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Dominion puts its case for Cove Point

Virginia-based energy giant Dominion Resources Inc. and supporters of its $3.8 billion proposal to modify the Cove Point liquefied natural gas facility to handle exports instead of imports held a briefing Wednesday to correct what they called misinformation about the project ahead of a key Public Service Commission hearing scheduled to begin Thursday.

Opponents of the project, who believe it will have a negative impact on the environment, are planning a protest in Baltimore the same day as part of an effort to dissuade the commission from granting permission to build two natural gas-fired turbines that will drive the main refrigeration compressors needed to cool the gas at the facility.

“We have been working with the [state] for a long time on the project. We have seen and reviewed all the conditions that they have put forward for taking care of the protection of the environment, as well as the public stakeholders, and we’re very confident the project will move forward,” said Mark Reaser, director of Dominion’s liquefied natural gas operations.

Opponents, who include the Sierra Club’s Maryland Chapter, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Hip Hop Caucus, released a response outlining their organizations’ issues with the proposed facility.

The groups argue that allowing the shipping of natural gas from Cove Point to Asia will result in an expansion in the region of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial method of extracting natural gas from underground shale deposits, which they allege will cause increased greenhouse gas emissions. Opponents also contend that exporting gas will result in rising prices that will harm residential consumers, farmers and manufacturing; and that investing in renewable energy systems will create more jobs.

Pamela Faggert, Dominion’s chief environmental officer and vice president of corporate compliance, argued that Cove Point will benefit the environment. She said Cove Point will have one of the smallest environmental footprints of all liquefied natural gas export projects proposed in the United States, and won’t require construction of pipelines, storage tanks or a new pier to load ships.

“Despite what others might say, the project is not a proxy for hydraulic fracturing, which is often referred to as fracking. That debate is rightfully not part of our regulatory proceedings,” Faggert said. “The Cove Point project doesn’t have anything to do with the debate over whether to allow fracking in Maryland.”

Business and labor leaders also stressed what they view as the positive economic impacts of the project.

Brent Booker, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s building and construction trades department, said the economy is still hurting, and the project represents 3,000 construction jobs in an industry that he said has a 10 percent unemployment rate in the state.

“Those who are opposed to the project are probably getting a check every Friday. And they don’t know, and don’t understand what it means to have your unemployment run out, and not have the means to put food on your table, and pay your mortgage and make your basic life necessities,” Booker said.

Drew Greenblatt, owner of Baltimore-based Marlin Steel Wire Products LLC and a member of the executive board of the National Association of Manufacturers, also portrayed the project as a boon for the state’s economy, and said that natural gas is going to lead to a manufacturing renaissance.

“It’s not a natural gas pipeline. Actually, it’s a jobs pipeline. It’s like Maryland hit the lottery,” Greenblatt said.

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