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June 4, 2006

 

 

Magalie R. Salas

Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

888 First Street. N.E., Room 1A

Washington, DC 20426

 

Reference: Docket No. PF06-22-000

 

Dear Secretary Salas:

 

I am writing to you today to communicate the Turner Station, Maryland community’s unequivocal opposition to the placement of the AES Corporation’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility at the Sparrows Point, Maryland site. The Turner Station Development Corporation (TSDC), a community wide development corporation whose membership includes members of every civic group and every section of our Turner Station neighborhood has authorized me to submit these comments and testimony at the scheduled June 5 scoping meeting. The TSDC along with the Turner Station Conservation Teams who also oppose this project are a part of the larger LNG Opposition Team of Dundalk, Maryland. Turner Station is the closest residential community to the proposed LNG facility and its associated LNG tanker traffic. We are the community that would be most impacted by catastrophic incidents associated with the facility and its cargo.

 

Residents of Turner Station oppose the AES project based on the following issues and areas of concern: (some items will be further detailed later in this document).

 

Public Health and Safety Threat to residents - Analysis of multiple LNG modeling studies indicates that AES assessments of LNG pool fires, vapor cloud dispersion, thermal radiation and their combined effects underestimate the distance and severity of these incidents to residential populations. A substantial portion of the population of Turner Station is within calculated distances for burns for both accidental and intentional spills. FERC sponsored research stipulates that current models underestimate the impacts and calculated distances of LNG spill events.

 

Environmental Justice/Environmental Racism – Permission by FERC for this project will simply exacerbate and continue the federal government’s non-compliance and callous disregard of President William Jefferson Clinton’s Executive Order 12898 of February 11, 1994 that makes achieving environmental justice part of the mission of all federal agencies participating in this EIS process. Given the possible impacts of this site to Turner Station residents, catastrophic incidents associated with this site would only increase the incidence of disease and excess mortality already associated with past federal and state government inaction.


 

Dredging Concerns – Environmental and Health related – AES to achieve its objective at Sparrows Point must dredge in excess of 4 million cubic yards of dredge spoils with a substantial undisclosed amount of it being contaminated and toxic based on Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point Steel Mill and Shipyard practices of the past. Any disturbance of these submerged contaminants from the harbor bottom pose an imminent danger to submerged aquatic life and possible destruction of the commercial seafood industry in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Additionally, AES suggested ideas for disposing of these dredge materials in all cases brings these toxic materials to the surface and exposes them to the air. A substantial number of the “hotspots” for submerged toxins as identified by the Maryland Port Administration lie in the channel between the proposed facility and the Turner Station community. After dewatering and any other processes that are conducted on this material these spoils and their toxins could well become airborne in close proximity to the Turner Station community. Such a prospect is unacceptable and we have yet to hear from AES on a viable plan to either treat and/or dispose of these materials. At the AES Open House held at the Ironworkers Apprentice Training Center in Dundalk on April 24, 2006 residents were introduced to Clean Earth Dredging Technologies, Inc. who proposed to transport (barge) contaminated dredge spoils from the Brewerton Channel into the Chesapeake Bay and out to ocean where it could be deposited somewhere along the eastern seaboard. Our residents reject this idea.

 

Quality of Life Issues – Permission by FERC to site this LNG facility 1.3 miles from the Turner Station community will create a real estate market price decline that collapses community redevelopment strategies identified in the Turner Station Community Conversation Plan adopted by the Baltimore County Council in December 2003. In a community that has lost ½ of its population in the last 30 years, such a site sitting offshore from its homes will not raise property values as AES asserts, but rather it will hasten the exodus from the community and thereby suppress property values. In real estate pricing, “perception is reality”. As such, falling property values will squander Baltimore County government’s investment of over $130 million dollars in the Dundalk community during the past 12 years.

 

Waterway Suitability Assessment – Residents of Turner Station concur with the assessment by Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger that placing another LNG facility in the area of the Bay Bridge and the Port of Baltimore would stretch the U.S. Coast Guard’s surveillance and prescribed monitoring ability to its limit and thereby reduce the overall security level of the entire bay area. Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin also expressed similar concerns about the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers abilities in his March 24, 2006 letter to FERC Chairman, Joseph T. Kelliher. Reduced Coast Guard capacity only invites or at a minimum heightens the vulnerability of the both the LNG facility and LNG tanker to attack or accidents which endanger our community.

 

Local and State First Responder Capacity - Neither AES or FERC has estimated the resources needed by local and state first responders to address catastrophic incidents associated with this site based on either accidental or intentional breaches of the LNG facility or LNG cargo tanks. Immediate responses will be the province of local and state fire, police, and hazmat officials in addition to health care workers and disaster relief organizations. Permission to site this type of facility creates a huge federal unfunded mandate on local governments already trying to protect the Port of Baltimore, our waterways, our airports, and other key installations. In the words of Deputy Director, New Jersey Division of Fire Safety, in his testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (February 15, 2005), “… Does LNG pose safety and security risks? Yes. Are these risks manageable and will public safety officials support LNG projects? It depends. ….. First, what does the law require? Our safety and security laws define the absolute minimum that must be done. In come cases, these laws are ancient and some are diluted. Our position is that they are the starting point and nothing more”.

