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Liquefied Natural Gas Plant – Coming to your community?

July 26, 2010

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.

LNG storage tanks in Baltimore

Homes in the Chillum community

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.

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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.

Imani Kazana, President Avonridge Community Development Corporation

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.

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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.

Ekos2: Do you feel like you’re winning the battle?

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.

Nursing home in the Chillum community, Hyattsville, MD

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?

IK: As I prepared to attend a town hall meeting to hear Washington Gas Co.’s proposal, I did some quick research over the internet and was shocked by what I read about the dangers of LNG.   From there I joined with two other local activists to form a coalition defense effort.  I am just too old and poor to run, so I must stand my ground and fight this corporate monster. God has kept me going so far.

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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

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. joyced permalink
    May 9, 2012 8:33 pm

    I can’t find anything about the proposal for a new energy plant in Brandywine which is supposed to be powered by gas. Anyone heard anything?

  2. Herb permalink
    July 29, 2010 9:30 pm

    I think of all that WGC wants to put there.??? It really seems silly to waste all of that nice space, centrally located to transportation and potential workforce potential … not to mention the possible tax benefits to the area to put something much more important in this location.

    How about, … and for that matter, why not…a plutonium waste reprocessing facility??? That would let the neighborhood have a lot of free heat and that, oh so delectable soft green glow??? If anyone is still ‘with me’ here??

    There are some recent historical ‘for instances’ to support this concept…
    When the (whoever it is that runs it, the … “theys” and … “thems”) influential state and local sports organizers wanted to build some stadiums (in the PG co. Largo area, and even 2! TWO stadiums in south Baltimore …. all of which were touted to bring such joyous development and benefits to those local areas … those actually poor unfortunate (and ONLY ALLEGEDLY rich-well-connected-smart-lawyer-mover-shakers) types in McLean Virginia and Potomac Maryland were just mortified, mortified I say, to have lost such another set of ripe plum showplaces, again, to undeserving, and unappreciative, neighborhoods.

    I find it just amazing that all of those rich lawyers and so on, were so disorganized and so incompetent as to lose those gems. In all fairness… please allow me to generously suggest that since areas like (well almost entirely?) P. G. Co. has been the beneficiaries of such wonderful industrial largess of trash transfer stations, sewage treatment plants, and other urban ‘smart’ development plans ….maybe This WGC LNG gas plant plan might be better suited … and more appreciated… in Betyhesda, McLean Va., Potomac Md., or in upper NW DC, just east of Rock Creek park? For that matter, it seems to me that there is a very large area in DC,
    2 actually, one located in a wide swath of little used land located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument; and the other in an grossly undeveloped area in the SW corner of the intersection of North Capitol St. and Michigan Aves.

    Now… don’t get “started” by reading this… It also makes sense to have the gas storage facility central to the WGC customer base, No?

  3. July 28, 2010 4:02 pm

    How wonderful that you are writing such integrative, informative and innovite Blogs. The world has needed you for a long time. You have always been ahead of your time. Now the world is catchng up. Congratulations.

    Dr. Dorree Lynn

  4. July 27, 2010 11:29 pm

    Thanks for publishing this interview, Hank.

    If you want to see the proposed site, look for this address in Satellite mode on maps.google.com

    2100 Chillum Road, Chillum, MD, 20782

    The site of the two former tanks is clearly visible, and it is scary how close this is to many residences, the Metro stop, childrens’ play fields, and apartment buildings which are all within 1000 feet.

    Since the natural gas would almost certainly be used for heating homes and for appliances like hot water heaters and kitchen stoves, I totally agree with the recommendation that everyone should change to more efficient appliances and add insulation to houses and other buildings to reduce the need. Check the EPA EnergyStar web site : http://www.energystar.gov/ and the Maryland Energy Administration web site for info on products, rebates, energy audits, etc.
    http://energy.state.md.us/appliancerebateprogram.asp
    http://energy.state.md.us/incentives/residential/HomePerformance.asp

    Of course, it also is important to reach out to the Public Service Commission and elected officials to work on stopping this particular project, and also reform the system so bad ideas like this aren’t even considered feasible.

    Thanks – and keep up the great work Imani!

    David O’Leary
    Sierra Club – Maryland Chapter

  5. Curtis Gray Jr. permalink
    July 27, 2010 9:19 pm

    I inspected gas lines and made repairs for this company. They did not follow there guidelines or the DOT guidelines for safety. All they were interested in was their bottomline . Safety of employees and public thrown out the window. Leaks do not have the same urgency in poor and predomonent minority neighborhoods. At times we were forced to falsify records.

    • Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
      July 27, 2010 9:55 pm

      We thank, Mr. Gray for speaking out on this issue so critical to the safety of workers and residents. We strongly recommend that all appropriate local, county, state and federal authorities investigate these allegations with the utmost urgency.

  6. July 27, 2010 10:36 am

    Imani Kazana is a true hero for standing up for her community against the political power of Washington Gas. She has done an excellent job of mobilizing support, and working with a coalition of activists and organizations.

    In addition to endangering Avondale and the surrounding community (which includes the West Hyattsville Metro Station), Washington Gas is proposing to place a dangerous new industrial facility in an area slated for transit-oriented mixed-use development planned to enhance the existing neighborhoods.

    The proposed site’s location is on the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River. If sited there, the LNG site would complicate if not doom current efforts to restore the River.

  7. Ted Cole permalink
    July 27, 2010 9:09 am

    Hank: There was a huge gas explosion in Toronto two summers ago that got little or no press here. The only way we knew about it is because Lorraine’s cousins live in that neighborhood (Downsview) and their house was seriously damaged. I don’t know if the storage facility is similar to the one proposed in Maryland, but it certainly highlights the danger of building these things in urban areas.

    Here’s a link with some detail.
    http://www.hazmatmag.com/issues/story.aspx?aid=1000083398

    • Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
      July 27, 2010 10:07 am

      Thanks for the input, Ted. In the case of the Toronto explosion, the gas was propane; however, the principle is the same. Why would such dangerous facilities be located in such close proximity to neighborhoods? This question is raised with additional detail in this article

Trackbacks

  1. The San Bruno Gas Explosion: National Transportation Safety Board lambasts PG&E « Ekos²
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  4. Photo of the Week: Bad Site for an Liquefied Natural Gas Plant « Ekos²

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