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A Dominion Energy spokesman says a request for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its approval of the Cove Point facility has not raised any new issues. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Activists seek reconsideration of Cove Point decision

Environmental and community groups are asking federal regulators to reconsider an approval of the Cove Point liquid natural gas export facility in Lusby, Maryland.

The request for reconsideration was filed late Wednesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by Earth Justice on behalf of a coalition led by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. The group also requested that the agency stay its Sept. 29 order giving Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion Energy permission to covert its existing import facility to an export facility.

“FERC is once again acting like it’s above the law, effectively hitting the on-switch for Dominion’s bulldozers before groups were able to exercise their legal right to challenge a widely contested ruling,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Unless FERC hits the pause button on construction at Cove Point, Calvert County residents will face immediate and likely permanent damage to their environment and quality of life, all based on a fundamentally flawed review that could very well be overturned in the courts.”

In the filings, the groups charge that the agency granted permission for the project even though it is “not in the public interest” to do so. The groups added that the agency failed to require an environmental impact study that would “evaluate the project’s potentially significant impact on human health and the environment.”

Karl R. Neddenien, a Dominion spokesman, said the filings with federal regulators “raises no new issues.”

“The FERC looked at every single one of these issues in its thorough environmental assessment and final order, approving the project as in the public interest,” said Neddenien.

The projected $3.8 billion project is the first that federal regulators have approved on the East Coast. Dominion hopes to begin exporting natural gas, which would be liquefied by chilling it to minus 260 degrees. The company expects to have as many as 85 ships leave the terminal annually to deliver natural gas to India and Japan.

In its ruling last month, the agency included 79 conditions it said would mitigate potential impacts on the environment and surrounding property owners.

Opponents of the project say the liquefaction process poses significant dangers to nearby residential areas.

“My neighbors and I are frankly appalled at the prospect of this project moving full speed ahead without a thorough review of the potentially catastrophic impacts to our community and environment. And the fact that Dominion is concealing its emergency response plan from the public only adds to our concerns and solidifies our belief that they are hiding the truth about the dangers of this project,” said Tracey Eno, a member of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community.