- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

NORTH POINT, Md. (AP) — Federal regulators visited eastern Baltimore County to get input on a proposal to locate a liquid-natural-gas terminal at the old Sparrows Point shipyard — and they got it.

A standing-room-only audience of residents, workers and politicians, including Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., told representatives from four federal agencies Monday that they feared the potential for explosions, terrorist threats and hazardous spills.

“You’ve heard the science; you’ve heard the facts,” said Mr. Ehrlich, addressing federal officials at the first of a series of public hearings on the project. “You’ve heard the potential environmental hazards and you’ve heard the inappropriate venue. I think the facts stand for themselves.”

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AES Corp., an Arlington energy company, has proposed building a $400 million shipping terminal and LNG processing plant on 60 acres at the old shipyard near the Key Bridge. The company also wants to build an 87-mile natural-gas pipeline at a cost of $200 million to $250 million that would transport LNG from the Sparrows Point plant through Harford County to southern Pennsylvania. LNG is natural gas that is chilled to 260 degrees below zero, condensing it into a liquid that is more efficient for shipping.

Under the proposal, heavy tankers would bring natural gas to the plant, where it would be processed and piped to Pennsylvania.

Opponents said they fear the plant would attract terrorists, deflate property values and could explode.

The environmental impact of dredging the harbor to accommodate the tankers could be catastrophic, they said.

“To bring almost daily shipments of liquefied natural gas up the Chesapeake Bay, under the Bay Bridge, into one of the busiest ports in the United States and into a major population center is just not reasonable and should not happen,” Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith said.

“This project makes no sense socially, economically or environmentally, and it endangers the public safety of thousands of individuals in Baltimore County.”

LNG, if spilled, can form a vapor cloud that could ignite in a fire so hot that firefighters might not be able to extinguish it, and would be forced to let it burn itself out.

County Fire Chief John Hohman said he has been asked repeatedly what his department would need to be adequately prepared to respond to an LNG disaster in the county.

“There is no way to prepare for that kind of disaster, and if we believe there is, we are simply fooling ourselves and our citizens,” he said.

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