Suit on LNG terminal should be heard in Balto. County, judge rules

The Baltimore Sun

An Anne Arundel County judge ruled yesterday that Baltimore County was the best location for a lawsuit filed by the energy company that wants to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in Sparrows Point to be heard.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Paul F. Harris Jr. sided with attorneys for Baltimore County, who asked that the lawsuit to be transferred because it dealt with a county law and a county project.

"Where it really turns for me is with the citizens of Sparrows Point. ... Their property interests are going to be affected by this," Harris said, adding that he expected the courtroom in Baltimore County where the case will be heard to be "packed" with Dundalk-area residents concerned about the proposed energy project.

AES Corp., a global power-supply company, says Baltimore County officials have repeatedly tried to interfere with the federal approval process for energy projects, including when the County Council passed an amendment in February adding LNG terminals to a list of facilities that are not allowed in the county's Chesapeake Bay Critical Area.

In June, the Maryland Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays adopted the county's change.

The company then filed a lawsuit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court against Baltimore County government and the state environmental panel, contending the change was improperly approved.

In arguing for the case to be transferred, Jeffrey G. Cook, one of the Baltimore County attorneys, said that Sparrows Point residents follow the LNG proposal carefully, and that a county judge is better suited to evaluate a county law.

Brian M. Quinn, an attorney for AES, argued that the case is about "whether the Critical Areas Commission did its job."

Baltimore County officials say they are allowed to prohibit certain uses, such as LNG terminals, along the waterfront as part of the state and federally sanctioned Coastal Zone Management Act.

In January, attorneys for AES and the county are scheduled to argue the legality of Baltimore County's LNG restrictions before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

AES is appealing a ruling by a federal judge in Baltimore that upheld the restriction.

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