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Gas export facility OK to spark more shale fracking

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo by Casey Junkins Dominion Resources operates the Natrium natural gas processing plant in Marshall County as part of the Blue Racer Midstream network.
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo by Casey Junkins
Dominion Resources operates the Natrium natural gas processing plant in Marshall County as part of the Blue Racer Midstream network.

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — Opponents and supporters of Dominion Resources $3.8 billion Cove Point liquefied natural gas exporting facility agree on at least one front: Approval of the project will lead to more Marcellus and Utica shale fracking.

On Tuesday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission officially authorized Dominion to site, construct and operate the Cove Point LNG center in Lusby, Md., with hopes of having it up and running by June 2017. FERC information shows Dominion may export up to 5.75 metric tons of LNG per year.

Dominion operates the Blue Racer Natrium complex in Marshall County, as well as other natural gas processing infrastructure in both Ohio and West Virginia, which would send material to Cove Point for export so the gas could be used in cities such as Tokyo and New Delhi.

The Cove Point project is separate from Dominion’s planned $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would ship natural gas from West Virginia for use in North Carolina via a 42-inch diameter line running 550 miles.

“We are pleased to receive this final approval that allows us to start constructing this important project that offers significant economic, environmental and geopolitical benefits,” said Dominion Energy President Diane Leopold. “This order is based on more than two years of thorough, exhaustive analysis by FERC along with numerous other federal and state agencies. It also reflects a robust public input process.”

Leopold said construction and operation of Cove Point will promote job growth throughout the region, while also helping to reduce the nation’s trade deficit by “billions of dollars annually.”

“Initially, Cove Point helped the United States overcome what was then an energy shortage. Now that our nation is developing a burgeoning surplus of natural gas, Cove Point can help send a small portion of that surplus to allied nations looking for stable supplies of clean energy, supporting economic development and replacing coal as a fuel,” she added.

However, numerous environmental groups said FERC should not have allowed Cove Point to proceed.

“We believe that FERC failed to take into account the cumulative impact that having a major export facility on the Chesapeake Bay will have on the watershed, by driving increased fracking activity in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, and the construction of new pipelines serving the facility that will crisscross the region,” said Sarah Rispin, general counsel for Potomac Riverkeeper Inc.

Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas campaign, said the approval will increase drilling and fracking, which she believes will promote the interests of “dirty polluters.”

“FERC’s authorization to render the Cove Point facility capable of processing and exporting LNG overseas is merely one part of the oil and gas industry’s aggressive push to expand fracking in the Marcellus Shale region – an agenda actively backed by the Obama Administration,” Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter added.

Leopold said Dominion officials will now ask the FERC for a “Notice to Proceed,” with plans to begin construction upon receiving notice. This process – from Dominion review through FERC’s notice – is expected to take several weeks.

“Dominion is dedicated to constructing a safe, secure, environmentally compatible and reliable export facility,” she added.

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