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Cove Point Expansion Goes on Green

Construction begins after two years of environmental review and protests

When construction is complete at Dominion Cove Point, liquified natural gas will be pumped aboard foreign-bound tankers.

Eight days after federal regulators gave the go-ahead, Dominion Resources began construction on the controversial $3.8 billion expansion of its liquefied natural gas terminal in southern Calvert County.
    “We’re starting construction on our off-site pier. That’s the first step,” Karl Neddenien, spokesman for Dominion Cove Point LNG, told Bay Weekly.
    The Virginia-based energy giant is building a new pier on the Patuxent River in Solomons to accept arrival by sea of the largest components of the expansion. That equipment will then be transported by land eastward across the lower county to the existing 113-acre industrial site on Rt. 497 in Lusby.
    After two years of environmental review and protests, the plant at Cove Point will morph from an importer to an exporter of liquid natural gas. All of the exported gas is committed to India and Japan, where tankers will take it from Dominion’s existing offshore dock a mile into the Chesapeake off Cove Point.
    Calvert County officials are eager to see the long-debated project take shape. The county will net about $300 million in revenue from the project over the next 18 years.
    Mark Volland, spokesman for Calvert’s economic development office, says the county now sees no impediment to Dominion’s project, which is expected to create up to 1,200 jobs during the construction phase over the two and a half years. The plant could be functional by 2017.
    A Calvert County judge ruled that a local zoning change that facilitates the plant expansion is unconstitutional, but that ruling appears moot. The county deferred zoning conflicts to federal agencies, which now have ruled that the project may proceed.
    Cove Point will be the first LNG export terminal on the East Coast.
    The construction phase will have the greatest impact on locals. For that, Dominion is building a large, temporary staging area west of Route 2/4 to reduce traffic on Rt. 497. It also plans a 60-foot-high wall on the southern and eastern border of the existing plant’s boundary to mitigate noise and light pollution.
    About 2,000 residents live within a two-mile radius of the existing plant. Some say Dominion has been a good neighbor the past 10 years without incident. Others are wary of the plant’s expansion.
    “County officials are only looking at the pros,” said Tracey Eno, who lives in the Cove Lake community a mile and a half from the plant. Eno says local officials focus on tax revenue, without much regard for quality of life. She sees no benefit in the plan for local residents.
    Neddenien noted that the 114-page final approval order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission isn’t a blank check. It comes with 79 conditions that must be met, such as stringent monitoring of air pollution, regular safety inspections and other safeguards.