The next Board of Appeals hearing will be on March 13 from 7:00 – 10:15pm in the Charles County Government Building at 200 Baltimore St., La Plata, MD. Last night (February 13), the Board heard summations from both the AMP Creeks Council’s and Dominion’s lawyers, and then deliberated in open session. It was an intense discussion that had many in the audience feeling like they were on an extremely high-stakes roller coaster.
Ultimately the Board decided to ask their own lawyer and head planner to work together to craft some possible conditions that the Board could potentially decide to place on the project if they approve it. Neither the Board nor any lawyers will see those suggested conditions before the next hearing. The conditions are being crafted based on specific issues that the Board is concerned about, such as fire safety, road conditions, and emissions.
We hope to see you at the next hearing. For more project-specific information and a history of this hearing process, please scroll down.
Also, it is important to clarify that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) cannot move forward with an air quality permit (approval or denial) unless the Board grants this permit.
1/24/18 UPDATE: Dominion’s proposed Eastern Market Access Project, of which Charles Station compressor station is a part, has received at Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). It is the primary permit they need. You can view the issuance here.
The upside is that Dominion wanted to be permitted in September. Here it is, five months later, and they’re way off their timeline. That in itself is a victory. But it’s not enough.
We want you to know that AMP Creeks will fight FERC’s decision. We have a lawyer dedicated to working on that. We will continue to fight at the local level before the Charles County Board of Appeals. We are getting ready for the Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) draft air quality review to be released.
Dominion needs all of these permits to move forward. We need you to stay involved. Please come to the Board of Appeals hearing on Tuesday, February 13, from 7:00 – 10:15pm. Please keep in touch with us. If you know someone who should be on our email list to help them stay on top of new developments, ask them to subscribe by sending an email to email@example.com). If you are able to donate to support our efforts, please do so. (100% of your donation will go to our lawyers. We do not have paid staff or overhead to worry about.)
We’ll continue to send updates as we have them.
1/2/18 UPDATE: Compressor Station Hearing postponed to 2/13/18. On Friday Dominion requested an extension in the Charles Station compressor station case because they want more time to to do their homework. They asked for the next hearing date (January 23), but it turns out that there is something else on the agenda that night. Both their lawyer and ours agree that we need the entire three hour hearing, so it was decided that we will be heard on February 13 from 6:30 – 10:15. Please help us spread the word to folks who might be able to attend and who might have been planning to attend the previously scheduled January 9 hearing.
12/29 UPDATE: We have just received word that Dominion has requested a continuance of the Charles Station compressor station hearing.
Please help us do everything we can to let people know that they should check in before heading to the Charles County Government Building on January 9.
Dominion has asked for more time to answer Board of Appeals member James Martin’s questions and have the next hearing rescheduled to January 23 or later. This request has not been considered or granted yet. In fact, the Clerk of the Board and other folks in the Charles County government seem to on holiday vacation, so we can’t tell when the Board will even see this request and have no idea how they will respond to it.
Mr. Martin did, however, send his questions to Dominion — as promised at the last hearing — and ask that they be posted to BoardDocs. We similarly submitted a short memo in response to a debated question. That has not been posted either, nor has Dominion’s request (pictured below.)
For now, Happy New Year to you all! We wish you the very best in 2018, and look forward to celebrating your joys and successes!
THANK YOU to everyone who came out last night and is staying engaged in this fight! Pretty please put this on your calendar one last time. Having a packed room (more than 100 of us) for the whole three and a half hours definitely helped, and we need that again on the ninth!
Although the Board of Appeals had explicitly vowed to make a final decision last night, they were unable to do so. Instead, they have scheduled a SIXTH hearing to ask more questions and try to wrap their heads around Dominion’s awful proposal. Dominion wanted to begin construction on 11/1! They still don’t have their permits. This is a lot to feel good about. Please put this on your calendars and invite your friends and family. Here’s the Facebook event page.
Here are all the details!
When: Tuesday, January 9, 7pm – 10:15pm
Where: Commissioners Meeting Room of the Charles County Government Building at 200 Baltimore St., La Plata, MD
What Will Happen:
At part 6 of the zoning special exception hearing for Dominion’s proposed compressor station on New Marshall Hall/Barry’s Hill Rd. (Where Bryans Road meets Accokeek.), the Board of Appeals has pledged to make a decision in open session, although we’d expected the same thing to happen last night (on 12/12). This process remains our best chance to defeat the project. We still need your support.
