Courtroom update on Cove Point: the fight continues

I’m writing with an update for southern Marylanders and all of you who joined our fight — and continue to fight — to stop Dominion’s disastrous fracked-gas export facility at Cove Point.

As you may remember, in April the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in our lawsuit challenging federal approval of Dominion’s gas export facility, which Earthjustice filed on behalf of CCAN, the Patuxent Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club.

We argued that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission broke the law in several ways: 1) by failing to consider the direct impacts of the project on the safety of local residents and on the Chesapeake Bay; and 2) by failing to consider the “upstream” and “downstream” air, water, and climate impacts that would be triggered by fracking, piping, compressing, liquefying, and burning the exported gas.

Unfortunately, the court recently gave FERC a free pass. The three judges decided FERC did enough to consider the public safety threat on one hand. On the other hand, they decided that the buck stops with the Department of Energy, not FERC, to consider the full climate and environmental harm of exporting fracked gas, a decision that our lawyers say makes no sense under federal environmental law.

With this ruling, the court failed to protect the citizens of Calvert County, and — at best — further delayed much-needed protections for our climate and for communities from Dimock, Pennsylvania to Myersville, Maryland and everywhere in between that could see new air and water pollution from gas extracted and piped to Cove Point.

But our fight will continue.

First, the judges left the door open to challenge the Department of Energy. The judges did not rule on our core argument that the climate impact of exporting nearly a billion cubic feet of gas every day for 20 years must be weighed by the federal government. They punted the claim to DOE, and we are moving forward. The Sierra Club recently filed a lawsuit challenging DOE. CCAN is actively exploring ways to help with this legal effort, and to finally hold the federal government accountable for fully assessing the climate harm of gas export facilities.

Meanwhile, right now, you can join our friends at We Are Cove Point in urging Governor Larry Hogan to order an independent safety study for the Cove Point export facility. No government agency has yet conducted a so-called “Quantitative Risk Assessment” of the dangers of a chemical spill or explosion from Dominion’s refinery and export terminal, which sits in a densely populated residential neighborhood. Sign the petition now to join We Are Cove Point in asking, “Where’s our safety study?”

We’re determined to keep fighting Dominion’s polluting and dangerous facility, and to support southern Marylanders who continue the on-the-ground campaign. We’ll keep you updated on ways you can continue to help, as we work to spread clean solar and wind power to every Maryland community and to stop fracked-gas infrastructure in its tracks.