BayNet: Sierra Club hosts Mizeur at fracking meeting

While the plan to construct a multi-billion dollar liquefaction facility at the Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Plant in Lusby has received overwhelming support from local and state elected officials, one political figure has identified herself with the opponents of the project. Friday, March 7 Delegate Heather Mizeur [D-District 20], a candidate for governor, visited all three Southern Maryland counties. Her first stop was a meeting of the local Sierra Club. The one-hour session was held at Charles County’s newest library branch in St. Charles.

While Mizeur’s address was primarily about her opposition to Dominion’s plan and the possible expansion of a controversial hydraulic drilling procedure known as fracking, she also spoke about other issues, including her support for the legalization of marijuana.

Sierra Club member Bonnie Bick said the organization is concerned the Cove Point project could make Maryland “the fracking capital of the East Coast.” Currently the state has a moratorium on fracking in place and is conducting a study as to whether to allow drilling for natural gas in the Maryland portion of the Appalachian Region.

Bick said she attended the March 1 hearing conducted by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) and was impressed by the resolve of the citizens living in proximity to the plant.

“The only one it [project] is good for is Dominion,” said Bick, who described the fuel to be drilled, pipeline-transported to and exported from Cove Point as “natural methane gas.”

Bick also pointed out that parts of the Southern Maryland Region are part of the Taylorsville Basin, which could become a territory marked for fracking. “The best water in the world could become contaminated,” said Bick, who lamented the Cove Point project as being an indication Maryland could be digressing in its effort to transition to high renewable energy use by the year 2020. “It’s like zooming in the wrong direction,” said Bick. “We don’t want to cut our fingers off while holding onto the cliff.”

“It [Cove Point project] has local implications for this area, statewide implications, and implications globally,” said Sierra Club member Frank Fox.

Mizeur indicated the Cove Point project was proceeding much too quickly as was the state’s looming decision-making process regarding fracking.

“We need to have a more pragmatic approach to this,” said Mizeur. “Second chances are expensive. We’ve got to get this right the first time. After reviewing the science on this no one can be in favor of this project.”

If the Cove Point LNG Plant liquefaction project were to receive the necessary permits, including those from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the PSC, “Maryland would be an international sacrifice zone for fracked gas,” said Mizeur.

She added the plan to export natural gas has been touted as an economic salvation for the state and the nation but in reality only benefits the gas industry.

“I’m sensitive to the job conversation,” said Mizeur, who explained she grew up in a pro-labor household. “But we’ve got a lot of better ideas for putting people to work.”

The candidate stated there are plenty of jobs in the wind and solar industries, plus if Maryland leaders were to move to close the corporate tax loopholes benefitting large businesses in Maryland, the beneficiaries would be small businesses and lower class workers.

While Mizeur and the local Sierra Club member clearly see increased natural gas exports as a huge step toward increased drilling, Dominion officials are citing a recent report from investment analyst Morningstar that indicates the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachian Region has an abundance of natural gas. The nearly 100,000 square mile area, the report stated, has 30 to 75 years of resource potential at current production rates. The Marcellus Shale stretches from New York south to West Virginia and is predicted to be one of the biggest drivers of domestic dry gas production growth in the nation in the coming years, the report indicated.

During the question and answer period, Mizeur said the natural gas industry needs to be “pushed” to do the drilling for natural gas by a method other than hydraulic fracturing in order to ensure “the fugitive methane” isn’t going to pollute the air and water. “So far they haven’t come up with anything that’s given me confidence,” said Mizeur, adding that Maryland’s fracking study will be issued in August. She opined the prospects of the study yielding adequate data were dim.

Meeting attendee Ken Hastings noted there are several bills regarding fracking safety up for consideration during the current session of the Maryland General Assembly but he added, “Those bills are in trouble. There’s no political will to do this.”

In addition to the Sierra Club, which has attempted to block the Cove Point project by citing an environmental easement with the original Lusby gas plant owners back in the 1970s, Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) has been vocal in its opposition of the plan.

Recently, a total of eight people have been arrested in Cumberland and Frederick for staging protests against the project.

According to a story in the Frederick Post, the four protesters arrested at the Frederick County Courthouse were charged with disorderly conduct for blocking the building’s entrance. A police spokesman told the newspaper the protesters had notified local law enforcement ahead of time about their planned demonstration.

Mizeur told the local Sierra Club that while it was important to stop the Cove Point liquefaction project, the victory would be hollow if a similar facility is built in North Carolina.

“This is a global climate change crisis,” said Mizeur, who pledged to be an “ambassador” for the environmental movement.

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