Maryland House lawmakers from Prince George's County introduced emergency legislation last Wednesday that would block the construction or operation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities that are located "unreasonably close" to heavily populated areas or public transportation centers.
The measure (HB 1613), if approved by the state's General Assembly, could nix the plans of Washington Gas, a local distribution company (LDC) serving metropolitan Washington DC and the surrounding region, to convert a facility in Chillum, MD, that is currently used for the distribution of natural gas into a storage site for LNG.
"We are still studying the legislation at this time," said Washington Gas spokesman Tim Sargeant. Asked if it could lead to the shelving of the company's plans for its Chillum LNG storage area, he noted, "That's what we're trying to determine."
State lawmakers said that the legislation, which has been referred to the House Rules Committee, arose as a result of Prince George's County residents' opposition to the project. "The local community has been very concerned about this facility. It doesn't seem to be the right place to put it," said Delegate Anne Healey, D-Prince George's County, one of the six sponsors of the bill.
"We're inside the Washington Beltway. It's an unwise thing to do. It's my hope that they [Washington Gas] will back off this site and move to another location," she said in a telephone interview with NGI.
The legislation also was prompted by concerns related to a significant increase in the number of gas leaks in a portion of the LDC's distribution system in Prince George's County, The Washington Post reported last Thursday. Following a house explosion in District Heights, MD, on March 28, Washington Gas acknowledged that the leaks were the result of the deterioration of seals located within mechanical couplings that connected sections of distribution mains and service lines. It then agreed to replace all gas service lines and repair defective mains.
The explosion has left residents of Chillum and other areas wary of the effort by Washington Gas to convert a plant that houses distribution lines into an LNG storage area, the newspaper said.
The legislation also would require the Maryland Public Service Commission to periodically inspect LNG facilities to ensure compliance with state law. The only existing LNG facility in the state is the Dominion Cove Point import terminal on the eastern shore of Maryland.
In addition, it would make an LNG operator who fails to respond quickly to a report of a natural gas smell liable for any injury, death or property damages caused as a result of an explosion or natural gas leak "that could have been prevented if the public service company had responded immediately."
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