The Dominion energy company, which plans to build a 47-mile natural gas pipeline through Southern Maryland, has concluded that alternate routes proposed by a community group are inferior to the company's proposal.
The Calvert County group, Concerns About Pipeline Expansion (CAPE), presented Dominion with alternate routes last fall for a second pipeline from the company's Cove Point liquefied natural gas terminal through Calvert, Charles and Prince George's counties. CAPE said Dominion's route would undermine land preservation efforts and harm the environment.
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Daniel Donovan, a spokesman for Dominion, which is based in Virginia, said the company's review of those routes found that they are either "unconstructible" or would be unpalatable to the community.
One alternate route, for example, would bring the pipeline closer to the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. "I don't think the community wants that," Donovan said.
He said Dominion would need permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to study that route further, which could delay work by at least a year.
By the end of the month, Dominion plans to submit its analysis of the alternate routes to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will decide which route can be built. Participants expect the agency to hold public hearings this summer and make a decision by the end of the year.
George Stewart "Stovy" Brown, a St. Leonard resident and member of CAPE, said he is pleased that Dominion is studying the group's proposals, though he believes the company is only acting to placate the federal agency.
"I'm sure it's pro forma," he said. "But this is still something that FERC will look at. So we think this is a positive step."
The group says Dominion's preferred route would harm creeks, streams and wetlands; slice through farms that should be protected under land preservation programs; and deforest wooded areas.
The group says the pipeline could travel alongside the existing pipeline from Cove Point; follow Route 2/4; or run parallel to Constellation Energy's electrical power line corridor.
But Donovan said the group's proposal might not be buildable, though the company is still studying the issue.
"In our opinion, it's not as good as our preferred route even if it is proven to be constructible," he said. "It's more people, more homes, more wetlands, more forestry that would be affected."
In a letter to the Calvert County commissioners, CAPE said Dominion does not need the pipeline to transport natural gas. The group says the pipeline will be used mostly for storage.
"In other words, they plan a tank farm at Cove Point," the group wrote.
Donovan said that is not true and added that the facility expects to see a big increase in the number of tanker ship arrivals. After the expansion, he said, the estimated arrivals will double to between 160 and 200 a year. In 2004, there were about 75 arrivals.
CAPE members are planning a public meeting next month to provide residents with information about the status of the pipeline project and the federal approval process.