Residents voice dissent over gas company plan

Dundalk meeting over LNG proposal turns hostile

April 25, 2006|By LAURA BARNHARDT | LAURA BARNHARDT,SUN REPORTER

Dundalk-area residents - less than pleased by a global power company's plan to build a liquefied natural gas plant at Sparrows Point - were openly hostile last night during an "open house" meeting with company officials.

"This thing is more dangerous than you all are painting," Dundalk resident Jerome Hancock said of the terminal proposed for a former shipyard site.

"If something negative happens, who will be responsible?" said Jennifer Canter, an Edgemere resident.

According to AES, the Arlington, Va., company, shipments of the super-chilled liquefied gas would arrive by tanker two to three times a week. It would be transformed into natural gas and pumped from the plant through an 87-mile pipeline, which would connect with BGE gas lines and extend through Harford County and into southern Pennsylvania, where the gas would be distributed to locations along the East Coast.

The project calls for dredging Bear Creek and the Patapsco River to accommodate the tankers.

When AES officials first began meeting with residents and officials in eastern Baltimore County late last year, community leaders said they were skeptical about the project. Dundalk residents have become increasingly vocal and angry about the LNG plan. They've circulated petitions, put up lawn signs and created a staffed office to stop the project.

Residents say they are worried about pollution in the riverbed that would be disturbed by dredging, which they say would have disastrous effects on fish and crabs. They also expressed fears that the facility or tankers could become targets for terrorist attacks or the sites of accidental leaks.

And residents continued to spar with company officials last night about whether the location is far enough away from houses. The closest neighborhood, the historically black enclave of Turners Station, is less than two miles from the proposed LNG facility.

AES officials say that by industry standards, the Sparrows Point site is considered "remote." They say other liquefied natural gas facilities are closer to residents, including Calvert County's Cove Point, the nation's largest such plant.

Last night's meeting at the Ironworkers Union Hall in Dundalk is part of a six-month pre-application process required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which ultimately will decide whether to grant approval for the project.

"We're not going to go away just because people don't like infrastructure projects," Aaron Samson, who is in charge of liquefied natural gas projects for AES, told the crowd last night.

Kent Morton, the Sparrows Point LNG project manager for AES, said that, despite boos and shouts from the crowd, the meeting went well. "There were a lot of questions that deserve answers," he said, adding that public comment "makes for a better process."

Most of the recent meetings have focused on the pipeline. At a meeting last week, White Marsh-area residents also expressed concerns about the safety of the LNG facility and its proximity to neighborhoods.

Elected officials including Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., state Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr. and Baltimore County Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr. have announced their opposition to the LNG plan.

A group of Dundalk-area residents opposed to the proposal has set up an office at 6500 Baltimore Ave. in Dundalk, to be staffed Monday through Friday.

The company has two more meetings scheduled: 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. May 3 at Harford Community College, 401 Thomas Run Road in Bel Air; and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. May 4 at Northeast High School, 1121 Duvall Highway in Pasadena.

Public meetings scheduled by the Energy Regulatory Commission will be held this summer.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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