This Thursday night, October 19, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) is holding a hearing to evaluate Dominion Energy’s request to be freed from any limits on emissions from the Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas Facility, the second such hearing this month. If the PSC lets Dominion proceed without any penalty, and without any requirement to submit new data, it will set a precedent that will affect all future health and safety evaluations for new business in the state.
When Maryland residents consider a proposal for a new power plant or factory near them, they want to know how much economic benefit they will directly receive, what risks the project presents to their health and safety, and how the facility is going to be operated and monitored to reduce that risk and to ensure health and safety. They trust regulators and the State of Maryland to answer these questions for them, lacking the data or expertise to make their own assessments.
The numbers that they would use to evaluate proposed plant size are not the physical output, but rather the level and type of emissions, the probability of a catastrophic event and the losses that could result from such an event.
The aerial map at the beginning of this article shows how close the Cove Point LNG Facility is to residents of Lusby, Maryland. The red circle is the one-mile danger zone as the Virginia-based energy giant, Dominion Energy Co, presented it in its application to build the plant. The larger circle is a more realistic two-mile zone.
Imagine the hue and cry if the regulators protecting citizens came to them just before a new plant was scheduled to open and said: “Oh, by the way, we are actually allowing eight plants instead of one to be built at that site.” From a consumer safety and health perspective, this is exactly what Dominion Energy has done in its application for its Cove Point facility. With the plant scheduled to go online in December, Dominion revealed last week that its calculations for volatile organic compounds (VOC) were low by a factor of eight. More shocking, the company declared that it was basically unable to make proper calculations about the volume of these carcinogenic and potentially explosive emissions.
Unable to estimate emissions, it is asking to be completely exempted from any numerical targets for its VOC pollution levels during its operations. If the company is this negligent in its planning estimates, or if it deliberately understated the emissions in its original analysis, this brings into question all the other complex numbers and methods it used to evaluate risk and public safety in its application.
There is something that you can do now to help stop this insanity. You can write to the PSC and urge the Commissioners to deny the application. If that happens, then the company will have to resubmit, and this time, to do it right. And while you are writing, urge the PSC to ask the governor to mandate an independent Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA).
You can also attend the Maryland Public Service Commission this Thursday night, October 19.
A few sentences or words from lots of people like you could make all the difference. To do this, visit WeAreCovePoint.org and fill out their form, and the people living at Cove Point will print and mail it in for you. If you have more questions, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Annapolis Indivisible’s website, anind.org.
The Cove Point LNG export terminal project was approved because it would bring new business to Maryland and generate income for the state. We want Maryland to be business-friendly, but not when it means that an out-of-state industry giant can come here and do whatever it wants without any supervision. If this is the message that you want to send to businesses throughout the U.S., stay silent. If not, take a few minutes out of your day and send that comment.
Even better, join us at the hearing, and beforehand, visit Cove Point to see for yourself how close this plant is to thousands of Maryland residents. Take the afternoon off, visit nearby Solomon’s Island or Calvert Cliffs State Park. Enjoy a great seafood dinner in the area known for its bountiful harvest of Maryland crabs. Then go to the hearing at Mill Creek Middle School, 12200 Southern Connector Boulevard in Lusby, from 6 till 10 p.m. Find out what it is like to speak your mind at a public hearing, joined by fellow concerned citizens.
See you there!
John Wells attended the 1968 March on Washington and continues to be active in city and national politics and is engaged in environmental issues. John started the group Annapolis Indivisible.
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