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Volume 14, Issue 13 ~ March 30 - April 5, 2006


Saying No To Energy at All Costs

You may have missed the news that the Massachusetts Legislature said No way, pal to a Virginia company that tried to build an LNG — short for liquid natural gas — terminal on one of the outer islands in Boston Harbor.

That decision is directly related to what is happening in Maryland just now on more than one score.

The same company, AES Corp., wants to build the same sort of plant at Sparrows Point to receive tankers full of imported gas. Then it would send the gas through an 85-mile pipeline to Pennsylvania for further sales.

There’s still another big Virginia energy company we need to be watching, Dominion Resources, which operates an existing LNG plant at Cove Point, in Calvert County. It is the nation’s largest such facility.

Lately Dominion’s drive to double the amount of gas unloaded at its terminal out in Chesapeake Bay has run into obstacles from a surprising source. Not just the usual neighbors and environmental advocates but another company, Washington Gas & Electric, is protesting, saying that Dominion’s liquified gas has caused gas leaks and perhaps even an explosion.

For the first order of business, Calvert County commissioners ought to stop shilling for Dominion as they did last week in testifying in the General Assembly against legislation to regulate LNG statewide.

Commission president David Hale and other Cove Point supporters argue that the legislation would close Cove Point. The sponsor himself says that’s not true. The people we elect ought to be representing constituents rather than putting on a dubious show of support for industry.

That’s been the case in Washington, too, where the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission thus far is supporting Dominion’s new gas pipeline route, even though Calvert County citizens in the interest group Concerns About Pipeline Expansion and Del. Sue Kullen have pointed to less environmentally destructive alternatives.

As for Sparrow’s Point, locating a gas facility in a populated region along the Patapsco River is unwise, as Massachusetts determined for Boston Harbor. In one terrible explosion along the Patapsco, in 1913, the British freighter Alum Chine, carrying 350 tons of dynamite, exploded near Hawkins Point. The boom was heard in four states.

In the case of both Maryland plants, we understand the discomfort of those nearby who worry about the safety of LNG and the prospect of becoming a terrorist target.

Our concern begins with not wanting to see any more of these 900-foot-long supertankers and their armed escorts disrupting Chesapeake Bay with their foreign cargo. What about energy independence?

The Maryland General Assembly is in the process (we hope) of backing down BGE, which wants to gouge people for electricity and then flee the state to Florida.

In this energy-at-all-costs regulatory environment, Marylanders — and the Chesapeake Bay — need advocates in Annapolis.

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