Opponents of a proposed liquid natural gas export facility in southern Maryland are preparing to go to court if a federal agency does not call for a more in-depth environmental assessment of the project.
Lawyers for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club and EarthJustice said Wednesday they are watching five key areas of an environmental assessment of the proposed Cove Point facility that is expected to be released Thursday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Diana Dascalu-Joffe, senior counsel for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said the federal agency needs to order a more rigorous environmental impact study.
“FERC must look at the full picture,” Dascalu-Joffe said. “We believe an environmental assessment is not sufficient.”
Instead, the opponents of the project say they want the more in-depth environmental impact study.
Any potential lawsuit will likely not be filed until mid- to late June, to allow for the mandatory 30-day comment period following the release of the regulatory agency’s assessment.
The threat of a federal lawsuit is the latest attempt by opponents to delay or derail the $3.8 billion liquid natural gas export facility proposed by Dominion Resources for the Cove Point area near Lusby, Maryland. The same groups filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission over filings seeking approval for Dominion to raise $400 million for the project. Opponents hinted at that time that they may also file suit in federal court over environmental concerns and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision to not require a more in-depth environmental report.
The environmental attorneys said the five areas of concern in the coming agency decision are:
-Increased greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on global warming.
-Marine impacts, including cargo ships carrying ballast water containing radioactivity, cholera and other contamination and the impact of increased ship traffic on endangered Right Whales.
-The effects of increased hydraulic fracture gas drilling that environmentalists say will be needed to meet the needs of the facility.
-Public participation and transparency.
-Public safety concerns including worries regarding catastrophic events such as explosions near residential areas.
Jim Norvelle, a Dominion Resources spokesman, dismissed some concerns, such as those related to what opponents say will be 200 ships coming to the facility annually, as “complete fiction.”
Norvelle said Dominion has been providing training to area firefighters and other first responders. The ballast issue has been previously addressed by the Coast Guard which will require ships to exchange ballast water with deep ocean water outside the Chesapeake Bay.
“There’s no new ground here,” Norvelle said.