Here’s everything you need to fight Dominion’s proposed compressor station on New Marshall Hall/Barry’s Hill Rd. at the upcoming Charles County zoning Special Exception hearing.
It is the most critical local step in Dominion’s permitting process.
When: Tuesday, July 11, at 7PM
Where: Commissioners Meeting Room of the Charles County Government Building in La Plata, MD
What Will Happen: Charles County planners and Dominion will give a presentation about the project and application for a special exception. (Planning has recommended approval with conditions.) Our lawyer will cross examine witnesses and present testimony and evidence. The County and/or Dominion might choose to cross-examine our witnesses. Next members of the public will have a chance to speak. Folks will probably be allotted three minutes each. Please write down your testimony and practice ahead of time — three minutes goes fast! (Help with what to say will be listed below soon!)
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.