On the 17th of September, “We Are Cove Point” took to the water in Annapolis, MD in several kayaks and a sailboat against Dominion’s LNG export plant at Cove Point, MD. The kayaktivists were demanding that MD Governor Hogan order a quantitative risk assessment (QRA) to determine just how dangerous the under-construction fracked gas export plant really is. Given the recent explosion of leaked residential gas that was enough to demolish an apartment building in Silver Spring, MD, it pays to take the risks associated with natural gas seriously. Several large LNG plants have exploded over the years, and amount of gas potentially involved in such blasts can be measured in kilotons. The Cove Point plant is unique for being in a populated area.
Those who live in Lusby and especially in Cove Point fear that an accident at Dominion’s plant could leave the entire southern half of Calvert County with no way out except over the “long bridge” to St Mary’s County. That bridge is two lanes each way and is simply not capable to accomodating an evacuation of half a county as a “situation” develops at the gas plant. The quantitative risk assessment would presumably have to consider that as well as the fact that only road out of Cove Point itself goes right past the front gates of the plant, the 450,000 gallons of propane also proposed for storage there, the 1.8 KM “vaporization radius” in a worst-case blast,the maximum total amount of LNG stored, the position of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant relative to the “severe damage” radius of a worst-case explosion, and more.
In addition to the dangers posed by the LNG plant itself, protesters added that the risks posed by fracking itself as well as every pipeline feeding the export facility needed to be considered. Without gas export, a lot of those pipelines would not be built and a lot of additional fracking would not take place due to low domestic gas prices.
Governo Hogan has the authority to issue a “stop work” order against Dominion’s gas export plant. So does FERC, though FERC has become infamous for rubberstamping these projects. Still, the events surrounding the Dakota Access fracked oil pipeline, the defeat of the Keystone XL, and the defeat of an LNG export facility elsewhere in the US show that protest works, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and these projects can be stopped.