Thursday 17 August 2017

Federal regulator approves massive $3.8 billion construction of liquefied natural gas export facility on the Chesapeake Bay without considering all environmental and safety impacts

For immediate release

September 30, 2014

Washington, DC – Waterkeepers Chesapeake denounces yesterday’s decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to authorize the controversial liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility proposed at Cove Point in southern Maryland. Waterkeepers across the Chesapeake Bay region say that FERC’s decision fails to address the LNG export facility’s role in speeding fracking across the region, polluting the Bay, worsening the climate crisis, and threatening the safety of nearby residents in Calvert County with potential explosion and fire catastrophes.

There has been widespread criticism of FERC’s Environmental Assessment (EA) for Dominion Cove Point LNG’s plan to convert an existing import facility into an export facility and to pipe fracked gas from the Marcellus shale region to southern Maryland, liquefy it, and export it to be burned in Japan and India. The agency’s failure to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement ignores the foreseeable cumulative impacts this project would have on the environment and local economies throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. Any thorough and credible examination of the impacts of this project pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will show that the public and the environment will come out a significant loser, while the gas industry profits.

“In the rush to export our natural gas, 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 Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director, Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Upstream impacts of fracking, and new and expanded pipelines and compressor stations are being ignored. Economic impacts to local and regional economies are being ignored. Pollution impacts to the Bay, the Patuxent River and upstream rivers, streams and drinking water sources are being ignored. It’s difficult not to conclude that our public officials just don’t care.”

FERC’s authorization includes approval of the installation of additional compression at Dominion’s existing Pleasant Valley Compressor Station and related facilities located in Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Northern Virginia. This is a stark example of the upstream impacts of the Cove Point LNG export facility that have been minimized and ignored.

“Even the EPA said that FERC should weigh gas production stimulus effect of the Cove Point export facility,” said Robin Broder, Waterkeepeers Chesapeake. “But somehow FERC concluded it was ‘not feasible to more specifically evaluate localized environmental impacts’ even though Dominion knows where it will source the fracked gas and knows that new compressor and pipeline capacity will be built. Our public agencies and elected officials are not serving the public’s interest and are sacrificing our waterways."

Waterkeepers Chesapeake is assessing legal options to support the groups, including local Waterkeepers, intervening in the FERC permitting process. Waterkeepers Chesapeake will continue to fight for a truly democratic process responsive to local communities, and fight against this regulatory process that has been subverted by the natural gas industry. Working with the Cove Point Emergency Coalition, grassroots opposition to this reckless project will continue, including increased pressure on elective state and federal officials who have stood on the sidelines as a federal agency rubber stamped this massive energy project on the shores of the Bay.

Contact: Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director, 202-423-0504, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Robin Broder, 703-786-8172, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Virginia has more than 100 large chicken and hog factory farm operations, but not one has a required federal Clean Water Act water pollution control permit that would reduce runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

For Immediate Release:  September 18, 2014.

The Environmental Integrity Project, the Assateague Coastal Trust, Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and Waterkeepers Chesapeake petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday to assume control over Virginia’s water pollution control program because of the Commonwealth’s failure to develop and implement a Clean Water Act permitting program for factory farms.

These large livestock enterprises often have thousands of chickens and hogs packed into what are called Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). CAFOs produce hundreds of millions of pounds of manure that contribute significant amounts of nutrient runoff to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.  In turn, the manure runoff causes dangerous algae blooms and creates dead zones in which aquatic life cannot survive.

“To restore the health of the Bay, EPA needs to enforce Clean Water Act requirements – on the books since 1972 – that require permits and pollution controls for big animal feeding operations,” said Eric V. Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project.

Agriculture is the single largest source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, according to EPA.  In Virginia, farms contribute 15 million pounds per year of nitrogen pollution in the Bay, and 2 million pounds of phosphorus – with much of this problem coming from poultry operations on the Eastern Shore and in the Shenandoah Valley.  As of 2010, Virginia had approximately 898 animal feeding operations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, 116 of which were large CAFOs, according to EPA.

The federal Clean Water Act requires that states issue water pollution control permits to all CAFOs that discharge pollution, but Virginia has not met this requirement.  Unlike Maryland, which has issued CAFO permits to most of its factory farms, Virginia has yet to issue a single federal permit.  Additionally, the permitting program that Virginia has proposed would allow the state to issue CAFO permits without state regulators or the public being able to review the full federally required nutrient management plans.  

