Opposition growing to LNG project near Baltimore

Published 27 May 2009

Virginia-based gas company AES wants to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in eastern Baltimore County; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission placed 169 conditions, mostly related to safety and environment, on its approval of the project; residents in the neighboring communities say the company is far from meeting these conditions

Here is another example of it is not easy to balance the requirements of security with those of prosperity and jobs. Opponents of a liquefied natural gas terminal in eastern Baltimore County stepped up their attacks Tuesday, hosting an appearance by a former CIA officer who said the $400 million project lacks critical safeguards and raises the specter of terrorism and piracy. The more I looked into this project, the more I thought the company building it does not care about the safety implications,” said Charles Faddis, who retired a year ago as chief of the CIA’s anti-terrorism unit and is a security consultant, based in Davidsonville, and a writer who has published two books on security issues.

Baltimore Sun’s Mary Gail Hare writes that Faddis spoke yesterday at a news conference, organized by the LNG Opposition Team, that was attended by several dozen residents, many of whom live near the Sparrows Point location where the terminal would be built. The team is battling AES Corp., the Arlington, Virginia-based gas company that plans to build the terminal and an 88-mile pipeline from it through Maryland to Pennsylvania.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave AES conditional approval in January, but it has yet to reply to the dozen appeals of that decision and demands for a rehearing. “We are still fighting this thing,” said Russell Donnelly, team leader, who organized the news conference at the Fleming Center, a community activities building in Turners Station. “We could lose more than we would ever gain from this project.”

While researching a book on liquefied natural gas, Faddis met Donnelly and volunteered to help his cause. Faddis said he visited the proposed site, near where the Patapsco River meets the Chesapeake Bay, and pored over hundreds of pages of documents.

FERC, which placed 169 conditions, mostly related to safety and environment, on its approval of the project, accepted Faddis’s testimony on securing the ships, the terminal, and the pipeline from the threat of terrorism. AES, which unsuccessfully opposed adding Faddis’ testimony to the record, said Tuesday that it would have no comment. “AES wants to build this facility without putting in meaningful safeguards to stand up to terrorist threats,” Faddis said.

In his talk yesterday, Faddis raised the issue of piracy, tying recent incidents on the Indian Ocean to what could happen on the Chesapeake Bay.

Tom Suneson, spokesman for the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, a union that supports AES, called that theory alarmist and far-fetched. “Pirates are found in lawless places, where there is a total breakdown in society,” Suneson said. “These people are raising alarms and creating fear where it does not belong. This project will bring work to the port and plenty of jobs. We need this gas and we need the tankers to bring it in.”

The possibility of terrorism or catastrophic accident outweighs the promise of jobs, said state Sen. Norman Stone Jr., who attended the meeting. Faddis’s expertise “lends credence to what we know could happen here,” Stone said.

Many questioned the location of a terminal so close to their communities. AES has consistently minimized the dangers of its project, said Alice Mason of Turners Station. “They are telling us we are expendable,” she said. “Meetings like this tell us this is not a done deal and we need to keep fighting.”