Apr 25

MDE: Protect Our Air – Stop the Charles County Compressor Station

By Margaret Flowers

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is moving ahead with the air quality permit for the compressor station that Dominion Energy wants to build in Charles County, even though the county already denied the zoning permit for it. This is puzzling to residents of Maryland who thought that once the county said no, the process should have stopped.

Even more concerning is that MDE has stated openly that they are inclined to give Dominion Energy the permit.

Currently MDE is requesting comments on the compressor station, and we hear that many are being submitted (big thanks to those of you who took the time to submit one!). If you haven’t done so already, you will find the information you need here. The comment period ends June 12.

We Are Cove Point is urging MDE to protect the air and environment by denying the permit. We wish that was all it would take for MDE to do the right thing, but Governor Hogan is a supporter of the fracked gas refinery and export terminal in Cove Point and he recently announced that he wants to build $100 million of new gas infrastructure in Maryland. The compressor station in Charles County would deliver fracked gas from neighboring states to Cove Point for export.

We know that we will have to increase pressure on MDE and Governor Hogan to do the right thing. We learned that after our recent experience with the change to Dominion Energy’s air quality permit for the refinery and export terminal in Cove Point.

Last fall, as Dominion Energy was nearing completion of the refinery and export terminal, it asked the Public Service Commission to remove the limit on how much volatile organic compounds it could emit. Dominion Energy argued that it miscalculated the number of components that would leak by a factor of about 800% (from 15,000 to 160,000) and that it could not stay within the permitted limits. Hundreds of residents from Cove Point and supporters attended the public hearing and testified in opposition to the change. So many people showed up that they had to hold a second hearing. Hundreds of people submitted written comments to the PSC in opposition to the change. A large group also attended the PSC hearing in Baltimore, where the representative from MDE, Bill Paul, supported removing the limits from the permit and went so far as to say that there should never have been any limits.

With the state showing this support, it was no surprise that PSC granted the change. It is clear that MDE is not currently acting in a manner that protects the health and safety of Marylanders. We must change that.

This time around, we are not going to trust the MDE to protect the air in Charles County. We are taking action.

On Wednesday, April 18, we held a rally outside the MDE to say let them know that Marylanders are upset. One year ago we won the fight to ban fracking. Now we still have to fight to keep fracked gas out of our state and protect our neighboring states from fracking. We know that toxins from fracking get into the air and water, and that doesn’t stop at the state line. Those chemicals blow into Maryland through the air and poison aquifers that connect with the water tables in Maryland.

Today we started the next phase of our campaign to get MDE to protect our air. We held a “Drop in and Hang Out” to let them know we are here, we are watching and we are depending on them to stop the permit. We sat quietly in the lobby from 11 am to almost 1 pm with small signs.

While we were there, an employee on break stopped to speak with us. We also spoke to the Communications Director about our concerns. We asked them both to let others in the agency know about our concerns.

Today there were four of us. Next Wednesday, we hope there are more. Please fill out this form and let us know when you can volunteer to hang out.

If you can’t do that, please submit a comment and make some phone calls.

1. Call Brian Frosh, the attorney general, at 240-479-9788. We suspect that MDE is moving ahead out of fear of a legal challenge by Dominion Energy. Tell Brian Frosh that his office should be directing MDE to respect Charles County by stopping the permit process, not giving in to Dominion Energy out of fear.
2. Call Andrea Baker, the attorney at the Maryland Department of the Environment, at 410-537-3055. Tell her that MDE should stop the permit process now.
3. Call Governor Hogan at 410 974 3901 and tell him that the fracking ban was great, but now we need to ban new fracking infrastructure. He can stop the permit for Dominion Energy’s compressor station and he can order a safety study for Dominion Energy’s gas refinery and export terminal in Cove Point.