Annapolis, Maryland — Residents living closest to the proposed Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export facility joined with public interest groups for a press conference in Annapolis today, calling on Governor Martin O’Malley to step up for their families and conduct a basic safety study to reveal the risk of danger that an explosion or other catastrophe at the plant would pose to human lives. To date, no federal or state agency has conducted such a study, called a Quantitative Risk Assessment.
The Governor, as a member of the Board of Public Works, will be voting the same afternoon on whether or not to grant a wetlands license for a construction pier for the Dominion Cove Point facility, marking the first time he will preside over a permit decision for the project.
The groups pointed out how little Governor O’Malley has done to protect Maryland residents from Cove Point, in contrast to his strong opposition—due to health and safety concerns—to the AES Sparrows Point LNG import facility in Baltimore County in 2007, even stating his administration had ”very serious concerns regarding the safety of the proposed project.” The residents and groups questioned why the Governor is remaining silent now, especially considering the Cove Point export facility would require a greater concentration of hazardous processes and chemicals in close proximity to people’s homes (there are 2,473 people in one mile radius of the facility).
Rachel Heinhorst, a mother of three and teacher from Lusby who lives in the home closest to the Cove Point site stated, “We are here today asking Governor O’Malley why he stood up to protect the people in Baltimore County from the Sparrows Point LNG facility but has failed to protect those of us in Calvert County from the dangerous Cove Point LNG export facility. We deserve better than to live in fear of an explosion, of the water we drink, of the air we breathe.”
For months, members of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community have been calling on federal, state and local officials to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment, as recommended in the most current fire safety standards (NFPA 59A: Standard for the Production, Storage, and Handling of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), 2013 Edition) for LNG. This study would assess offsite risks as a vital fire safety mitigation measure for nearby residents. A report conducted by consulting firm Ricardo-AEA found that the facility could pose “intolerable risks” to workers and residents living close to the facility.
“Governor O’Malley is the highest ranking state official responsible for the safety of Maryland residents, and we believe Lusby residents deserve nothing less than the most current safety protections,” said Tracey Eno of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community. “The Governor’s reluctance to order this assessment for the export expansion at Cove Point leaves residents wondering – what is our Governor so afraid that the public will learn about this project?”
Following the press conference, Food & Water Watch delivered a letter signed from more than 52 organizations across the country calling on Governor O’Malley to step up and call for the study, citing the impacts that the facility would have on their communities from the fracking wells, pipelines, compressor stations and frac sand mining. The groups also delivered over 1,000 petitions from individuals calling for the study.
“Governor O’Malley’s inaction on Cove Point is being noted by organizations across the country that are increasingly concerned about the damaging effects fracking has on their communities,” said Emily Wurth, Water Program Director at Food & Water Watch. “From fracking in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to frac sand mining in Iowa, sacrificing our communities to ship natural gas to Asia through Cove Point is a giant leap backwards.”
The press conference was held prior to the 1pm Board of Public Works meeting, where Governor O’Malley will for the first time be confronted in person by residents of Calvert County. The Governor is one of the board members voting on whether or not to grant a wetlands license to Dominion Resources for a construction pier on the Patuxent river — bringing the company one step closer to building the Cove Point LNG export facility in Calvert County.
“Public officials and agencies are failing to protect the health and safety of the residents of Calvert County and people throughout the Chesapeake region,” said Robin Broder, Board Member, Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Upstream impacts of fracking are being ignored. Economic impacts to local economies are being ignored. Pollution impacts to the Bay, the Patuxent River and upstream rivers and drinking water supplies are being ignored. When will the governor, our federal lawmakers and state agencies begin to listen to the people instead of rubber stamping everything the oil and gas industry wants to do?”
Contact: Tracey Eno, Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community, 443-624-8022