day of reckoning

May 15, 2014


I’m back in front of the courthouse doors with Steve Bruns, Joanna LaFollette and Sweet Dee Frostbutter.//photo by Ann Marie Nau

As penalty for disturbing the peace and blocking safe passage at the courthouse in Frederick on an icy day in March, Steve Bruns, Joanna LaFollette, Sweet Dee Frostbutter and I — aka the Frederick 4 – must perform 24 hours of community service at a nonprofit of our choice and be on our best behavior for a year. (That would be the state’s definition of best behavior.)

Our action was one of several protests opposing Virginia-based Dominion Resources’ expansion plans in Maryland, including a compressor station in Myersville and a fracked-gas liquefaction and export facility at Cove Point in Lusby.

We know who is really disturbing the peace and hindering safe passage through our communities. Not the Frederick 4 or the Cumberland 4 or the Calvert 6.

Just hours after our sentencing, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its 242-page environmental review for Cove Point. Despite pages of discussion about deflagration (when a vapor cloud “encounters” an ignition source) and fireballs, of fragments flying through the sky “at high velocities” and shock waves, of radiant heat and unconfined ethane and propane clouds, FERC has concluded that all this will be taken care of. Not to worry. 

In addition, FERC apparently agrees with Dominion that fracking has nothing to do with this project. Because Dominion can’t be sure where and how many wells will be drilled, all this fretting about fracking is mere conjecture: “In addition, specific details, including the timing, location, and number of additional production wells that may or may not be drilled, are speculative. As such, impacts associated with the production of natural gas that may be sourced from various locations and methods for export by the Project are not reasonably foreseeable or quantifiable.” 

FERC also says methane’s global warming potential is 25 times that of carbon dioxide. Wrong. That compares the two greenhouse gases over 100 years, an arbitrary time frame, particularly given our climate emergency. Methane’s toll is 84 times worse over 20 years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But FERC is not considering this project’s full climate harm from fracking, piping, compressing, spilling, exploding and shipping anyway. (The latest fracked gas pipeline would run through Maryland, just east of Cumberland. The lastest spillage has oil flowing through the streets of Los Angeles.)

Also deemed speculative was the “No Action Alternative,” because FERC has to consider that only if it does the most thorough type of review. FERC has decided this lesser review is sufficient for the Cove Point project.

We get one public hearing to object to this report: Saturday, May 31, 1 – 6 p.m., Patuxent High School, 12485 Southern Connector Boulevard, Lusby.

Last week, the Obama administration released the latest National Climate Assessment, which shows that climate change is happening here and now, not just in far off lands and in the future. Although that has begun as well. More deluges, droughts, heat waves, wildfires and rising seas are upon us. Scientists also released a report showing that the West Antarctic ice sheet has begun an inexorable retreat. The cause of all this chaos: our insistence on exhuming and igniting fossil fuels to power our economy. Which was fine (for some) — until we realized it wasn’t.

The Frederick 4’s action was “part of our continuing protest against the accelerating destruction of our environment by the natural gas industry,” said Steve Bruns, one of my co-conspirators. “We protest the silence of our government officials at every level. It’s time that all of them, from the local, state and national levels, spoke out and put a stop to the pollution of our air and water, the ubiquitous fire and explosion hazards, the sinkholes, and the earthquakes, which have all resulted from gas fracturing and transport. … We ask that all parties join us in the fight for clean air, clean water, and safe, renewable energy in Maryland.”

Although FERC repeats this fallacy in its report, fracking is not a bridge fuel. Once the frack pads and wells, pipelines, compressor stations and export facilities are in place, fracked gas will be an endless highway to an environmental, health and climate disaster. The path of extreme energy extraction is part of the business-as-usual strategy. It’s utterly inadequate. 

Before our sentencing, we asked about serving our time with, say, Sierra Club, Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community, HoCo Climate Change or Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). Our CCAN-provided lawyer, John Doud, said not to push it. So be it. Better, perhaps, to work with an unrelated group. We can learn of their struggle. And tell them of ours. I’m thinking recruitment.  

–elisabeth hoffman


2 Responses to “day of reckoning”

  1. As if Dominion Cove Point has no connection with fracking, even though they are going to push through Maryland each day 4 times the amount of fracked gas that Maryland uses in one day; even though they have already signed a contract with Japan and India to supply liquid natural gas for the next 20 years. Give me a break!

  2. Dave T. said

    Thank you Steve Bruns, Joanna LaFollette, Sweet Dee Frostbutter and Elisabeth Hoffman for standing firm for what is right. A special thanks to Elisabeth for her tireless efforts in keeping this issue in the forefront of the public consciousness.

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