O'Malley's silence on LNG export is disgraceful [Letter]

September 29, 2014

Reginald V. Truitt was a zoologist at the University of Maryland and a pioneer in scientific studies to better understand and protect the precious resources of the Chesapeake Bay. In 1925, Truitt founded the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons, which became the foundation for what is now the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). It is truly fitting that UMCES has a prestigious environmental award in his name, but what would Truitt think of the most recent award winner?

It came as a shock to see Gov. Martin O'Malley was selected by UMCES for the Reginald V. Truitt Environmental Award, given that the governor has failed to take a stand against the Dominion Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export proposal, which is planned for just a couple of miles away from the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Truitt established to help protect the bay. If the Dominion LNG facility is built, it will pose a serious threat to the environment and to the safety of those living in the region. By contrast, the governor has helped pave the way for Dominion to build the $3.8 billion LNG export operation, in the midst of a residential community, three miles from a nuclear power plant and 50 miles from the nation's capital. The Board of Public Works, of which O'Malley is one of three members, voted unanimously to approve a related wetlands permit, which will disrupt oyster beds and fisheries in the Patuxent River. The permit allows a temporary 166 foot pier to be built less than a mile upstream from the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. This action is not responsible or environmentally wise.

The Dominion LNG facility will emit enormous levels of toxic and hazardous pollutants and carcinogens into the air and the Chesapeake Bay. The emissions will exceed allowable limits, requiring Dominion to buy emission offset credits elsewhere. But no amount of money can reverse this damage, which will continue 24/7 for the next 20 years or until their overseas export contracts are canceled. An export operation will increase demand for gas and the need for hydraulic fracturing in the region. This will increase methane leaks along the way — from well heads to pipelines to compressor stations. LNG export operations will require heavy withdrawal of the region's aquifers. The risk of an explosion from volatile propane stored on site is intolerable. Air and water pollution + hydraulic fracturing + methane leaks + aquifer depletion + explosion danger do not add up to environmental stewardship.

The governor was an admirable environmental leader a few years ago. On February 7, 2007, Governor O'Malley, issued a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in which he "adamantly opposed the construction of any [LNG] facility at Sparrows Point" in Baltimore. The governor's letter was accompanied by a 92-page "advisory report" prepared by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The report outlines serious concerns over the safety of the project and damage to the environment. Fast forward to the present. Citizens have presented all of the same concerns for Dominion Cove Point: environmental hazards and negative impacts on the Chesapeake Bay. Sadly, Mr. O'Malley has changed course: he now sits silently by, perhaps hoping no one will notice that the biggest project in Maryland's history is so detrimental. No longer an advocate for the environment, health and safety of Marylanders, Mr. O'Malley has blatantly ignored citizens' requests to intervene and order an Environmental Impact Study. He has sorely disappointed the citizens of Maryland who want to protect the bay and live in harmony in this beautiful state.

In sum, the governor's stance on the proposed Dominion expansion project is completely counter to anything deserving of recognition and praise. If he were alive today, how would Truitt feel about O'Malley's actions on Dominion Cove Point LNG? I think Truitt would be severely disappointed. Poor choice, UMCES.

Karen Gibbs, Lusby

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