Why won’t elected of­fi­cials stand up for pub­lic health against Do­min­ion?

The Calvert Recorder - - Community Forum -

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

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