’s Office has had officers assigned to the site for several years now and Dominion pays for their time.
“For years, local law enforcement and emergency responders have worked with Dominion and state and federal agencies to help ensure the safe and secure operation of the plant”, said Sheriff Evans. “Based on that experience, and based on Dominion’s history of environmental protection and stewardship, the seriousness with which Dominion approaches safety and security, and the close working relationship we have with this outstanding corporate citizen, I encourage the Public Service Commission to approve Dominion’s request for a CPCN”.
Roberta Baker, a 44-year resident and fire department volunteer. She said safety is paramount in her fire training and public safety is the top priority in new projects. Baker said Dominion Cove Point has an extensive track record and the proven safety record of LNG shows the project does not pose a threat to the community..
Mark Coles from DC/Maryland Building Trades Council, who talked about the adverse economic impact of the recession on his members. He cited the economic benefits of project and how members of his union make a career out of so called “temporary construction jobs.”
The opposition got their chance to proffer their comments on the project. One of the speakers said the project would affect the air and water quality with pollutants from the plant. Another said that the residents living closest to the plant need to have their technical safety questions answered in a transparent manner. Our commissioners are not facilitating that for us. If there is any possibility our families are at risk from a mishap – we at least deserve to know what that risk is and the probability of occurrence, so we can make decisions for our family. That is all we are asking. That is the least we should expect from our community.
Another speaker questioned Calvert’s volunteer fire and ems saying, asking are they prepared to handle anything bigger than a stubbed toe when it comes to Cove Point LNG expansion and if something happens will they be willing to run into it or be worried about getting their families out. Several others in their opposition, talked on subjects that did not pertain to the LNG Plant at Cove Point and had not done their homework.
The project got another bit of good news when the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that it was satisfied with Dominion’s LNG export project application. This is one more step needed in the FERC’s review of the project.
Dominion still needs about 50 permits and approvals before it can begin construction at Cove Point, including approvals from the FERC and the Maryland PSC. The FERC has been reviewing the project since June 2012 and the Maryland PSC since April 1, 2013. Dominion has held about 50 meetings in Calvert County with neighbors and residents to answer their questions.
Paulette Hammond, president of the Maryland Conservation Council, said that after a thorough review of the record that it has no objection to the Cove Point export project. The MCC, the Sierra Club and Dominion are responsible for the 800 acre conservation easement that surrounds the Cove Point LNG Terminal.
“This is a great turnout of our neighbors, business leaders and union workers for our project. My hat’s off to them. The Public Service Commissioners certainly heard the strong support that this project has,” said Michael Frederick, Vice President-LNG Operation at the Dominion Cove Point LNG Terminal.
Margit Miller / Staff Writer / Editor