Guest blog by Ann M. Nau, Vice President, Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community
In talking about ‘fracking’, oftentimes the industry tries to limit the discussion to the actual process of injecting liquid at high pressure into rock formations to extract gas. However, there is a broad network of infrastructure that is required to support that process, including storage facilities, compressor stations, metering stations, processing facilities, gathering lines, and intrastate and interstate pipelines. And regulatory oversight of those components falls to various local and federal agencies, if it is regulated at all. Very generally speaking, activities related to drilling fall under state authority while the federal government has oversight of interstate pipelines and associated facilities. And what that means for towns like Myersville is that while there is currently no fracking in Maryland, the natural gas boom has already negatively affected our community.
Myersville is a picturesque rural community of approximately 1,600, nestled in the Middletown Valley of Frederick County, MD about 40 miles north of Washington, DC. It is a place where families have lived for generations and where newcomers have settled, seeking the serenity and closeness a small town offers.
And it is here, approximately 1 mile from our only elementary school that Dominion Transmission (DTI), a subsidiary of Virginia-based power giant Dominion, sought to build and operate a 16 thousand horsepower natural gas compressor station to move gas along its interstate pipeline. This station would annually release 23.5 tons per year of Nitrogen Oxides in addition to particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and green houses gases.
The citizens of Myersville were overwhelming opposed to this plan. We held rallies, wrote over 600 opposition letters, hired an attorney, and formed a community group.
In August of 2012, the Town Council unanimously voted against Dominion’s application to amend the Town Master Plan, finding among others things that the project posed a risk to the citizens. And by doing so, the Town denied Dominion the necessary local zoning approval required by Maryland Department of the Environment to issue an air permit. Despite all of this, in December of 2012, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC authorized the project. Armed with that certificate, DTI sued both the Town of Myersville and MDE, using the power of federal preemption granted in the Natural Gas Act to override local and state zoning.
FERC is an independent regulatory agency within the US Department of Energy with jurisdiction over interstate electricity sales, natural gas pricing, and oil pipeline rates. It also reviews and authorizes liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, interstate natural gas pipelines and hydropower projects. The Commission is composed of five embers, or Commissioners, who are appointed by the President and
In spite of our best efforts, as you enter Myersville, you are greeted by Dominion’s toxic-emission spewing gas compressor station. And while Myersville may be one of the first communities in Maryland impacted by build out from fracking, I can assure you it will not be the last. Already, our friends in Cove Point, MD are battling the LNG export plant and Williams Transco seeks approval to increase compression capabilities in Howard County. In fact, an industry group states that to support natural gas drilling nationally, they will need PER YEAR for the next 25 years1:
• 850 miles of new natural gas transmission mainlines,
• Over 800 miles of new laterals to and from power plants, processing facilities and storage fields
• 14,000 miles of new gas gathering lines
• More than 580,000 hp for pipelines and gathering compression
To put that into perspective, here is a 2008 map of natural gas pipelines and compressor stations.
So when we discuss fracking, we need to consider all the impacts associated with it– from drilling rigs, compressor stations, pipelines, processing plants, storage facilities and export plants. We must not allow separate regulatory schemes to divide and conquer us. Because what happens to our neighbors in West Virginia, in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, in Western MD, in Myersville, in Howard County, in Lusby, affects all us.
Ann M. Nau is the Vice President of the Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community, http://mcrcmd.org/.