Dundalk, Calvert Co. differ on two LNG bills

One opposes plant

other wants its facility expanded

March 23, 2006|By LAURA BARNHARDT | LAURA BARNHARDT,SUN REPORTER

For some Dundalk residents, legislation aimed at killing a plan to build a liquefied natural gas plant at Sparrows Point would provide protection from what they see as a dangerous industry too close to houses, and it would stop the dredging of what they say are toxic chemicals.

So they went to Annapolis yesterday to testify in support of two bills that could make it harder for the plant to be approved.

But their feelings aren't universal.

Residents and officials from Calvert County testified yesterday that they want an LNG facility there to be able to expand. Two bills have been submitted -- one specific to Baltimore County, the other applicable statewide.

PSC targeted

Although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ultimately authorizes LNG plant construction, the proposed legislation would prevent the Maryland Public Service Commission from recommending approval of LNG facilities that would be within two miles of a house.

In January, AES Corp. announced plans to build a $400 million LNG terminal on the site of the former Sparrows Point shipyard. Shipments of the super-chilled liquefied gas would arrive by tanker, and natural gas would be pumped from the plant through a pipeline to Pennsylvania. The project would create about 50 permanent jobs, according to officials with the Arlington, Va., company.

If built, the Sparrows Point facility would be less than two miles from the neighborhood of Turners Station.

According to a review prepared by the legislature's nonpartisan analysts, some safety reports have shown that, in a worst-case scenario, an LNG fire could cause second-degree burns up to 1.3 miles away.

Aaron Samson, managing director of liquefied natural gas projects for AES, called the legislation "misguided."

"We think there's a lot of misinformation out there," he said. "This is, by industry standards, a remote site. There's a lot of misinformation about the explosive nature of LNG, about safety issues, about the impacts to recreational boaters."

Six U.S. facilities

Six LNG facilities are in the U.S., including the largest in the nation at Cove Point in Calvert County, which is operated by Dominion Resources Inc., a Virginia energy company.

Calvert County commissioners and several residents testified against the bills, saying the measure would shut down the Cove Point facility, where an $800 million expansion is planned that would create 400 jobs.

Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., the Baltimore County Democrat who introduced the bills, said the legislation would not force the Cove Point facility to close.

The analysis by legislative staffers said that it is unclear whether the legislation would affect the expansion of the Cove Point facility.

The founder of a Prince George's County community group testified in support of the bills.

Washington Gas has plans to build a 12 million-gallon LNG storage facility near the West Hyattsville Metro stop, according to the legislative analysis.

Recreational boaters also testified in support of the bills, saying they worried about effects of dredging on fish and crabs and about the disruption from the large required buffer zone for the tankers as they travel.

Some concerns

Carolyn Jones, president of the Greater Dundalk Alliance, an umbrella group of community associations, was among those who said they fear the possibility of an accident or a terrorist attack and have concerns about the environmental impact of dredging Bear Creek to accommodate the tankers carrying shipments of natural gas.

And she said there are important differences between the situation in Calvert County and in Dundalk. She said the Calvert County site has more buffers between it and homes, and, she said, her neighbors don't want an LNG facility.

"Cove Point is apples," she said. "We're oranges."

No vote had been scheduled on the bills.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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