We Are Cove Point

A brochure form Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community

What is the issue?

Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP (DCP), a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, Inc., plans to construct a $3.8 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) refinery and export facility at a long-dormant LNG import site in the residential neighborhood of Lusby, l\ID. The facility abuts county and state parks and sits on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, three miles from a nuclear power plant and fifty miles from the White House. There has been no Environmental Impact Statement or Quantitative Risk Assessment.

Why should you care?
DCP poses serious risks to the safety, health, and quality of life of Southern Marylanders, and of the region. Through a web of pipelines, compressor sta­tions, the refinery/liquefaction facility, and tankers, DCP will receive gas extracted via hydraulic fractur­ing (fracking) in the region, pipe it through Maryland to Cove Point, remove toxins, liquefy the gas, and export it to India and Japan. If built, this will be the first LNG facility in the US to be sited in such a densely populated residential community. Previously rural Southern Calvert County will become and unhealthy and dangerous industrial area in which to live.


In its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Dominion grossly misrepre­sented local demographics, implying that the facility, like other proposed US LNG export sites, is located in a remote area. DCP’s application described near­by “major population” centers (Solomons to Prince Frederick) as totaling 4,906 people, when in fact the described area holds over 44,6002 people. Dominion never even mentions Lusby, where the facility is lo­cated and which holds the single largest population in Calvert County: 20,4833 -nearly one-quarter of Calvert County’s population.
Furthermore, DCP ignores industry siting standards. The Society of lnternational Gas Tanker and Termi­nal Operators (SIGTTO), to which DCP belongs, states: (a) “LNG ports must be located where LNG vapors from a spill or release cannot affect civilians” and (b) “There is no acceptable probability for a cata­strophic LNG release.”Yet the liquefaction facility sits just across the road from civilians. SIGTTO’s standards also refer to a large U.S. Department of Energy “Hazard Zone” of 2.2 miles, the minimum distance an LNG port should be located from civil­ians. In fact, 8,045 people live within Cove Point’s 2.2 mile “Hazard Zone”.

DCP’s tight footprint increases the risk of cata­strophic accidents. In that confined area it now plans to build a 130 MW power-generating plant and a gas refinery and liquefaction train. On-site storage will include 410,000 gallons of propane 14.6 billion cubic ft. of LNG, and other toxic, carcinogenic, and potentially explosive chemicals including ethane, acid-gases, and benzene. (In comparison, New York State recently passed new regulations that recom­mend maximum storage of LNG at 70,000 gallons. DCP’s tanks will hold many times more than that.) DCP uses “single-containment” tanks, vulnerable to shrapnel should a nearby explosion occur. If a tank is pierced, leaking LNG can result in vapor clouds, which are extremely flammable (“flash fire”) and asphyxiate people they envelop. The closest homes are only a few hundred feet away. 

US LNG accidents in 2014 required evacuations from sites far more remote than Lusby, MD. In April, a three-mile evacuation affected the entire town of Opal, Wyoming – all 95 people. Plymouth, WA, evacuated 1,000 people from a two-mile radius. Yet what lies within two miles of DCP? Approxi­mately 7,000 residents in 2,365 homes, plus 2 schools, 19 daycare centers, 3 churches, and 2 shop­ping centers. Immediately adjacent to DCP are the popular Calvert Cliffs State Park, and Cove Point Park – with sports fields, swimming pool, ball courts, picnic areas, and playgrounds. Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant sits only three miles away.

Existing emergency response and evacuation plans are inadequate and unrealistic. Dominion recently admitted for the first time that potential emergencies include uncontrolled leaks, fires, storm damage, gas pipeline ruptures, or a “hostile action or terrorist event”, and that these could force evacuations.

The current evacuation route, addressing only a one ­mile radius, sends residents down narrow, winding, and largely unlit streets. Residents east of the facility have only one exit -and that passes right by the fa­cility entrance. Dominion recently purchased proper­ty in order to offer a new route, yet that, too, is very near the facility entry and offers little more than a new evacuation choke point. (No emergency response planning was involved in this purchase, the property happened to be for sale.)

