Project alarms Dundalk residents


Carolyn Jones, president of an umbrella group of community associations in Dundalk, is fired up. She's copying articles and government studies for residents about the pitfalls of having a liquefied natural gas terminal in eastern Baltimore County.

Activist Sharon Beasley is helping with the research. Lee McClelland has launched a petition drive.

These Dundalk residents are gearing up for a fight.

Less than a month after officials with Arlington, Va.-based AES Corp. announced that they want to build an LNG terminal on the site of the former Sparrows Point shipyard, activists and neighborhood groups are rallying together to figure out how best to defeat the proposed project.

"Communities all over the U.S. have been fighting and defeating these projects for a reason," Dan Krepp, a board member of the Greater Dundalk Alliance, told a group gathered last week at Dundalk High School to watch an anti-LNG video created by a California couple opposed to a similar project off the coast of Malibu. "This is another 'dump it on Dundalk project.' "

The proposal by AES calls for building a $400 million LNG terminal at Sparrows Point. Shipments of the super-chilled liquefied gas would arrive by tanker, and 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas would be pumped daily from the plant through an 85-mile pipeline to a distribution center in Pennsylvania.

Some Eastern Baltimore County residents say they are worried about the potential effects of a leak, about terrorist attacks on the tankers or terminal, about dwindling property values and about interference to recreational boating and fishing from the tankers.

McClelland, a retired iron worker who fishes and crabs in the area, and others have also said they're concerned about the environmental impact on Bear Creek from dredging the shipping channel so that the tankers can get to Sparrows Point.

Residents in Dundalk, especially those living in the Turners Station neighborhood, less than two miles from the proposed terminal, say the LNG facility shouldn't be so close to a heavily populated area.

"It's not that we want to be alarmist," Beasley said at the meeting. "This can't be 50 or 100 people out fighting. We need the entire community. ... And to fight a battle of this size is going to cost a lot of money."

Beasley and other leaders are trying to involve Harford County residents, who could be affected by the pipeline, and others who live along the Chesapeake Bay. They are collecting donations to show the documentary created by the California couple, LNG -- The Risks and The Danger, to a larger audience in the Dundalk area.

Aaron Samson, the director of LNG projects for AES, called the film "inflammatory."

"There's no science behind it," he said. "We're a little disappointed people aren't taking a more open-minded approach."

A community forum sponsored by AES was held Jan. 19 at the Community College of Baltimore County's Dundalk campus. No other community meetings have been scheduled by the company, said Linda J. McCarty, a spokeswoman for AES.

AES officials quietly met for months with residents and elected officials on Baltimore County's east side before announcing their plans last month.

AES officials said they will submit a pre-application for building the LNG facility to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in mid-March. The company expects to file the formal application by the end of the year, McCarty said.

LNG projects proposed in areas such as New England and California have met resistance from some residents and environmentalists, according to news reports.

There are six LNG facilities in the U.S., including the largest in the nation at Cove Point in Calvert County.

A 1979 leak at the Cove Point LNG terminal killed a worker. State officials found that the company that operated the facility, two miles from the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, "willfully" violated safety laws.

The LNG facility was closed from 1980 until 2003, according to news reports. The facility plans to expand its operations next year, news reports say.

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