Lusby, MD – Well before dusk they walked on the beach, holding hands and carrying signs. It was a national effort to halt expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure that gave local opponents of the Dominion Cove Point Liquefaction unit an opportunity to make a statement.

The peaceful demonstration on Cove Point Beach at the edge of the turbulent Chesapeake Bay was held Tuesday evening, Aug. 18 and attended by approximately 40 people. The multi-community demonstration, dubbed “Hands Across Our Land” focuses in on the concerns of locals about the potential dangers of pipelines, plants and drilling.

“This is a peaceful action, in solidarity with other communities who are also facing gas infrastructure intrusions,” stated Tracey Eno of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community. Eno stated in a memo to members of the local and regional press that the demonstration was being confined to the beach and would not breach Dominion property. Furthermore, Calvert County Sheriff’s Office liaison Captain Steve Jones had been briefed about the group’s plans. In fact, no law enforcement showed up in the private community of Cove Point Beach during the event.

“Hands Across Our Land” events were also scheduled to be held in communities in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina and Texas. Organizers, including Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, stated this week the peaceful demonstrations were “aimed at protecting rural communities.”

The Dominion Cove Point Export project was approved last September by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and construction began late last year. The $3.8 billion liquefaction unit will give the plant the capability of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) piped to the plant, processed and loaded onto tankers docked at the facility’s offshore pier.

While the Cove Point area is rustic, project opponent Craig Stevens said Dominion “exaggerated the rural characteristic of this area when it filed its application with FERC.” Stevens and other project foes have stated the population figures for those living in proximity of the plant make it the wrong place to put such a potentially dangerous facility. “The area is too populated,” said Stevens. “Where’s the Department of Homeland Security? Nobody’s going to oversee this.”

Stevens, a Pennsylvania native who has been a vocal opponent of the gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing—better known as “fracking”—noted that the push to stop fossil fuel expansion has won victories in New York and Maryland.

Both governors Cuomo and Hogan allowed moratoriums on fracking to go into effect in those states. Stevens, who tours the country speaking out against companies that use hydraulic fracturing to extract gas from the ground, claims fracking has poisoned the water supplies of several communities, including property that has been in his family for several generations.

According to the Dominion newsletter, Cove Point Connection, August edition, the construction project continues to progress. “At the terminal, we have begun to transition from grading and underground utilities to foundations and structures,” the newsletter stated. “The site is consistently changing, all reflective of the amount of work that is taking place on a daily basis. Work also has begun on the electric generating systems and the natural gas pre-treatment systems. Panels are being placed in the west end of the permanent sound barrier wall, which is similar in design and function to those erected along some highways. Several major foundations have been poured in preparation for major equipment deliveries next quarter. Installation of structural steel to support equipment and piping will be a critical activity. As of the end of July, about 400 cubic yards of concrete has been poured for the sound wall pedestals, 108 panels have been installed, and 67 precast posts and 16 sound wall grade beams have been set. The majority of the sound wall will be completed in the next few months. To support construction activities, three of the five electric tower cranes have been installed and are in operation. The remaining tower cranes will be in service before the end of the year.”

Dominion also noted they have taken steps to address concerns of commuters on Cove Point Road. “To reduce the amount of material being transferred to public roadways, internal traffic patterns have been modified and the gravel and paved roadways inside the terminal—which the trucks must cross before leaving the site—have been lengthened,” the newsletter stated. “This allows more material to be removed from the tires. In addition, a new wheel-wash unit, which includes additional high-pressure wash stations, was installed at the terminal. Before leaving the terminal construction road, each vehicle receives a complete wheel wash and is visually inspected. The One Cove Point team regularly monitors Cove Point Road and has increased the number and variety of street-cleaning equipment used to care for the road. The team also conducts focused meetings and safety stand-downs for truck drivers and supervisors to ensure expectations are understood and followed. Flaggers have been added to the construction entrance as an added safety measure.”

Cove Point Road isn’t the only road that has some motorists concerned. Noting that many work trucks involved in the project routinely cross the Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge on Route 4, Sheri Dudvisd of Lexington Park stated, “the bridge has always been a concern.” The parade of dump trucks is making the span even more vulnerable, Dudvisd indicated. Frequently crossing the bridge from St. Mary’s into Calvert to visit her twin sister, who resides in Chesapeake Ranch Estates or attend services at St. Paul United Methodist Church, Dudvisd admits she’s disheartened by the sight of the large cranes at Cove Point, which she can see from the bridge.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” she said. “Especially when you know what’s coming.”

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com