Why won’t elected officials stand up for public health against Dominion?
Why has not one Calvert commissioner spoken out against the threat to the health of Calvert residents that could result from Dominion’s request to remove the limit on leaks of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) certificate approving Dominion Cove Point operations? Elimination of that limit would remove any constraint on Dominion to control VOC leaks that threaten the health of Calvert residents.
Instead, Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R), speaking on behalf of all five Calvert commissioners, opened the Oct. 2 PSC meeting with a statement unconditionally supporting Dominion’s request. He did not address potential health threats to Calvert residents, but he did repeat the company’s talking points: Dominion is well run, operates safely and has been a good neighbor.
I believe his statement was factually wrong. First, in my opinion, Dominion is not well run. In its 2013 application for PSC certification, Dominion engineers allegedly missed 90 percent of the parts in its Cove Point facility that can leak VOCs. As a result, it had to raise its VOC leak estimate from 2.53 tons per year (tpy) to 20.1 tpy and is asking the PSC to ignore those emissions.
Second, it has not been operating safely. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency fined Dominion $365,000 for 27 unreported emissions of ammonia. Each released more than 100 pounds of an ozone precursor that threatened residents with severe respiratory problems.
Third, although Dominion takes credit for providing local organizations grants of more than $1,399,876 over 15 years, that averages $93,325 a year for Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles counties. That paltry amount for a multibillion-dollar company is only a small fraction of costs that families incur in treating respiratory problems triggered by high ozone levels. Once Dominion begins operations in coming weeks, I believe respiratory problems can be expected to worsen.
For commissioners, opposing Dominion’s request should have been a no-brainer: Denial of Dominion’s request would have very little effect on the $40 billion of the growth it projects from 2007 through 2020. Furthermore, such rejection would not only not cause any job losses, but would probably require a few more persons to do monitoring. Alternatively, removing the PSC’s fugitive VOC limit would, in my opinion, prevent regulators from tracking dangerous VOC leaks and allow unlimited leaks of VOCs without notice or penalty.
Dominion was cavalier about counting equipment susceptible to VOC leaks and not reporting excessive ammonia emissions. Why would any public official assume it will be any better about limiting VOC leaks without any regulatory accountability? Why are elected officials in Calvert County more interested in parroting Dominion’s misleading talking points than in protecting their constituents?
Len Zuza, Solomons