Last night (12/12), the AMP Creeks Council resumed making our case. Our lawyer, Carroll Holzer, called several more subpoenaed personnel for questioning, and clearly established that Dominion’s emergency plan is essentially fictional. No emergency services personnel have seen or heard of it. For the second time, Bryans Road Volunteer Fire Department personnel refused to appear although they had been served.
Our witnesses testified about a range of subjects from the project’s incompatibility with Charles County’s zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan to safety concerns, environmental injustice, air quality, and more. Dominion seemed to be grasping for straws in their rebuttal and during questioning by the very skeptical Board (who is very clearly reading and listening to testimony given by all of us!)
In November, Charles County planners and Dominion gave their presentations about the project and application for a special exception at the first two hearings (in July and September). (Planning has recommended approval with conditions.) Our lawyer cross-examined Dominion’s witnesses. At the end of the September 12 hearing, our first two witnesses presented testimony and evidence.
On October 24, AMP Creeks called five witnesses who we subpoenaed. Our lawyer questioned the Director of Charles County Emergency Services, and the Chief and President of Accokeek Volunteer Fire Department about response plans in the event that there is a catastrophe at the proposed compressor station. (Dominion folks testified in September about an emergency plan document, trainings, etc.) It became clear that no such document exists. Further, the Chief and President of Bryans Road Volunteer Fire Department, who had also been subpoenaed, did not show up. AMP Creeks then resumed presenting witnesses. We heard from an expert data analyst who recently co-authored a report on compressor station pollutants, an economist, and a local farmer. Their testimony was compelling and turnout was amazing, especially considering that it was the third hearing on this project. We love this community!
On November 14, the hearing for public testimony was inspirational. Despite a rocky start when several union reps and Dominion folks gave cookie-cutter testimony, the rest of the hearing (about 2/3) was given over to the community in overwhelming opposition to the project. Folks brought an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience, and it felt great to be a part of such a passionate and articulate community. The fact that so many folks came out for a fourth hearing spoke volumes to the Board of Appeals.
Not sure what to say in your three minutes? Here are some suggestions.
- Dominion has asked for a special exception for the entire 50 acre parcel, not the 14 acre piece they are telling us they want to build on.
- Given that Dominion has a documented history of promising communities not to expand or build more infrastructure at compressor station sites, but then doing so very quickly, this is worrisome. Once the special exception is in place, approving more infrastructure would be quick and easy.
- Granting a special exception would be improper because Dominion should have applied for a zoning change in the Charles County Comprehensive Plan that was approved on July 12, 2016.
- Dominion and (in all likelihood) Charles County knew about this project before the Comprehensive Plan was approved, but failed to account for it.
- Even if Charles County wasn’t sure that Dominion wanted a new compressor station, Dominion knew that they should have applied for a zoning change in the Comprehensive Plan process that took five years to complete.
- In the 70s, they asked for a rezoning for a compressor station (to send gas the other direction through the pipeline). They went through a long process in and out of court before they were finally granted a special exception to build one. (But never did.) At the time, the Court ruled that they should have gone through the Comprehensive Plan process to get the special exception. Dominion knew better.
- The compressor station is inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
- As posted on the County’s website, “The current Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2016 by the Commissioners of Charles County to guide land use development in the County for the next 25 years. The land use plan contains policies addressing land use, growth management, rural/agricultural policies, water resources, public facilities, economic development strategies and environmental protection. The land use map identifies the type and density of development by land use district that is envisioned throughout the County.”
- There is no guarantee that any gas going through this compressor station will be used in Charles County.
- The gas will go to the proposed Mattawoman power plant and WGL. Part of WGL’s service area is in Charles County, but most is not.
- From June 12 WGL letter/testimony: “Washington Gas supports the Board’s approval of DCP’s Special Exception as requested. The facility proposed by Dominion is needed to bring additional natural gas supply into the service territory of Washington Gas. The new capacity will permit Washington Gas to meet the current and future firm natural gas requirements of its growing customer base in the southern and eastern portion of our system, including portions of Maryland and the District of Columbia.” Portions of Maryland does not mean Charles County. There is no data given nor any studies cited demonstrating a need for the gas.
