Lawyer asks power supplier to withdraw LNG proposal

He also seeks to halt dredging of Bear Creek, Patapsco River

May 13, 2006|By LAURA BARNHARDT | LAURA BARNHARDT,SUN REPORTER

An international trade and investment lawyer who has agreed to represent eastern Baltimore County residents opposed to a proposed liquefied natural gas facility on Sparrows Point yesterday asked the company that wants to build the $400 million facility to withdraw its plan.

Washington attorney Bart S. Fisher also requested yesterday that Sparrows Point shipyard owners, BWI Sparrows Point LLC, which has a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to begin dredging nearby, not begin the process of moving sediment until federal officials make a decision about the LNG proposal.

"It's like the Hippocratic oath: Do no harm," Fisher said.

Fisher said he is working pro bono for the Greater Dundalk Alliance's LNG Opposition Team because "the entire project is ill-conceived. I wanted to do what I could to help."

Kent Morton, the Sparrows Point LNG project manager for global power supplier AES Corp. which last month filed a preliminary federal application to build the LNG terminal, didn't respond directly to the withdrawal request yesterday or to news that the community now has a lawyer.

In a written statement, Morton said, "The benefits of the Sparrows Point LNG facility are just beginning to surface -- good, high-paying construction and permanent jobs, training opportunities for local residents, millions of dollars yearly in tax revenues, clean energy, the prospect of tempering both high natural gas and soaring electricity costs ... and once the full story is told, we believe that the AES Sparrows Point LNG facility will be viewed as a welcomed community-orientated business that's good for everyone."

The shipments of the super-chilled liquefied gas would arrive by tanker two to three times a week. It would be transformed into natural gas at the terminal 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 that would import the gas.

Officials with Barletta Willis Investments, the company that holds the dredging permit, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Residents and elected officials at the county, state and federal levels, have raised objections to the AES proposal. 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.

Community leaders have also expressed fears that the facility or tankers could become targets for terrorist attacks or could compromise the safety of nearby residents in the event of an accident.

The closest neighborhood, the historically black enclave of Turners Station, is less than two miles from the proposed LNG facility.

"This in an environmental misjustice," said Sharon Beazley, one of the Dundalk activists leading the opposition to the LNG plan. "And we believe it's a civil rights issue."

Fisher, who during the mid-1990s made a bid to buy a major league baseball team and move it to Northern Virginia, also represents the government of the Dominican Republic in its lawsuit against AES Corp. for allegedly dumping rock ash on two beaches. AES officials have denied the claims, according to Associated Press reports, and have said the dispute is between the Dominican government and a Florida company that AES hired to transport the ash.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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