Liquefied Natural Gas Plant – Coming to your community?
Imagine that your area’s gas utility announces that your neighborhood has been chosen as the site of a huge facility to process and store liquefied natural gas (LNG).
This is exactly what happened to Imani Kazana and her neighbors in Hyattsville, Maryland communities about five years ago. The company, Washington Gas Company (WGC), has proposed the facility to convert pipe-delivered methane into LNG. The proposed storage plant would hold one billion cubic feet of LNG. More than 3,000 people live within 2,000 feet of the site – located two blocks from a nursing home, and a few miles from the University of Maryland’s main campus at College Park with 37,000 students. But it’s also happening to many other communities across the country.
The choice facing the Public Service Commission is shown below: a residential neighborhood intact or a risky LNG facility with many adverse consequences for the Chillum communities future.
While the LNG itself is not flammable or explosive, natural gas leaks have caused accidents – some with fatalities — at numerous LNG storage and processing facilities. WGC’s proposed LNG plant would have a single tank for all billion cubic feet of liquefied gas.
For a satellite view of Chillum neighborhood and the proposed LNG site see the July 28 post.
For an example of the explosions that can occur when large amounts of natural gas are involved see this news video on the February 7, 2010 accident at the Kleen gas fired power plant in Middleton, Connecticut.
Our interview with Imani Kazana: Given her courage and persistence in the face of the odds, we decided to interview Ms. Kazana, a leader in the fight against the Chillum Road LNG proposal and current president of the Avonridge Community Development Corporation.
Ekos2: What are your principal concerns regarding the proposed LNG facility?
IK: Our fear is a big fire or explosion. If LNG leaks out of the storage tank or pipes and get into the air it can ignite or explode on-site or form a dangerous vapor cloud which can carry the same dangers to someplace off-site. A billion cubic feet can do a lot of damage. According to an analysis conducted by Dr. Ronald Koopman, a leading industry expert, thousands of people live close enough to the facility to be injured if there is a serious fire or explosion. County officials in charge of emergency response have testified that they would not be able to protect or rescue residents in the event of a fire.
Ekos2: Washington Gas Co. representatives continue to give assurances that LNG plants have an excellent safety record and that the plant will be secure and follow all federal regulations. Do you agree?
IK: They sound a lot like BP. But no one around here is buying it. If you check it out you’ll find there are a lot of accidents with LNG. (See CA Energy Commission LNG Site). For example, right here in Maryland a gas leak caused a serious explosion at the Cove Point LNG plant (1979). One worker was killed and another was badly injured. And it’s not just the WGC proposed plant that worries us; we are at the junction of 4 major transmission lines and we fear that the pipelines are old and deteriorating. To make it worse, WGC has absolutely no experience with LNG.
Ekos2: WGC says that the demand for LNG is high and that this plant is urgently needed.
IK: This is really bogus. Washington Gas first said they needed the plant (or else) by 2008, now they acknowledge that won’t need the plant until 2016. WGC admits that the plant would only supply gas on three to five of the coldest days in winter, once every 10-15 years, when demand for gas heating is extreme. However, a cost-benefit study sponsored by Prince Georges’ County shows that the need for extra gas can be handled at much lower cost (and more safely) by upgrading the gas pipelines. The MD Office of the Peoples’ Counsel (OPC) charged Washington Gas with overestimating the demand and buying excessive amounts of natural gas just to store – this causing higher gas rates for customers. The only purpose of this Chillum Road LNG proposal is to boost company profits while we pay higher gas bills and live with the risks of a serious accident.
IK: I’m optimistic. So far, we’ve gotten strong support for our battle from Prince George’s County and from nearly every town and city in the area – no one wants this LNG plant but Washington Gas. We have also been successful at making our points before the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC); recently, Washington Gas had to concede that it had not come up with a plan to control and respond to a worst case accident! Neither did BP! For the time being, WGC has withdrawn its attempt to include the LNG plant in its current proposal. (But, they’ll be back in November). Also, the hearing examiner ruled against WGC’s attempts to prevent residents from representing themselves in the proceedings.
Ekos2: So where do things stand now?
IK: WGC plans to present yet another five-year proposal and attempt to refute our arguments before the Public Service Commission in November. The new case will span over several months.
Ekos2: So how did you first get involved in this issue and what keeps you going?
Ekos2: What can people do to help stop Washington Gas Company?
IK: Here’s what’s most important:
1) Join with us to pressure the MD Public Service Commission to update its siting standards and procedures to fully protect residents, transit systems and other places where regular people would be present throughout this state.
2) Help us pressure federal agencies and legislators to update and improve siting evaluation standards and procedures to adequately protect all citizens from coast to coast.
3) Assist us with developing and utilizing today’s technologies to help educate as many people as possible. We need more energy efficiency, solar and wind power, not technologies that can explode in our communities.
4) Help assemble the financial resources which are necessary to support a struggle of this importance and magnitude. Please send a generous check care of:
Avonridge Community Development Corporation, 5406 20th Place , Hyattsville, MD 20782