- From January 6 Panda/Mattawoman testimony: “The Project is designed to provide natural gas firm transportation services in the Mid-Atlantic region to meet the increasing natural gas demand facing local natural gas distribution providers. The Project will also provide firm transportation service to Mattawoman’s 990 MW generating station being developed in southern Maryland.” Again, the Prince George’s County power plant is not necessarily serving Charles County.
- Charles County should order a QRA (quantitative risk assessment). This is the formal name for the safety study we need.
- Charles County Planning Staff recommends that a condition for approval of the special exception be “The effect of road flooding will be assessed with respect to emergency access to the proposed Natural Gas Compressor Station. No development Services permit will be issued without an adequate emergency access plan approved by the Department of the Emergency Services.” There’s no other way to access the site.
- Compressor stations are dangerous. Pollution, leakage, and risk of fire, explosion, and terrorist or vandals’ attacks make them very risky.
- No one will be onsite outside of the 40 hour work week.
- There has been no analysis of what might happen if there was an on-site emergency. There is no chance our local emergency personnel could deal with something of that magnitude.
- Compressor station accidents happen a lot and they’re scary.
- What if a fire spreads through the forest to them, not from them?
- The compressor station might create an environmental injustice issue.
- According to pg. 53 of FERC’s environmental assessment, “In Maryland, where the proposed Charles Station would be located, minorities comprise 42.4 percent of the total population. The percentage of minorities in the Maryland census tracts within 1 mile of the proposed Charles Station ranges from 54.3 to 66 percent. For context, the counties where these census tracts have minority populations of 79.6 and 51.3 percent, respectively. In both census tracts, the minority population is over 50 percent, and the census tract where the station would be sited has a minority population that is meaningfully greater than that of the county in which it is located (Census Tract 8501.01 in Charles County).”
- A narrow country road that regularly floods is a bad place to site a fracked gas compressor station. Especially when it provides the only access to the site.
- Charles County’s Staff Report says that “this area of Barry’s Hill Road is subject to frequent flooding and should be studied for a determination of necessary improvements. At the very least, an emergency access plan is needed for when the area is flooded. Additionally, as the road does not meet the ultimate road width, the dedication of additional right-of-way should be required with this project.” That’s just not good enough.
- Also from the staff report: “A condition study of Barry’s Hill Road will be performed to document the existing road condition. Any damages to the road during construction will be repaired to Charles County Standards at the completion of each Development Services permit. A $30,000 road damage bond will be added to the road / entrance portion of the construction bond amount at the time of Development Services Permit process.” $30,000 to fix a road is not enough.
- The compressor station would have a negative impact on property values and ruin the character of the area, including the Potomac Heritage Trail.
- To meet the minimum requirements of the special exception, the project must “not be detrimental to the use, peaceful enjoyment, economic value or development of surrounding properties or the general neighborhood.” The compressor station will not meet this requirement.
- We believe that, although the two 50′ exhaust stacks will not be visible from Mount Vernon, the 14 clear-cut illuminated acres will be.
- It is unfortunate that Mount Vernon has declined to oppose this project although we and others have asked them to repeatedly.
- The buildings are too tall and way out of character for the area.
- In their application, Dominion claims that “The compressor building and ancillary structures will all meet the height restrictions of the Rural Conservation Zone and have an appearance of a typical agricultural structure for that area.”
- The building-height limit in the Rural Conservation Zone is 36′. The exhaust stacks and very large building housing the compressor turbines will be 50′ tall.
- Good luck making a compressor station look like a SoMD farm.
- The driveway and parking areas will be paved. There should not be that extra impervious surface (in addition to the buildings) creating more runoff.
- Impacts during the projected nine months of construction should be considered. Dominion wants to get started in November.
- Chainsaws, heavy truck traffic, worker traffic (75 estimated trips per day), heavy hauls, etc. Nine months is a long time to endure that disruption.
- “A condition study of Barry’s Hill Road will be performed to document the existing road condition. Any damages to the road during construction will be repaired to Charles County Standards at the completion of each Development Services permit. A $30,000 road damage bond will be added to the road / entrance portion of the construction bond amount at the time of Development Services Permit process.”
- Dominion provides no direct utility service to the public in Maryland. They transmit gas. They do not provide end-point services.