Stopping Liquid Natural Gas Port in Maryland a Blow Against Fracking in the Marcellus Shale, Too

© Mark Schmerling

Residents in southern Maryland have long felt like the energy sacrifice zone for the rest of the state. They have to cope with the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant; and for the past few decades they’ve had to contend with attempts (many of which have been successful) to expand a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Cove Point.

This proposed LNG facility is making the most recent news, and local activists are making sure the area isn't sacrificed for it.

"We don't want to create a situation where there’s more demand for natural gas: more fracking, more shipping it, more pumping of it, all that," says Sierra Club Maryland volunteer Dave O'Leary. "This creates threats that put our water at risk and increases the impact on climate disruption."

That's why the Sierra Club just filed the first formal objection with the Department of Energy against the export of domestic gas produced from hydraulic fracturing. This objection called Maryland's export proposal an unwise plan which would make a dirty fuel even more dangerous.

"Liquefied natural gas is not only the dirtiest and most polluting form of gas, but it also requires an increase in fracking; a process we know to be unsafe and dangerous," said Deb Nardone, Director of Sierra Club's Natural Gas Reform Campaign. "The industry is pushing forward with these export facilities with their profits in mind, not the families who will bear the burden of increased fracking."

The Sierra Club is challenging the export of Marcellus shale gas from its Cove Point, MD facility, citing that exports would raise gas and electricity prices nationally and expand destructive natural gas fracking.

Dave says the Maryland Sierra Club has been fighting with this facility for decades, going back and forth with settlements and agreements to protect nearby sensitive natural areas. The possible expansion of the Cove Point facility also threatens nearby sensitive areas, including the Wilbur Pond marsh. That area is home to the Northeastern beach tiger beetle, a threatened species, and various other endangered plants.

Dave himself is busy working with legislators in Maryland's statehouse on fracking safeguards as well.

"We want to make sure the local voices are heard on this," he says.

Across the nation, communities are speaking up for safeguards to protect them from the natural gas industry’s practices. In some places, the industry continues to get loopholes despite residents’ outrage. Just look at Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Corbett just signed into a law a bill that:

(A)llows all types of gas operations in all zoning districts, including residential neighborhoods, near schools, parks, hospitals, and sensitive natural and cultural resource protection areas. This means people could be forced to live only 300 feet away from a gas well pad, open frack waste pit, or pipeline, despite growing evidence that such development causes pollution, damages health, and lowers property values.

For Dave in Maryland, anyone that has an interest in clean energy must look at the entire spectrum of energy issues.

"I had a long interest in environmental issues and then got involved with the Sierra Club because of my interest in renewables. That led into work on broader energy issues," he says.

Dave remains energized (no pun intended) about the continued work to increase clean energy in Maryland, such as offshore wind. He also knows that the fight over natural gas will likely continue for many more years.

"This is a good chance to work with people who really care about these issues. The Sierra Club provides an opportunity for volunteers to really have a voice and make a difference."

You can make a difference, too. Tell Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu that exporting dirty LNG is dangerous, environmentally destructive and needs to be taken off the table.

Tags: Fracking | Maryland | Natural Gas