Myersville vs Dominion: A David vs Goliath Story

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It’s been two years since the residents in and around the town of Myersville, Maryland, were informed that Dominion Transmission, Inc. (DTI) planned to construct and operate a 16,000 horsepower natural gas compressor station within the town limits of their bucolic community, and would be filing an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to begin the process.

Based in Richmond, Virginia, Dominion is a giant energy company, with annual revenues between $14.8 billion and $16 billion a year, and it is used to getting its way. Nevertheless, after concerned citizens learned about the what a gas compressor of that size in their community could mean, to public health, air and water quality, property values and more, many of them got together and formed Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community (MCRC) to fight back.

Dominion filed its application with FERC in February 2012. It also submitted a request that the Town of Myersville amend its Master Plan and grant zoning for the project. However, in August 2012, the Myersville Mayor and Town Council unanimously voted against amending the Town Master Plan, thus denying DTI the local permits it needs to build and operate the station on the parcel along Milt Summers Road.

Operating under the conviction that their activities should not be subject to local zoning laws, Dominion filed a lawsuit to challenge the decision by the Town of Myersville. They filed another lawsuit against the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), maintaining that the federal Natural Gas Act preempts Maryland’s air quality permitting laws, which require that a compressor station, as a source of significant emissions, comply with local siting requirements.

Despite the pending lawsuits, and over the objections of the residents of the area, in December 2012, FERC issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the compressor station, clearing one a big hurdle for DTI. Then only a few weeks ago, on May 16th, FERC denied all requests for rehearing on the certificate, which came from the Town of Myersville, Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community and several other parties, effectively shutting out any and all objections.

But the lawsuits are still important and relevant, because, even with the FERC certificate in hand, DTI needs an air quality permit from MDE. Through MDE, the State of Maryland continues to maintain that it will not issue the permit until DTI has obtained the required local zoning. And DTI continues to assert that FERC’s certification and the federal Natural Gas Act preempt the local regulations and the Clean Air Act, which is administered as the state level.

Where we are now:

The two lawsuits filed by DTI are pending.

1. Dominion Transmission Inc. v. Maryland Department of Environment in which DTI claims that the Maryland Department of the Environment erred when it denied an air quality permit. Oral arguments in the case were heard on May 14th.

This case pits Federal Preemption against Federally Backed States Rights and could have far-reaching implications. The court is expected to issue a decision in July.

2. Dominion Transmission Inc. v. Town of Myersville in which Dominion claims that the Town of Myersville erred in interpreting its own zoning laws when it denied DTI a zoning amendment. The court has yet to establish a date for the hearing.

While these lawsuits remain open, Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community is considering one more option. They can file an appeal of FERC’s ruling in court.

This is truly a David versus Goliath situation. FERC puts the onus on citizens to oppose a multibillion-dollar company and a governmental agency with little oversight. Dominion has seemingly boundless money and staff to squash local opposition, while average citizens scramble to comply with FERC procedures and tight deadlines, all while doing their own research on daunting list of serious and complex issues. These include impacts to air, water and land, complicated permitting processes, historic sites, the Endangered Species Act, geological analysis, questions of noise, safety, air dispersion analysis and more.

The deck is clearly stacked against the residents of our community.

This is a big issue for the community of Myersville. But it is not just a concern for the residents of the Myersville area. Similar infrastructure projects can be expected in other Maryland towns and rural communities, as a result of increased fracking in shale fields to the north and west. Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community maintains that a primary reason for the oversized compressor proposed for Myersville is not to fill orders for local customers as Dominion claims, but to move product to overseas markets via Dominion’s proposed liquefaction facilities at its existing Cove Point LNG Terminal in located Lusby, MD.

Find out more about this issue, and what you can do to help, by visiting the Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community website or our page on our Facebook page.


MORE INFORMATION:

SourceWatch has gathered a lot of interesting information about Dominion Transmission, Inc. here.

IN THE NEWS

Myersville residents to fight FERC decision with fundraising effort
Frederick News Post
Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Federal agency won’t rehear town’s gas compressor case
Myersville vows to keep fight going

Frederick News Post
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Disappointed in Myersville
ClimateHoward
May 16, 2013

Myersville waits as feds reconsider gas facility approval
Town also prepares for lawsuit challenging its rejection of compressor station

Gazette
Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Plan for gas compressor in Myersville hits roadblock
Frederick News Post
January 18, 2013

Myersville moves to hear compressor case
Commissioners have until Jan. 22 to submit request for second look

Frederick News Post
January 9, 2013

Myersville looks at second hearing on compressor
Leaders discuss options on natural gas project

Frederick News Post
January 3, 2013

Gas pressure and Myersville safety
Speaking out against a pipeline station

Gazette
Editorial
Thursday, September 13, 2012

Myersville council rejects gas compressor station application
Frederick News Post
August 2, 2012

Commission recommends denial of gas compressor
Public meeting set for July 10 on Dominion Transmission station

Frederick News Post
June 27, 2012

Myersville’s gas pains
Frederick News Post
Editorial
June 8, 2012