Concerns remain about the vulnerability of nearby communities in case of an industrial-scale LNG acci­dent. Residents continue to call for a comprehensive study to identify and implement the best viable evacuation procedures and route prior to construction of the new facility, to ensure that first responders have all necessary resources at at their disposal for handling accidents. Their calls have been ignored.

Maryland already boasts the highest rate of premature deaths due to air pollution, and Calvert County holds an American Lung Association air rating of “F.” Yet DCP was able to “purchase” pollution credits beyond the current legal limit. As a result, an additional 625 tons of nitrogen oxides and 166 tons of volatile organic compounds – all hazardous and major contributors to ozone – will be emitted.

Overall, DCP will emit 21.5 tons of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) each year, including carcinogens and other toxins. Emissions categorized as “Toxic” and “Hazardous” include: acetaldehyde, acrolein, ammonia, benzene, butane, ethylbenzene, fluoranthene, formaldehyde, hexane, hydrogen sul­tidenitrous oxide, propylene oxide, sulfuric acid mist, toluene, zinc, xylenes, and suspended particu­lates. Some of these are carcinogens linked to in­creased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, es­pecially in children and the elderly; others are safe­ty hazards and/or environmental toxins.

Ultimately, DCP will add more greenhouse gasses than all 19 of Maryland’s coal-fired power plants combined. The new 130 MW power plant, built simply to power the liquefaction process will will be Maryland’s fourth-largest climate polluter.

The promise of LNG exports has increased pressure for fracking and additional pipelines in Maryland, and industry has begun to eye shale gas basins un­derlying Calvert County and the Virginia Tidewat­er. Regional networks of fracking compressor stations and pipelines are growing, despite links to drinking water contamination, air and noise pollu­tion, illnesses and earthquakes and despite the con­tinued opposition of local communities.

DCP originally stated that construction would not occur at night but, after approval of the “Environ­mental Assessment”, it applied for and was given permission to construct throughout the night. Le­gally permitted noise levels are 90 decibels (dBA) by day, 55 by night. Yet as of spring, 2015, many residents find the growing and continuous noise in­creasingly unbearable. Maryland law prohibits noise that “unreasonably interferes with the proper enjoy­ment of property.” Residents have asked for noise measurements, and were told that police would bring noise meters when called, but this has not happened.

Once the liquefaction facility is completed, DCP’s operational noise will be significantly louder – day and night – than anything residents have ever experi­enced in the past. Yet DCP’s noise “studies” consid­ered the impact on only three nearby properties, ig­noring all other Noise Sensitive Areas (homes, day cares, churches, etc.), as well as the effect of topog­raphy and wind. Noise and light impacts on wildlife in the neighboring state park were not addressed.

Dominion plans to build an experimental 60-foot high, mile-long wall on two sides of the facility. Although it long insisted that this was solely designed as a noise barrier, DCP now admits that the intended purpose is to mitigate vapor-clouds – raising questions about its efficacy for either purpose. (There are no plans for noise or vapor protection for neighbor­hoods to the east or the state park to the north.)

The DCP facility will draw heavily from already­ stressed southern Maryland aquifers. Withdrawals from Maryland Coastal Plain aquifers have caused ground-water levels in confined aquifers to decline by tens to hundreds of feet from their original levels. The declines are especially large in southern Maryland. Yet DCP plans to withdraw 233,000 – 275,000 gallons of water per day from the Lower Patapsco aquifer. Ballast water from LNG tankers may contain threats to local water quality and aquatic communities. Annual­ly, the Cove Point facility will bring an estimated 85 additional massive LNG tankers to the Chesapeake Bay. These ships could introduce toxigenic strains of cholera and other diseases, toxic algae, radioactivity, and invasive species via ballast water and ship hulls. Such introductions are extremely difficult to control, and compliance with US and international shipping regulations aimed at reducing them are difficult to en­force. Ultimately, they may harm not only ecosystems but local fishing economies as well.