- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009

BALTIMORE | Federal energy regulators have approved a proposal for a liquefied natural gas terminal near Baltimore despite a request from Maryland’s congressional delegation that the decision be delayed until President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted 4-1 Thursday to approve the project, with Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff casting the only vote against the project, said Tamara Young-Allen, a spokeswoman for the commission.

Arlington-based AES Corp. has proposed building the plant at the old Bethlehem Steel shipyard at Sparrows Point. The company also would build a pipeline to pump the gas to Pennsylvania.

The Maryland delegation wrote a letter to the commission on Tuesday asking it to delay a vote until after Mr. Obama takes office next week. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, has said an LNG facility at Sparrows Point would pose a security risk and threaten endangered Chesapeake Bay species. Others support the plant, saying it would create jobs and provide energy.

Tankers would deliver super-cooled liquefied natural gas to the terminal, where it would be converted back to its gaseous state and pumped to Pennsylvania through an 88-mile pipeline.

Commission Chairman Joseph Kelliher said he realized the decision was not popular, “but it is the correct decision, rooted in a voluminous record and based on sound science.”

Mr. Kelliher said the commission’s primary concern was assuring public safety, which was done by attaching 169 conditions to protect the public and mitigate any adverse environmental impact.

The plant, meanwhile, is expected to increase commercial marine traffic in the Bay up to 7 percent.

In response to concerns raised by commission staff and various landowners about the proposed pipeline route, the commission said it adopted route variations to address conflicts in congested areas through the northern portion of the pipeline route in Pennsylvania, where there has been significant residential growth.

State and local elected officials had strongly opposed the terminal, saying it would be a target for terrorists and put nearby residents at risk, noting the plant would be less than two miles from residential neighborhoods.

Nearly 85 percent of the pipeline would follow existing rights of way, further reducing the environmental harm, the commission said in an environmental impact statement issued in December by its staff.

The Coast Guard initially raised objections to the project, saying AES had not proposed adequate security measures, but the Coast Guard said in October that AES had satisfied its conditions.

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