 “Why would Virginia even permit the operations if they don’t even require the most important element for protecting the rivers and Bay—the nutrient management plan?” asks Jeff Kelble, Shenandoah Riverkeeper. “Furthermore, by not requiring the (full) nutrient management plans to be part of the permits, Virginia is depriving citizens of their basic right given to them by Congress under the Clean Water Act to know and comment on pollution that could affect their water.”

Kathy Phillips, Executive Director of the Assateague Coastal Trust, said: “From 2008 -2013 Accomack County, VA, on the Eastern Shore, approved a total of seven new poultry houses. However in just the first 7 months of 2014, a total of 32 new industrial sized poultry houses are planned, many of them sited in flood plains and close to waterways that drain to the Chesapeake Bay.  It is unsettling to see such a massive expansion of industrial factory poultry operations with discharges that are not adequately monitored through a proper Clean Water Act permitting program.”

Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, said:  “Agriculture remains the single largest pollution source in the Chesapeake Bay. And we need to have our state agencies requiring controls on this sector if we are ever to achieve our goals of having drinkable, swimmable, fishable waterways.”


Baltimore City hearing is second of three challenges to Maryland’s Department of the Environment permitting of stormwater runoff -- the primary source of contaminants polluting Baltimore waterways


BALTIMORE, MD  –  This morning, a coalition of environmental and local watershed advocates legally challenged the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to improve the permits that govern urban storm sewer systems. Today’s Baltimore City Circuit Court hearing is the second of three separate challenges to MDE’s permitting program for stormwater runoff. 

In the DC and Baltimore regions, urban stormwater runoff is documented as the number one source of contaminants polluting rivers, creeks and streams, many of which ultimately flow into the Chesapeake Bay. MDE is the department authorized to oversee Maryland’s program to reduce pollution from this runoff. The coalition asserts that MDE is issuing permits that are unenforceable and ineffective. Their challenge rests on four main arguments: 

  • MDE’s refusal to impose enforceable limits in the permits,
  • Lack of public participation process in setting deadlines and limits,
  • Inadequate monitoring and absence of compliance timetables; and
  • Inadequate requirements for the elimination of non-stormwater pollution discharges 

General statement from the coalition:

 “MDE continues to waste millions of Maryland taxpayer dollars on ineffective and unenforceable permitting programs that fail to protect our beloved waterways and the nationally treasured Chesapeake Bay. These challenges simply seek to increase accountability and the public participation process so desperately needed to protect the waters in which we swim, fish, boat and enjoy.”

Statement from Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake:

“Urban and suburban stormwater pollution remain one of the greatest threats to the health of Maryland’s neighborhood streams as well as the Chesapeake Bay.  Our communities are at risk from this polluted runoff and it is MDE’s responsibility to protect the waters that we drink, fish and swim in by imposing specific requirements to reduce discharges of harmful nutrients, sediment and bacteria.  We need enforceable limits and compliance deadlines to get the job done. ”

Statement from David Flores, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper:

 “Some of our neighborhood streams and rivers pose a threat to public health and safety, because these stormwater systems continuously discharge raw sewage, toxic metals, and other hazardous pollution. There are effective ways to control the source of this pollution, and MDE has the authority and know-how to implement them. We urge MDE to take this opportunity by putting forth meaningful protections instead of allowing the pollution of our cherished waters to continue indefinitely.”

Supported by Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest environmental law firm, the petitioners are groups who work to protect and conserve waterways that flow throughout Maryland, including: Anacostia Riverkeeper, Anacostia Watershed Society, Blue Water Baltimore/Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, Gunpowder Riverkeeper, Mattawoman Watershed Society, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Patuxent Riverkeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and Waterkeepers Chesapeake.

The third legal challenge is scheduled for Baltimore County on September 24th.  The judge’s decision from the initial challenge held July 11th in Prince George’s County is forthcoming.


Khushi Desai | Earthjustice | 202.745.5224 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
David Flores | Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper | 443.908.0696 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.          

Betsy Nicholas | Waterkeepers  Chesapeake| 202.423.0504 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Watch Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper's video of Aug 12, 2014 sewer overflows in Baltimore