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Officials Vow to Continue With Development

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2004; Page SM02

Will this week's arson at Hunters Brooke have any impact on development in Charles County?

"The answer is simple," said commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D-White Plains). "No. It will have no effect."

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County officials said this week that they had no plans to reconsider their approval of the Hunters Brooke and Falcon Ridge subdivisions off Route 225 in western Charles. Developers of the two projects plan to build 503 homes on a 308-acre swath near the environmentally sensitive Araby Bog.

"What has been approved is approved," said Commissioner Al Smith (R-Waldorf). "As tragic as this event is, I don't see that it's going to cause us to not continue with development."

Smith said it would send a dangerous message if criminals perceived that the county changed policies because of the arson.

County officials said they had a message of their own for whoever set the fires.

"We think it's a despicable, abhorrent, cowardly and outrageous act," Smith said. "The perpetrators will be found and brought to justice."

The fires that destroyed 10 new homes and damaged 16 others caused about $10 million in damage. It may be the biggest case of residential arson in Maryland history.

FERC Expands Powers

In a little-noticed move during recent congressional budget negotiations, conferees inserted language into the big federal appropriations bill stating that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can preempt states on the permitting and siting of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities.

That limits or eliminates the ability of states and local communities to control these projects, according to a statement released by Public Citizen, a Washington-based consumer advocacy organization.

The new conference language states: "The Natural Gas Act of 1938 clearly preempts [s]tates on matters of approving and siting natural gas infrastructure. . . . The nation will need to expand its LNG infrastructure over the decades."

Companies are proposing to build 19 LNG marine terminal facilities throughout the United States in the next few years. There are now four LNG marine terminals in the United States, including the Dominion energy company's terminal and storage plant on the Chesapeake Bay at Cove Point in Calvert County.

Around the nation, local communities have been leery of LNG facilities because of security reasons. When the Cove Point facility was reactivated recently, the Coast Guard and other agencies imposed shipping restrictions on it. The LNG tankers and marine terminals can be significant terrorist targets because of the enormous quantities of fuel carried by the tankers.

Gift for St. Mary's College

Mercantile Southern Maryland Bank recently pledged $12,500 to St. Mary's College of Maryland. The money, which will be paid in $2,500 installments over the next five years, will fund scholarships for Charles County students attending the college.

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