Regulation by Rubber Stamp: Exporting Fracked Gas from Cove Point
June 6, 2014
When John Smith first sailed the Chesapeake Bay, he reported a resource teeming with oysters, crabs, and waters so clear one could see all the way to the bottom. The Bay is the world’s largest estuary. Generations of watermen- Maryland’s analog to cowboys- have shaped the very tradition and character of the region by harvesting the Bay’s bounty, driving the region’s economy, and filling the bellies of hungry crab cake aficionados.
If Only We Knew Then What We Know Now
At the intersection of the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River in Calvert County is Cove Point- the site of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import facility. Many energy analysts once believed that importing natural gas would solve our nation’s energy needs. But that was way back in 2007. Since then, advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have left our country flush with a glut of domestically produced natural gas that caused prices to drop precipitously. But Japan still pays top dollar.
It’s Getting Cold In Here
So now, Cove Point’s operator, Dominion Resources (Dominion), would rather export gas from their facility. But first they want to liquefy the methane gas. Liquid is a better way to transport methane because you can squeeze a lot more of it on to a ship. After removing impurities, the leftover gas travels to a huge refrigerator powered by two General Electric Frame 7EA gas turbines that chill the methane to approximately -245° Fahrenheit. High-pressure cryogenic freezing forces the gaseous methane molecules close enough together to turn them in to liquid.
Rubber Stamp Regulation
The lead agency overseeing this facility is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC dismissed public concerns about the life-cycle global warming pollution caused by drilling, piping, liquefying, and exporting fracked gas as “speculative” and “not reasonably foreseeable”. But if you care about climate change, Dominion’s Cove Point plan would trigger more planet-heating pollution than all seven of Maryland’s coal-fired power plants combined.
And Then There's The Explosions
Back in 2006, Dominion applied to FERC to conduct a- relatively speaking- much smaller expansion project at Cove Point. FERC decided then to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources studied what could happen if one of the Cove Point tanks ruptured and spilled all of its contents. The answer: citizens within 0.8 miles of that failed storage tank risk exposure to a fatal flash fire. So, if an EIS was good enough back then, surely it’s good enough now.
Opposition to LNG exports is growing fast. We can all do our part by telling FERC that we will no longer accept this rubber stamp mentality. Send in a comment to FERC and come join us July 13 for Stop Gas Exports rally in Washington, DC.
For more information:
- Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community Demand Answers on Explosions
- Earthblog: Frack Us Here, Send it There
- Earthblog: Too Much Natural Gas? Let's Give it to China!
- Stop Fracked Gas Exports Rally in Washington DC