Most of the experiences I have had in the Patuxent High School auditorium I hope to lock away in my memory banks forever. Last Saturday's contentious Public Service Commission hearing on the Dominion Cove Point expansion won't be one of them. The real irony of the day was that most of the folks who attended the hearing, whether they were nearby residents wearing "No to Cove Point" stickers or union members who were wearing "Yes to Cove Point" stickers, were all there to advocate for the same thing — the health, safety, and financial security of their own families.
Anyone who doesn't believe that securing a good job with benefits is a matter of health and safety for a union family has never faced the prospect of unemployment. Likewise, anyone who doesn't understand that converting a nearly-dormant liquefied natural gas import facility to an active LNG export terminal is a serious matter of health and safety for nearby residents has not done their homework.
Union members and residents found themselves at cross purposes on Saturday for one reason only — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seems to be disregarding one of its major obligations as the sole siting authority for LNG terminals in the United States. Under an inter-agency agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation, FERC is supposed to consider remote siting requirements for LNG terminals. Cove Point is not a remote site by any stretch of the imagination. The Dominion Cove Point terminal is within 4,500 feet of approximately 360 residences and adjacent to a public park. Nearly every other LNG export application waiting for FERC's attention proposes sites far less populated than Cove Point.
In fact, there is a Congressional Research Service report that roundly criticizes FERC for its failure to establish remote siting requirements. Interestingly, the CRS report references federal legislation championed by our own Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski that would have stripped FERC of its sole siting authority. Our senators were extremely concerned when the agency sought to approve an LNG import terminal at Sparrows Point because of the inherent risks to nearby residents.
Federal energy regulatory policy that pits hard working, responsible U.S. families against other hard working, responsible U.S. families is not good policy. It is policy that dishonors the democratic principles that all American citizens are supposed to stand for. I am convinced that our federal representatives (Sens. Cardin and Mikulski and Rep. Steny Hoyer) understand that this awful controversy that has so many families under so much stress is the result of a failure of leadership and responsibility on the federal level. That is why they were nowhere to be found on Saturday. If this was good federal policy, wouldn't they have been on scene to take credit for it?
Sue Allison, Lusby
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