Maryland's second-highest court upheld Friday a judge's ruling that the Cove Point gas facility can be converted to be used for exports, siding with the company that owns the plant and against an environmental group.
The Sierra Club argued in court that a 2005 agreement between the organization and the plant's owner, Dominion, prevents it from being used as a base for sending liquefied natural gas abroad. Dominion disagreed, arguing that while the agreement did not explicitly mention exports, it did not preclude them.
A Calvert County Circuit Court judge agreed with the company last year, as did a panel of judges from the Court of Special Appeals.
"The activities Dominion wishes to perform now are permitted by the 2005 Agreement," Judge Michele D. Hotten wrote in the opinion issued Friday.
Chet Wade, a spokesman for Dominion, said, "We're pleased that the court agreed with our interpretation of the contract." He added that the company is looking forward to moving ahead with the project. An attorney for The Sierra Club could not be reached for comment.
Environmentalists have been battling against the project, arguing that it would damage the Chesapeake Bay and encourage fracking, a gas drilling technique that its opponents have linked to polluted ground water.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the final say over the project, but protesters came to Baltimore to protest the gas export idea last week, hoping to pressure the Maryland Public Service Commission to block a power plant proposed as part of the plan.
The appeals court judges wrote that any environmental effects of the plan should not be overlooked, but that it was not their responsibility to consider them.