xml:space="preserve">
About 25 local residents and environmentalists attended a state envrionmental hearing on a Texas company's plan to begin shipping millions of gallons of crude oil through its Fairfield terminal.
About 25 local residents and environmentalists attended a state envrionmental hearing on a Texas company's plan to begin shipping millions of gallons of crude oil through its Fairfield terminal. (Kenneth K. LAM / Baltimore Sun)

Heather Moyer, an 8-year resident of the Morrell Park neighborhood of Baltimore, is used to living near busy train tracks.

Still, the proposal by Houston-based Targa Resources to begin shipping millions of gallons of crude oil through its Fairfield terminal — via the tracks that pass through Moyer's neighborhood — is not one she is willing to accept without a fight.

Advertisement

"Thinking about this type of hazardous material coming through my neighborhood is terrifying to me," said Moyer, who works for the Sierra Club, during a public hearing Monday evening on the proposal. The hearing was hosted by the Maryland Department of the Environment at the Brooklyn branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. "How much is too much for one neighborhood? How much is too much for Baltimore?"

Moyer, 36, who expressed concern for the safety of her 4-year-old daughter, was one of about 25 local residents and environmentalists who attended the hearing, which was held at the request of the Environmental Integrity Project and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

All those who spoke were opposed to the project. They came from neighborhoods across the city and beyond. One man came from Towson.

Both environmental groups have expressed concern that the new facility would increase the threat of crude oil shipments to the Chesapeake Bay's already fragile ecosystem, since it would transfer crude oil from trains onto barges for transport to East Coast refineries.

City officials and industry leaders have said the shipment of crude oil is highly regulated and safe. Targa officials have declined to comment on the company's plans beyond the application.

Vincent DiCosimo, Targa's senior vice president for petroleum logistics, said the company takes safety seriously and has the record to prove it.

"Targa is just as interested in safety as you are," he told those in the room. "It's our livelihood."

He also said the facility would bring eight to 10 permanent "great family-wage positions." After the meeting, he said he didn't know what kinds of crude the company would move through the facility.

The state's environmental department has given the company's plans preliminary approval, but the public comment period is open through Jan. 7.

Jay Apperson, an MDE spokesman, said the public's comments on the proposal will be considered and addressed before a final decision is made.

That decision likely won't come "until February at the earliest," he said.

Jon Kenney, the climate action network's Maryland community organizer, asked the department representatives present at the hearing to carefully review Targa's calculations for expected emissions, and what emissions would be in the case of a disaster, before making a decision.

"Consider all of the repercussions," he said.

MDE representatives at the hearing did not respond to the public comments or answer questions at the hearing.

Advertisement

Targa's proposal has become a key target of local activists, just as national organizations and environmental watchdogs have stepped up their opposition to crude oil shipments across the country.

Concerns about the increase in rail shipments of certain types of volatile crude oil — including from the Bakken fields of North Dakota and the Canadian oil sands — have been raised across the country, driven in part by several disastrous train derailments and explosions.

Increases in crude oil shipments by barge also have raised concerns elsewhere in the country.

Steps have been taken to improve rail safety and decrease the likelihood of spills in barge accidents, but environmentalists say the efforts have fallen short and that more protections are needed for wildlife habitats and communities along rail lines.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network advertised Monday's hearing to its followers as "one of the most important opportunities to date to make our voices heard," and as a sign that "state officials are ready to listen to community concerns."

One of those concerns came from Clare Palmieri, 59, of the East Baltimore Midway neighborhood near Green Mount Cemetery, who said she doesn't want untreated volatile Bakken crude anywhere in Baltimore.

"It's not going to be good if one little wheel slips off the track," she said of a possible derailment.

Nobody wants crude oil comimg close to their neighborhood, "no matter how shabby," she said.

twitter.com/rectorsun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement