Sunday 24 June 2018

Groups Urge Court to Reverse Approval of Cove Point LNG Export Facility

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

(Washington, DC)  Several groups have filed arguments against the continued construction of the Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility on the Chesapeake Bay at Lusby, Maryland. In September 2014, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authorized the controversial LNG export facility despite widespread criticism of FERC’s Environmental Assessment (EA) for Dominion Cove Point. Since that time, Dominion has been constructing the massive $3.8 billion facility on the Chesapeake Bay. Groups and residents across the 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 health and safety of nearby residents in Calvert County.

On Friday, November 20, 2015, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Potomac Riverkeeper, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, and several local groups represented by the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center filed an amicus brief in support of petitioners EarthReports, Inc., et al.’s challenge to FERC’s decision to license Dominion’s LNG export facility. They argue that FERC’s EA is impermissibly narrow in geographic scope and ignores significant project-related environmental impacts.

“We are happy to finally to get our day in court despite the fact that the construction of the LNG export facility has continued unabated. For far too long, FERC and our public officials have dismissed the health and safety of the residents of Calvert County and people throughout the Chesapeake region,” said Betsy Nicholas of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Pollution impacts to the Bay, the Patuxent River and upstream rivers, streams and drinking water sources have been ignored.”

FERC was required to determine the environmental consequences of the LNG export facility in its EA, including the impacts of induced natural gas production for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Instead, FERC concluded it was ‘not feasible to more specifically evaluate localized environmental impacts’ from increased drilling, even though Dominion knew its customers will source the fracked gas from the mid-Atlantic region and knew that new compressor and pipeline capacity will be built. FERC’s conclusion ran contrary to the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommendation that FERC consider the gas production stimulus effect of the export facility in its licensing decision.

The groups are urging the Court to find that FERC’s review of the project’s environmental impacts suffers from fatal flaws, and that the EA should be vacated and remanded to FERC to be replaced with either a more complete EA or a full Environmental Impact Statement.

"Exporting shale gas from Cove Point will only lead to more fracking in states like Pennsylvania," said Ryan Talbott, executive director of the Allegheny Defense Project. "That means more roads, well pads, waste water impoundments, compressor stations and pipelines fragmenting Pennsylvania's forests and public lands. Pennsylvania's wild forests should not be turned into industrial frackscapes so the gas industry can make more profits exporting shale gas to Asia."

"Proposed export facilities have a great impact on areas that are distant from the project itself. Right now hundreds of miles of pipelines are being built and many more proposed through people's farms and yards, and our parks and streams in the Susquehanna Watershed...all on the speculation of exporting gas from Cove Point,” said Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Michael Helfrich.  “Do they not factor into the equation of what is "Public Good"?  People are losing their rights, their environment is being degraded, and we are told that we don't count!  All so that gas can go to foreign countries. This is not the America I knew. This is making us a third-world resource country."

"Building a significant shale gas exporting operation at Cove Point will inevitably incentivize further fracking in the Marcellus shale region, and further construction of natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure required for the transportation of gas from the Marcellus shale fields to Cove Point," said Joseph O. Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Clean Air Council. "FERC must do a better job of considering the harm all this development will do to the environment and the citizens of Pennsylvania."

Groups filing the amicus brief in support of petitioners EarthReports, Inc., et al.’s challenge to FERC’s decision to license Dominion’s Cove Point LNG export facility include: Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Potomac Riverkeeper, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Clean Air Council, Allegheny Defense Project, Wild Virginia, Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community, and Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community.

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

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

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Campaign Launched to Ban Fracking in Maryland

Baltimore, MD:  Today, 72 groups, compelled by the mounting evidence of fracking’s negative effects, announced their call for a permanent, statewide ban on fracking in Maryland to protect public health, our air, water, climate and local business interests.

The organizations include a range of environmental, health, faith, labor and business groups including Food & Water Watch, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East - Maryland/DC Division, National Nurses United, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Interfaith Power & Light, Breast Cancer Action, The Harvest Collective, and the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council.

A full list of groups and their call for a fracking ban can be found here: http://www.dontfrackmd.org/who-we-are/

“It is impossible to ignore the mounting evidence showing that fracking poses severe health threats,” said Thomas Meyer, Maryland Organizer at Food & Water Watch. “On top of that, fracking could destroy Maryland’s growing sustainable economy; everything from tourism and recreation to farms and restaurants could be devastated by fracking. A two year moratorium is a good start, but in order to truly protect Maryland's residents and economy, a complete ban is necessary.”

"Introducing industrial-scale gas development and fracking into the mountains of western Maryland is completely incompatible with what is primarily a tourism-based economy,” said Allegany County resident Dale Sams. “Fracking requires huge volumes of water, which will have to be extracted from our rivers and streams; and our narrow country roads and small bridges will be damaged by the thousands of heavy trucks used to haul drilling equipment and toxic waste. The only way to protect western Maryland from these impacts is to ban fracking."

As a result of a broad-based, grassroots campaign, the Maryland General Assembly passed a two-year moratorium on fracking in 2015. The law went into effect last month and will prevent any drilling activity through October 2017. The same legislation, however, requires the Hogan administration to prepare regulations for drilling. Those regulations would go into effect as soon as the moratorium expires, unless the state takes further action.

A growing body of peer-reviewed evidence finds that fracking simply cannot be done without risk to public health and the environment—and that regulations are not capable of preventing harm. A recent overview of more than 500 peer-reviewed studies by Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility points to “a plethora of … harms that cannot be averted or cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks.”

