Court refuses to stop LNG plant construction

Court refuses to halt construction of challenged liquefied natural gas export facility in southern Maryland.

A federal appeals court has refused to halt construction of a liquefied natural gas export facility in southern Maryland while it weighs a legal challenge to the project's approval.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied an emergency motion for a construction stay on the Dominion Cove Point LNG project, saying opponents had not met the strict legal requirements for such action, nor given "strongly compelling" reasons for doing so.

Environmental and local citizen groups had asked the court to stop construction while their lawsuit proceeds over the Dominion facility's approval last year by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They contended that local residents are suffering from noise, dust and heavy truck traffic related to the work, and that some are trying to sell their homes because of the disruption, plus fears for their safety once the facility is operational.

The motion was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Patuxent Riverkeeper,  the Maryland Sierra Club and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The environmental and citizen groups had filed suit last month contending that FERC violated federal law by failing to consider how construction of the facility would pollute the air and water and contribute to global climate change. An Earthjustice spokesman said the court has yet to rule on the merits of that challenge, and opponents will continue to pursue the lawsuit.

Dominion has said it was confident the court would deny the bid to halt construction and ultimately uphold the project's federal approval.  FERC had concluded that the project poses no significant risks to nearby residents' safety and no major environmental impacts.

Construction continues on schedule, a Dominion spokesman said. Dominion, based in Richmond, Va., has said it expects to finish work on the $3.8 billion project by 2017 and begin liquefying natural gas piped to the site. The super-cooled gas would be loaded on tankers in the Chesapeake Bay and exported to customers in Asia. 

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