Most of us know the story of Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Suess. The beloved elephant Horton, with his great big ears, hears the cries for help from the Whos on Who-ville, a planet the size of a dust speck that rests precariously on a clover. Horton, with his big heart, commits to saving them because “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Yet, sadly, he can’t get others to hear their cries and acknowledge their lives.
And so it is with the citizens of Lusby, Maryland who live precariously close to a dormant liquid natural gas (LNG) import facility that Dominion Resources of Virginia is planning to turn into an LNG export facility as soon as they can get away with it.
In their permit application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Dominion conveniently omitted the population of Lusby and grossly misrepresented other nearby populations, leaving out 39,732 Calvert County citizens whose health, safety and economic well being would be at the mercy of this LNG export facility. Then, this May, FERC came out with a draft Environmental Assessment of Dominion’s proposed expansion. Nowhere in the Environmental Assessment does FERC mention the population of Lusby and surrounding towns except when discussing property values.
Of 377 residential structures within 1 mile of the DCP facility (as of 2011), 323 were built after the [import] facility commenced operations in 1978 (PPRP, 2014). This suggests that housing demand has not been significantly affected by proximity to DCP. Because the nearest residences to the [export] Liquefaction Facilities are already near to an in-use industrial facility, and DCP would implement various measures to shield the new facilities from adjacent areas, we conclude the proposed Liquefaction Facilities would not result in a significant impact on nearby property values.
Do my elephant ears deceive me? Is THE sole federal agency responsible for allowing this facility to be built equating an LNG import facility with an LNG export facility? That’s ludicrous! They are like night and day. Through pipelines and compressor stations that will run through Maryland, Dominion plans, on a daily basis, to bring in four times the amount of fracked natural gas that all of Maryland uses in one day. This fracked gas will then be put through a volatile, energy-intensive liquefaction process before being shipped off to Asia.
The proposed export facility’s proximity to a dense population is unprecedented. An LNG export facility has NEVER been built so close to homes! The Society of International Gas Tankers and Terminal Operators, of which Dominion Cove Point is a member, states that no civilians should exist within at least 2.2 miles from the facility. Yet 2,365 “residential structures” do, along with two school, 19 daycare centers, two shopping centers, and Cove Point State Park, which is filled with 7 sports fields, tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, a swimming pool, picnic tables and, therefore, lots of children and their families.
Dominion and FERC, however, think there is no reason for concern. This, despite the fact that the LNG export facility will spew 20.4 tons of air pollutants per year that local citizens will have no choice but to breathe. There are carcinogens in these airborne chemicals, as well as chemicals that can have a significant negative impact on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, the liver and kidneys and so much more. The list is like a bad Dr. Suess poem.
Ammonia, butane, sulfuric acid
Benzene, toluene, hydrogen sulfide
Formaldehyde, hexane, ethylbenzene
And nitrogen oxide out the wazoo
But not to worry
It won’t harm you.
Then there’s the fact that LNG facilities have the proven potential for explosions. Dominion Cove Point will be cramming liquefaction equipment and storage tanks into an unusually small area, increasing the risk for catastrophic accidents. Stockpiles of highly toxic, potentially explosive chemicals could trigger a massive vapor cloud if leaked out. A large cloud of combustible material is very dangerous and almost impossible to control, despite any safety systems installed to prevent ignition. Very recent explosions at other LNG facilities caused a 2-mile radius evacuation of 1000 residents and workers in Plymouth WA and 95 residents within a 5-mile radius in Opal, WY.
Did I mention that the export facility would also be within three miles of Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant?
FERC mentions “DCP would implement various measures to shield the new facilities from adjacent areas.” One principal measure involves building an untested 6-story high, 3/4-mile wide wall which would supposedly contain a vapor cloud and subsequent “fireball.” Not exactly a comforting safety measure if you are living within a couple of miles of the facility, especially given that Dominion is only referring to this wall as a sound wall intended to mitigate sound pollution that will befall the town of Lusby’s ears for decades to come. If Dominion admitted the wall was there to prevent a possible vapor cloud from affecting residents, they would be admitting that there are inherent dangers involved in an LNG export facility. They certainly don’t want to do that.
If a catastrophic event were to occur, residents from more than 265 homes southeast and adjacent to Dominion Cove Point are at risk of not being able to evacuate, as the two-lane road that runs by Dominion Cove Point would be the only exit route. In an explosion, these residents would need to drive toward and pass within 300 feet of the LNG facility to escape. Yet, emergency response plans have yet to be presented to the community. FERC concluded that Dominion will provide help, so not to worry.
Dominion is poised to begin construction as soon as FERC gives the go-ahead, which appears to be FERC’s plan.
This is where Horton comes in. There are, in fact, a lot of Hortons in our region and across the country who are listening, and we are not going to let this happen. We will not let it happen because profits for the gas industry do not trump the health and safety of children and their families, the ones who live in “residential structures.” Despite the jobs and tax revenue that Dominion keeps touting they will bring to the community, they come at at too high a price and are not worth the risks the export facility will pose to the community.
And Calvert County residents aren’t the only Whos not being heard. Dominion and FERC are turning a deaf ear to the people of Myersville, Maryland who are fighting one of the compressor stations Dominion is set to build in their small town to move the gas from Appalachia through Maryland to Cove Point – a potentially explosive compressor station that will emit 23.5 tons of nitrogen oxide into the air and is located less than a mile from the elementary school. Dominion is also turning a deaf ear to the people who are being poisoned by fracking in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia – states that will suffer profoundly with increased fracking should the export facility be approved.
The safety and health of citizens should come before all else. Health professionals, environmentalists, students, faith leaders and concerned citizens join them in demanding that FERC conduct a proper Environmental Impact Statement and Quantitative Risk Assessment to thoroughly analyze all potential risks that an LNG export facility will pose to Maryland residents. They deserve nothing less.
“Should I put this speck down?”
Horton thought with alarm.
“If I do, these small persons may come to great harm.
I can’t put it down. And I won’t! After all
A person’s a person. No matter how small.”
Will you join us? We can use all the Hortons we can get.