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Volume 15, Issue 18 ~ May 3 - May 9, 2007


No Gas Tanker Parade on the Bay

We were pleased to see Gov. Martin O’Malley come out strongly last week against the plan by a Virginia company to build a liquid natural gas terminal at Sparrows Point in Baltimore, just across from Anne Arundel County.

In a 90-page report, his administration detailed concerns about the safety of the proposed project “and the significant environmental impacts associated with dredging, air emissions and pipeline construction.”

Let us add to that the threats to Chesapeake Bay with some 130 huge tankers in heavily guarded armadas arriving from places like Algeria, Libya and Qatar.

One of the many reasons to oppose this facility is energy independence. President George W. Bush is among those trumpeting the nation’s need to wean ourselves off of foreign energy.

Yet energy companies have submitted 32 applications to federal regulators to build new terminals for importing LNG in Maryland and nine other states, along with five offshore areas, according to the Government Accountability Office.

And the Bush administration’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been import-friendly, as we’ve seen in their attitudes toward expansion of the Cove Point LNG facility in Calvert County.

Now the commission is closing in on a decision that would allow a terminal precisely where it shouldn’t be: in a populous area of Maryland.

AES Corp., the company that wants to build the plant and pump the gas north through a pipeline, has touted the safety of liquid natural gas aboard these 900- to 1,000-foot-long supertankers. (That’s three football fields, by the way.)

But the bipartisan Government Accountability Office, the closest thing we have to an arbiter in such matters, made a largely overlooked study earlier this year that pointed to potential problems.

Examining major studies on the potential of terrorist attack, the Government Accounting Office concluded that explosions are not likely to occur in the event of an LNG spill. (That’s a good thing given accounts in history books of the 1913 munitions blast on the Patapsco aboard a British freighter, a boom that was heard in four states.)

The accountability office did find experts warning that the dangers from the intense heat of an LNG fire extend for more than a mile. Think about that one and look down next time you’re crossing the Bay Bridge.

Also think about leaning on your elected official to fight for states’ rights in this consequential affair.

While you’re at it, think about turning off a few light bulbs at home tonight so we don’t need so dog-gone much electricity in the first place.

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