yet another cove point problem
February 27, 2014
Add this to the list of hazards from the proposed Cove Point plant for liquefying and exporting fracked gas: insufficient police protection.
At a hearing Tuesday before the state Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Roy P. Dyson said the Maryland Natural Resources Police “just don’t have the resources” to do the work they are supposed to do — including ensuring security at the Cove Point facility in Calvert County.
Dyson, a Democrat who represents Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles counties, has introduced a bill that would combine the state Natural Resources Police (NRP) with the state police, even though he knows it doesn’t have a lobster’s chance in a pot of passing. “But we’ve got to talk about this,” he said.
In addition to handling rockfish poachers and drunken boaters, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) police are charged with protecting Cove Point, where Dominion has plans to transform its mostly idle gas import plant into a $3.8 billion facility for liquefying and exporting fracked gas.
Said Dyson: “You know what else [the Natural Resources Police] have been given? They’ve been tasked as the homeland security folks out there. … Where I live we are about to create the largest LNG facility … in the United States of America. That is only 2 miles from a nuclear power plant, which by the way had to shut down twice last year … and less than 8 miles as the bird flies from [the] Naval Air Station [at] Patuxent River. What a vulnerable piece of property.”
He said the Department of Homeland Security gave money for the NRP “a couple years ago,” but some was allocated to the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office for police-car cameras and some went to the Charles County sheriff for a boat. “The point is … they are the ones that are tasked with protecting our homeland” despite devastating budget cuts. In 2009, the NRP had 425 officers, he said, but now it has 241 slots, of which 220 are filled. “That’s not acceptable. That’s not working,” he said.
And don’t expect the U.S. Coast Guard to pick up the slack either. At a meeting last year, he said, about increasing the number of tankers at Cove Point, “the Coast Guard told us they were not going to be able to add additional resources to protect that facility.” Although Coast Guard officials said the state would receive money, Dyson said he was concerned it would again be siphoned off for other departments.
Dyson said the DNR police can’t even keep up with routine calls. An officer at North Beach, for example, can’t quickly get to an incident at Point Lookout State Park, he said. Sen. J.B. Jennings, a Republican who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, agreed that the problem is severe, saying portions of Gunpowder Falls State Park in his district would also have to close in the summer “because DNR can’t police it.”
“We’ve got to do something,” Dyson said. The DNR reported 11 boating fatalities in 2012 “Who’s to say … if DNR officers — who are so good, so well-trained — … if they had been a little more available, maybe some of that wouldn’t have happened.”
Sen. Ronald Young, a Democrat representing Frederick and Washington counties, recommended a task force of NRP and state police, with Dyson at the head, to figure this out.
“I’m willing to do just about anything,” Dyson said.
Dyson has yet to take a position on Dominion’s plans for Cove Point. If he is willing to do “just about anything,” perhaps he would consider trying to slow the approval process for the export facility until we can assess the full environmental, health, security and economic effects on Marylanders from all the fracking, compressor stations, pipelines, forest disruption, methane emissions, air and noise pollution, tanker and truck traffic, and rising gas prices.
[An aide to Dyson took my questions on the phone and said the senator would get back to me. Then she asked for my home address, so when I get that form letter in June, I’ll give you an update. The senator has not yet replied to an email. ]