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Community Sustains Effort to Halt Unwanted Development
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by Imani Kazana | 2007

Citizens of Prince Georges County continue to fight Washington Gas’s plan to put a liquid natural gas storage facility in residential community.

Since late 2004, the Washington Gas Company has continued its efforts to gain approval to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing and storage plant in a densely populated area of West Hyattsville, located on the edge of Northeast DC.   For over two years, this utility has been filing applications with county and state agencies in search of permission for this project, which the community feels is inappropriate and unsafe. To date, every county zoning review of the proposed facility has considered the information and arguments from the opposition, and denied the applications. 

In its determination to put profits and its own corporate interests over the interests of the community, the gas company took the matter to the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County early in 2007. It filed a memorandum with this court in March, claiming that the county’s zoning bodies, including the District Council (a/k/a County Council), made errors in its rulings. The company is asking the court to overturn the denial, and place the matter solely in the hands of the state’s Public Service Commission—an agency that has demonstrated a bias in favor of approving the utility projects it reviews.

Attorneys for both the County Council and the City of Hyattsville filed memoranda in opposition in the court at the end of April in response to Washington Gas Company’s claims. These memoranda presented considerable case law supporting their positions that the denials were properly granted, being based on substantial evidence; that the District Council’s zoning authority was not preempted by federal or state law; and that the county’s zoning system is properly different from that of Montgomery County. 

On June 1, a hearing is scheduled during which time the court will decide whether or not to consider this case.  

Meanwhile, the community is gearing up to seek changes at all levels of government (county, state and federal) to establish improvements in the laws and regulations regarding how LNG facilities will be evaluated and approved in the future. 

No community should have to go through this confusion and struggle ever again.  Clearly there are communities from coast to coast, including Baltimore County, fighting proposals to bring potentially hazardous LNG facilities close to homes. Laws need to catch up with the rapidly changing utility industry to ensure that new facilities will be placed in remote areas as recommended by the U.S. General Accounting Office in 1979. We must work hard to make our government move faster on this; the lives and health of communities across this country are at stake.

 

Action Steps You Can Take

Between now and mid-June, it will be important to make every effort to block the reappointment of Joe Kelliher as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  Under his leadership during the past five years, FERC has exhibited a pro-utility posture, approving nearly every construction proposal put before the body. It did not approve proposals to modify procedures for establishing larger safety zones (exclusion zones), which would provide greater protection to the public.  A change is needed; having him as the head of FERC for another five years would be detrimental for communities. 

Each concerned person should urge his/her U. S. Senator to contact the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee requesting that Mr. Kelliher’s reappointment be blocked. The contact numbers are: Senator Barbara Mikulski at 202-224-4654 and Senator Benjamin Cardin at 202-224-4524.      

 

Imani Kazana  is a founding member of the Washington Gas Watch Alliance and president of the Avondale/North Woodridge Citizens’ Association.

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