Friday, April 27, 2012

Sierra Club Plans Veto on Gas Dock Conversion

The actual dock portion of the Cove Point LNG facility
Dominion to move forward with Cove Point project

Dominion Resources, the Richmond, Va.-based energy producer, said Thursday it will move ahead with plans to convert a liquefied natural gas terminal at Cove Point in Calvert County into an export facility — a decision that drew the immediate objection of the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club said it has a right to reject the project, citing a legal settlement that the environmental group said prevents Dominion from exporting the fuel to other countries, instead of just importing it.

But Dominion disagreed with the group's assertion.

"We have reviewed the regulations and agreements governing the site and are confident that we can locate, construct and operate a liquefaction plant at Cove Point," said Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion's chairman and CEO, in a statement.
The onshore storage tanks at Cove Point
The natural gas terminal at Cove Point (aka, "The Gas Docks")  has long been known to me. It's visible from our beach, just on the horizon.  When I arrived in this area in 1985 and started working on the water, co-workers pointed out that it had been built to import natural gas, but that the market had fallen flat, and the facility was never used as such.  It sat vacant, except for a skeleton crew to keep it protected and intact for many years.  In the early 2000s it was put into operation the first time, and soon began receiving 2-3 ships per week.  In the last several years, that flow has trickled to nothing as the US has become far more self sufficient in natural gas production, largely due to fracking, which is, just coincidentally, one the reasons the Sierra Club gives for opposing it now.
Environmentalists, however, say the expansion at the Cove Point terminal would damage the Chesapeake Bay. They also object to "fracking," the hydraulic fracturing technique used to extract shale gas.
I think I've made my position on fracking abundantly clear.  I haven't seen any evidence of excessive environmental damage, and as far as fossil fuels go, natural gas is a good one.  Frack, baby frack!  
Dominion won approval from the U.S. Department of Energy to use Cove Point for exporting up to 1 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas to about 20 nations with which the United States has free-trade agreements. The company is seeking federal permission to allow shipments to any foreign country, except those barred because of embargoes.  Other federal, state and local approvals also are required before Dominion can build a gas liquefaction plant at the 1,100-acre site three miles south of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant.
What I don't understand is how the Sierra Club would have the right to veto an agreement  of the company with the federal government, who has given it permission to turn it into an export facility.
The Sierra Club said it can weigh in on expansion plans at the terminal near Lusby under a settlement the group and the Maryland Conservation Council reached with the facility's then owner. The 1972 settlement was revised several times, most recently in 2005, and barred new construction on the site and limited the terminal's operations to importing liquefied natural gas without the permission of the two groups, according to the Sierra Club.

"We have the right to go to court if we can't persuade them of their errors," said Craig Segall, an associate attorney with the Sierra Club. "We think the language is clear."

Dominion said it's "confident" that the settlement allows the company to build a plant at the terminal.

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