Groups file LNG appeals, say decision was rushed

The Baltimore Sun

Nearly a dozen government, business and community groups in three states have asked federal energy regulators to rescind approval of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal at Sparrows Point in eastern Baltimore County and an 88-mile pipeline to Pennsylvania.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will have until March 16 to reply.

"The number of appeals is not at all unusual, given the interest in this issue," FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said yesterday. "All requests will be addressed. The commission can reaffirm its decision, modify it, or maybe the arguments are so compelling they will rehear the request."

Besides filings by Maryland's attorney general and Department of the Environment and Baltimore County's attorney, appeals were submitted by homeowners' associations, developers and environmental activists in Maryland and Pennsylvania and by Columbia Gas Transmission LLC of Fairfax, Va.

Most appeals contended that the FERC's Jan. 15 decision in favor of Virginia-based AES Corp. was rushed. Columbia Gas said the proposed pipeline would be too close to its pipelines.

"There are so many points of law that FERC just blew by in its haste to issue this permit," said Russell Donnelly, who represents LNG Opposition, an eastern Baltimore County neighborhood coalition. "They made legal and fatal errors by putting this project in the fast lane."

The commission gave AES permission to proceed with the project once the company meets 169 conditions based on environmental and safety concerns. AES declined to comment yesterday.

The appeals, which had to be filed by Tuesday, criticized the commission for ruling before critical environmental reviews by various state and federal agencies were completed.

Jon Wellinghoff, the only commissioner to dissent on the FERC's 4-1 decision, said AES failed to demonstrate the need for the project and did not adequately address adverse environmental impacts. He is now the FERC's chairman.

"Wellinghoff's appointment should work to the benefit of those who want reconsideration of this decision," said Bart Fisher, a Washington attorney who represents LNG Opposition. "There is a good chance the commission will rehear."

In addition to raising environmental issues in his appeal, Fisher discussed what he called the injustice of placing the project in the midst of some of Baltimore County's poorest neighborhoods, such as Turners Station.

"The company is doing this to populations living below the poverty line who don't have the means to fight back," he said. "FERC is an accomplice in the environmental lynching of these neighborhoods."

Should the FERC refuse to rehear the application, most opponents have indicated they will seek redress in the federal appeals court.

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