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Maryland Bill to Block Washington Gas LNG Storage Facility Withdrawn

Legislation that sought to block Washington Gas from converting facilities in the Washington, DC, suburb of Chillum, MD, to a liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility was withdrawn in the Maryland House of Delegates last week.

Delegate Anne Healey, D-Prince George's County, withdrew the bill (HB 1613) less than one week after she and five other sponsors introduced the emergency measure (see NGI, April 11). The decision was made based on letters from the state attorney general's office and Maryland's National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which stated that Washington Gas' proposal to build the LNG facility was subject to local zoning ordinances and that legislation was not necessary at this time.

"This issue can now be addressed on the local level, as it should be," said Healey. She said she expected the Washington Gas project to be wrapped up in litigation for some time.

Maryland delegates from Prince George's County and adjoining areas, however, will continue to monitor the situation and will consider introducing the legislation in the next General Assembly, if needed, Healey said.

In introducing the emergency legislation last week, state lawmakers said the bill arose as a result of Prince George's County residents' opposition to the project. The legislation also was prompted by concerns related to a significant increase in the number of natural gas leaks in a portion of Washington Gas' distribution system in the county.

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 agreed to replace all gas service lines and repair defective mains.

The explosion 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.

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