Tuesday, May 05, 2009

AES Sparrows Point LNG Water Permit Denied By State

Maryland has denied the water permit for a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Sparrows Point in Baltimore County. The denial is due to insufficient information about the project’s affect on wetlands, waterways and water quality. The Maryland Department of the Environment denied the project its water quality certification, a necessary component for construction to begin on Virginia-based AES Corporation’s LNG terminal. AES has the right to seek review of the state’s decision through civil action filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

AAEA does not have a position on the terminal, but is working with Turner Station to mitigate negative environmental consequences on this local minority community. However, we have been extremely disappointed in how AES has treated this community.

MDE will reconsider its decision if AES provides all of the necessary information and completes the consultation requirements. State and local officials have opposed the project since AES announced its plans in 2006. The state has made several unsuccessful attempts to derail it with legislation that would either ban the project from environmentally sensitive areas or from within five miles of residences, but only federal regulators have the authority to site LNG terminals.

MDE’s concerns include the company’s plans to dredge 3.7 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments material from the Baltimore harbor to be processed and sold. MDE said the company has not signed a contract with any firm to purchase the material, and there is no certainty that the material will be sold. The possibility remains that the processed dredged material will be stockpiled at the terminal, which does not have adequate space or pollution control measures for the large volume of material that would be stockpiled. Dredging a 118-acre area about 45 feet deep would allow the company’s tankers to turn around in the basin next to the terminal.

MDE believes dredging deeper than 30 feet in the harbor would create the potential for 33 percent of the total water volume to be depleted of oxygen, eliminating a habitat for aquatic life. AES has proposed building the facility on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel shipyard, where ships would unload the super-chilled liquefied natural gas. Several rare, threatened and endangered species, including sea turtles, sea whales and the Maryland darter, could be affected by the dredging and stream crossings that AES has proposed, according to MDE.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted preliminary approval to the project in January, but development will not begin until AES meets the 169 requirements laid out by the agency. (Maryland Daily Record, 4/4/09)

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