Vol. 9, No. 15
April 12-18, 2001
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Reopening Calvert Gas Docks: A Plan In Need of Scrutiny

Reopening Calvert Gas Docks: A Plan In Need of Scrutiny

If you love boating, picture sharing the Bay with another 90 giant tankers making their way up the Chesapeake every year laden with liquid natural gas from Venezuela and the Caribbean.

If you love fishing, consider the prospect of one of the Middle Bay's can't-miss fishing grounds going off-limits after this season.

If you love the Bay, this is a proposal you need to consider.

For those scenarios could become reality if a Houston energy company, Williams Gas Pipeline, wins the go-ahead to renovate and reopen the Cove Point gas terminal. The company's application is pending right now in front of the Federal Energy Resources Commission, and the chances of approval have increased with all the talk we're hearing these days about an "energy crisis."

What do you think about having one of the biggest natural gas terminals in North America situated on our Chesapeake Bay? Have you thought about it at all?

It takes dedication to keep up with the threats, real and perceived, to our environment. Likewise, it requires a full-time mental calculator to measure the changing equation of sustainability.

Chesapeake Country, like the rest of America, was developed by exploiting our rivers, our Bay and our natural resources. But in the 21st century, the terms of our equation are changing before our eyes. We ask different questions now. What is the need? Is there scarcity? Are the benefits worth the potential risks? Have some of our resources grown too vulnerable to exploit?

With some issues, the answers are easier. Take the proposed Safeway shopping center in southern Anne Arundel County. Some argue that a need exists in a rural area with no multi-convenience shopping center nearby.

But is there true scarcity? Of course not. And are the benefits of convenience worth the risk to the rural character, to the local environment and to local businesses? Many have concluded that the answer to these questions is no.

The proposed re-opening of the Cove Point gas docks presents a more complicated equation. Before we arrive at the question of risk and benefits, we must ask about the need. Is there scarcity? Is there, as we are being told, an energy crisis that might allow us to let down our standard so that we can run our factories and heat our homes?

We aren't convinced that a botched effort by California to de-regulate electricity means that we have plunged into an energy crisis, even though the new administration in Washington is telling us we need to relax environmental standards and drill in pristine lands because such a crisis exists.

We aren't alone. Former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson was asked this week if we have an energy crisis. His response: "I don't think so."

Calvert County officials are ready to welcome all those 900-foot tankers in the Chesapeake as a means to raise millions in revenues. That's a real benefit. But does that benefit balance the additional cost to the Chesapeake Bay?

We have to keep an open mind to change as the facts come in, just as we need to keep our eyes open to Chesapeake Bay issues bigger than Safeway. While acting locally, we must think globally.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly