Washington, DC – Six environmental groups have banded together to protest the recent action of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that gave approval to Dominion to start its controversial Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export project.

According to a press release from Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), the environmental law organization Earthjustice filed a motion for rehearing with FERC, demanding the federal agency withdraw its approval of the controversial project.

Earthjustice filed the motion on behalf of CCAN, the Sierra Club and three Riverkeeper organizations—Patuxent, Potomac and Lower Susquehanna.

The press release stated the groups also filed a motion for a stay, asking FERC to halt construction of a liquefaction unit at Dominion’s Cove Point LNG Plant in Lusby.

“In neglecting to prepare a thorough review of the environmental impacts of Dominion’s controversial project, FERC is prioritizing the desires of a powerful company over the health and safety of the people of Calvert County, Maryland and communities throughout the Marcellus Shale region,” Earthjustice attorney Jocelyn D’Ambrosio stated in the press release.

According to FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen, the filings by the group of interveners were received Wednesday, Oct. 15, well within the 30-day window for requesting a rehearing. The commission granted approval of the Cove Point project Monday, Sept. 29. Young-Allen said FERC has 30 days to consider the request and could issue a “tolling order” should the panel decide it needs more time to review the petitions.

“Sometimes they [FERC] let the clock run out,” said Young-Allen, who indicated that action would be tantamount to a denial for consideration of a rehearing. Should the commission reaffirm its prior decision, the interveners could then take their case to the Federal Appeals Court.

“The public deserves far more from the people tasked with regulating the energy industry,” D’Ambrosio stated. “We are demanding that FERC go back and do the necessary review of this project and order Dominion to halt construction in the meantime. If they [FERC] refuse, they should prepare to defend their reasons in federal court.”

“The request by Earth Reports and Sierra Club to stop the construction of the Cove Point LNG Export project pending a review of FERC’s approval raises no new issues,” Dominion spokesman Karl Neddenien stated. “The FERC looked at every single one of these issues in its thorough environmental assessment and final order, approving the project as in the public interest.”

Meanwhile, two components of the Cove Point project were the subject of action items before the Calvert County Planning Commission Oct. 15.

According to a Department of Community Planning and Building memo to the planning commission staff reviewed Dominion’s grading permit application for the project’s offsite area, which involves the disturbance of a non-tidal wetland area. Specifically, the offsite project will disturb 7,333 square feet of non-tidal wetlands and 18,706 square feet of wetland buffer. The offsite area project received approvals from the Maryland Department of Environment’s Water Management Administration (MDEWMA) this past summer, and has also been reviewed and approved by several other state and federal agencies.

A grading permit application for the Dominion Cove Point LNG Expansion Project Terminal on-site was also considered for approval. Approvals were also received from MDEWMA and various other agencies this summer. The on-site project proposes the disturbance to 2,800 square feet of non-tidal wetlands and 20,500 square feet to the 50-foot wetland buffer. No opposition was voiced at the planning commission meeting. Both requests were granted on unanimous votes, with two planning commission members—Vice Chairman Mike Phipps and William Glascock—recusing themselves on the issues.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com