“Study after study shows that fracking quickens the march toward climate disaster,” said Shilpa Joshi, Maryland Campaign Coordinator for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “If we’re going to keep our coastal cities above water and keep our farms from drying out, then we must start keeping fossil fuels, including gas, in the ground. Maryland can lead the way by banning fracking permanently and focusing 100% on clean energy solutions that protect our health and climate while creating good-paying jobs. ”

“Marylanders' livelihoods and health depend on pure water, healthy soil, and clean air and would be forever damaged if hydraulic fracturing is allowed in Western Maryland,” said Waterkeepers Chesapeake Executive Director Betsy Nicholas. “There are already too many instances of how this highly industrial, polluting process of fracking has had dramatic and irreversible negative impacts on local water resources in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia.”

Concerns over the long-term health impacts of fracking continue to mount. Last month a study led by researchers at John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found an association between a mother’s exposure to drilling and fracking activity during pregnancy and birth outcomes. The study found that the likelihood of preterm births were 40 percent higher among women living in areas with the most intense drilling and fracking operations compared to women with the lowest exposure level. Women living in heavy drilling areas during pregnancy were also more likely to have high-risk pregnancies, as reported by their healthcare provider.

“Viable alternatives to fracking are undeniably much more in the public's interest and safer for human health and our environment,“ said Stephen Shaff, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council. “From a business perspective, clean energy is where the greatest opportunities exist. Fracking is a boom and bust industry, and allowing this sort of destructive energy practice could damage truly sustainable economic development, while benefitting only a few.”

"We see no evidence that drilling for shale gas can be effectively regulated,” said Paul Roberts, Board President of Citizen Shale. “As the state’s longest-standing community organization seeking protections from the industry’s impacts, we find that a growing body of data strongly suggests fracking is dangerous to humans and the environment. Furthermore, it remains unknown whether fracking can provide economic benefits to the majority of local citizens or to the state. We look forward to completion of a fair and impartial analysis, funded by the county and federal government, of fracking’s potential affects on western Maryland’s tourism-based economy.”

"As a young farmer in western Maryland, I would inherit incredible suffering if fracking were permitted,” said Kim Alexander, Garrett County resident and member of The Harvest Collective. “Fracking would fracture our farms with toxic chemicals, fill the air with cancerous fumes, and permanently destroy our water. Maryland must ban fracking so we can continue to provide clean food, water, and sustainable energy solutions."

“In addition to threatening the health and safety of Marylanders, fracking would also require more pipelines and compressor stations, which would bring yet more hazards to communities and tie us to fracked gas for at least 50 years,” said Elisabeth Hoffman, representing Howard County Climate Change. "We don’t have the luxury of time to avert climate chaos—we must act now. Maryland should ban fracking and move as quickly as possible away from dirty fossil fuels and toward clean energy and conservation." 

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Contacts:

Kelly Trout, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, (240) 396-2022

Thomas Meyer, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4945

New Investigative Report Documents Nation’s Neglected Rail Infrastructure

Waterkeepers from across the country identify significant areas of concern with 114 railway bridges along known and potential routes of explosive oil trains

NEW YORK, NY AND SAN FRANCISCO, CA – November 10, 2015 –Waterkeeper Alliance, ForestEthics and a national network of Waterkeeper organizations today in releasing a new investigative report Deadly Crossings exploring the condition of our nation’s rail infrastructure. From July – September 2015, Waterkeepers from across the country documented the structural integrity of 250 railway bridges along known and potential routes of explosive oil trains, capturing the state of this often neglected infrastructure in their communities.

The Waterkeepers identified areas of concern with 114 bridges, nearly half of those observed. Photos and video footage of the bridges inspected show signs of significant stress and decay, such as rotted, cracked, or crumbling foundations, and loose or broken beams. Waterkeepers were also present when crude oil unit trains passed and observed flexing, slumping and vibrations that crumbled concrete. Upper James Riverkeeper Pat Calvert made several reports, including a narrow rail bridge located immediately upstream of the Richmond City drinking water intake facility that provides water to approximately half a million people has significant cracking and steel braces on the foundation that appear to be a makeshift repair.

This effort was initiated out of concern for the threat posed by the 5,000 percent increase in oil train traffic since 2008. Oil train traffic increases both the strain on rail infrastructure, as well as the likelihood of a rail bridge defect leading to an oil train disaster resulting in oil spills, fires and explosions. On April 30, 2014, an oil train derailed and exploded in downtown Lynchburg. “This report and train derailments like the one in Lynchburg is a stark reminder that we need a national discussion about the safety and regulatory oversight of the transportation of hazardous materials through populated areas and sensitive environmental areas, especially along rivers that supply drinking water to cities such as Richmond,” said Betsy Nicholas Executive Director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake.

A review of safety standards for rail bridges revealed that the federal government cedes authority and oversight of inspections and repairs to railway bridge owners. Overly broad federal law, lax regulations, dangerously inadequate inspections and oversight, and a lack of authority compound the threat from oil trains. The 2008 federal law and subsequent DOT standards regulating safety of rail bridges leaves responsibility for determining load limits, safety inspections, and maintenance with rail bridge owners.

The groups are calling for immediate, decisive action by the federal government on this issue. “What the Waterkeepers have captured shines a light on the need for immediate, independent inspections of all rail bridges that carry explosive oil trains,” said Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “People deserve to know the state of this infrastructure and the risks posed by oil trains rolling through their communities.”

ForestEthics has calculated that oil trains directly threaten the life and safety of 25 million Americans living inside the blast zone, which is the one mile evacuation zone in the case of an oil train fire. The drinking water supplies for tens of millions more are also at risk. This report attempts to alert communities about this risk, and calls for nationwide action and reform of rail safety standards.

TAKE ACTION! Stop the Transport of Explosive Oil Over Neglected Rail Bridges

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