Beyond Natural Gas

Campaign Goal: To prevent Maryland's government from allowing: hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to drill for natural gas; liquefication plants and pipelines to transport natural gas from other states; and a new liquefication and export plant at Dominion Energy's facility at Cove Point, MD.

Leaders: The Maryland Chapter's Priority Conservation Campaign "Beyond Natural Gas" is coordinated by Ruth Alice White, Natural Gas Committee Chair (ruth.folkfan[@] 


January 8, 2014; through a consent decree with the prior owners of the Cove Point facility, Sierra Club believes we have contractual authority to reject the proposal to convert the facility from imports to exports. Sierra Club members rallied in Annapolis as our lawyers began arguments in the case against gas exports from Dominion Energy's Cove Point facility, insisting on enforcement of a decades-old settlement agreement that was most recently updated in 2005. 

November 3 to December 3, 2013; the Clean Energy Crossroads Tour (a project of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, in collaboration with the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations), consisted of 9 rallies across the state.

May 3, 2013; The Sierra Club has joined Earthjustice, Patuxent Riverkeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper to file public comments and a motion to intervene in the proceedings of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) -- the body that will approve or reject the Cove Point export facility proposal. We lost our first court case but are appealing. 

Beyond Natural Gas Campaign: Background 

Hydraulic fracturing: often called "fracking," is a method of extracting natural gas (methane) from deep wells. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are injected under high pressure into each well. The pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well. For each "frack," 80-300 tons of chemicals may be used, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Where these chemicals go once they're in the wells, and the level of risk they pose to the environment and human health, is poorly understood. The type and amount of chemicals used varies among well sites, and the information is considered proprietary business information, so there is no requirement to discose it. Voluntary disclosure of this information is inadequate as a regulatory enforcement tool when our drinking water and ecosystems are threatened.

Below the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York lies the Marcellus Shale, a geologic formation that holds natural gas that could be extracted by fracking. Publicity in recent years has drawn attention to the environment and human health risks of fracking, but many of the impacts are not well understood. The hydraulic fracturing process is only one stage of this method of gas extraction. Other stages have their own risks and impacts: drilling, transportation of water and fluids, storage and treatment of contaminated waste water, and construction and operation of the associated gas infrastructure.

The Maryland Chapter is working to put a moratorium on fracking and the associated drilling and other activities until stricter regulations and permitting conditions are in place (including a better understanding of cumulative impacts). Fracking and drilling must be subject to strong national and state standards, with adequate monitoring and enforcement of regulations, that protect the environment, human health, and the safety of communities in the Marcellus Shale region and downstream. 
Roger Downs: The State of Fracking (October 16, 2013, Save the Pine Bush, Nov/Dec 2013)
Big Energy Campaigns to Open Maryland to Fracking (Fall 2012 "Chesapeake" article)
 Reuters Chesapeake Land Grab.pdf

Dominion Energy's Cove Point Natural Gas Facility

Dominion Energy is seeking approval to convert its Cove Point natural gas import facility into one of the nation’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities. This will necessitate transporting natural gas from the wells in other states (principally PA) to the facility by building liquefication plants and pipelines through Maryland; it will increase the traffic of huge and potentially explosive LNG tankers on the Chesapeake Bay; and the natural gas, along with the energy generated by it, will end up benefiting Asian consumers and Dominion Energy itself. The benefits to Maryland (if there are any at all) are vastly outweighed by the guaranteed environmental devastation.

The Cove Point LNG facility exists by virtue of the Cove Point Natural Heritage Trust, a beautiful coastal reserve created more than 20 years ago and placed under the stewardship of the Sierra Club and other trustees. The proposal to convert the disused facility from import to export will result in dumping billions of gallons of wastewater into this large and complex estuary, made up of a network of rivers, wetlands, and forests. Futhermore, the project will require construction of an additional compressor station in the Elklick Diabase Flatwoods Conservation site, which is home to rare species of plants, animals, and migratory birds. It also will require a huge construction site on the Patuxent River next to the historic Solomons Island, known for its beautiful waterfront.