 

AES Corporation Credibility with the Turner Station Community – Residents of Turner Station view the interests of AES as hostile to the continued existence of the community. Statements and correspondence sent clandestinely by AES have led Turner Station residents to doubt the veracity of almost any communication with AES officials. The denigration of the Turner Station community by AES officials has led to widespread distrust of the company and its intentions. At a AES information meeting held in Turner Station at the Union Baptist Church in early 2006, AES official Aaron Samson questioned the assembled audience of 200 Turner Station residents about their opposition to the facility by stating, “ Why are you upset or against this? There aren’t that many of you!” This is an insult to the community that AES devalues our health and safety and our very lives. The inference that was taken from that meeting was the AES operates in many “third world” countries of color that apparently offer little or no opposition to AES interests. It appears that Turner Station, a community of color in the USA is to be treated like “third world” citizens.

 

Residents of Turner Station came in possession of a letter (dated March 27, 2006) sent to members of the Maryland Senate Finance Committee in which they sought support for the project at Sparrows Point. Also embedded in the letter was what we perceive as disparaging remarks about Turner Station residents and the suggestion that money could made available for unspecified projects in Turner Station. Since no such monetary offers were ever made to groups in Turner Station that we are aware of, we are forced to infer that some sort of implied payoff has been promised to undisclosed people. This is the height of insult to our community. The Turner Station community cannot help but view these actions as anything but a crude attempt to either bribe and/or divide our community.

 

 

You will receive considerable comment and testimony from a variety of citizens and organizations from the Greater Baltimore area opposing this project for the aforementioned reasons and other concerns such as the impact on recreation boating, adverse impact on Coastal Zone Management regulations, air quality and water quality issues, pipeline siting and alignment, the dangers associated with placement of an 85-mile pipeline and additional security issues associated with this overall project. We concur with assessments made by these groups. Yet, our community is in the greatest imminent danger by proximity. Effects of those concerns that we have identified are not mutually exclusive but rather they are cumulative and thereby constitute a clear and present danger whose catastrophic effects would occur nearly instaneously. There is no margin of error or buffer that protects our safety. Therefore, we of the Turner Station community not only demand that FERC deny this AES LNG facility application, we further demand that appropriate federal agencies begin to research the cumulative health and excess mortality effects of industrial activity that has plagued this community for more than a half century. In order for FERC to understand our opposition and for EPA to take appropriate action we will provide a more detailed explanation of the environmental justice issues that pervade this project.

 

 

Environmental Justice/Environmental Racism Impacts on Turner Station

 

Turner Station, located in southeastern Baltimore County, is a poster child for a community devastated by environmental racism. The health effects associated with an inordinate number of industrial sites was not the result of deliberate government actions but rather the result of federal and state inaction and indifference to poor and minority communities. Turner Station was founded on the environmental racism prevalent in the 19th and 20th century. The community was created to provide housing for African American citizens migrating largely from the south to work at the Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point Steel Plant and Shipyard.

 

As the number of new black employees and their families grew during the early 20th century an area for these new families needed to be identified. Since residential housing segregation was rampant and pervasive, no blacks could live in Dundalk or Essex. The area ultimately mapped out for the “negroes” by developers at the time was an inhospitable plot of land on the Dundalk peninsula that was directly upwind from the Bethlehem Steel Plant where no whites wanted to live. This upwind location nearly guaranteed that the air pollution of the early 20th century steel plant with little or no abatement equipment along with the cumulative pollution generated by the surrounding airport, the coal-burning BGE Riverside Power Plant, and General Motors and Western Electric facilities would blanket this community.

 

Turner Station today is a “historic” African American community. In the mid-1950’s Turner Station was the largest black enclave in Baltimore County. The community has a population of 3,300 people (2000 census) and is 80% African American. The census tract that encompasses the community is census tract 4213.00 and is comprised of four census block groups. The census tract actually covers an area that is larger than what is considered the formal designation for Turner Station. These block groups that comprise what is colloquially known as Turner Station are 66%, 98.8%, and 94.4% African American, respectively according to 2000 census data. The 2000 median income of the community was $28,564 or 56% of the Baltimore County median household income. The per capita income of the community is one-half of the per capita income for Baltimore County. The income statistics of this community would place its median and per capita income in the bottom income quartile of Baltimore County, the state of Maryland and the nation. The poverty rate in this community based on the 2000 census is twenty five percent. The median housing value for Turner Station is less than one-half of housing values throughout Baltimore County. Some housing values in the community are less than $40,000 and some homes are 1/3 of the median housing values of Baltimore County. Suffice it to say that this is an African American community under economic and social stress with little economic base.

 

In addition to the economic distress associated with the community, Turner Station is a neighborhood surrounded by industry. As already mentioned the community sits upwind from a major steel production facility. Through the years, Turner Station has had tons of suspended particulates dumped on it from a variety of sources. The Baltimore region is a severe air quality non-attainment area under U.S. EPA air quality conformity guidelines for Volatile Organic Compounds and Nitrogen Oxide. The community is surrounded by polluting industry (see attached PDF map depicting southeastern Baltimore County):

 

v     On the west it is bordered by the Dundalk Marine Terminal (DMT) which leaches chromium into the Patapsco River. The State of Maryland has entered into three different consent decrees to assess the impact of the chromium fill at DMT since 1984, but there has been no remediation, no on-site or off-site testing to measure surface contamination, and no testing of DMT workers many of whom are Turner Station residents. As a result of this callous indifference on the part of EPA and the state of Maryland to human health conditions for workers or communities, hexavalent chromium has now been found in the soil in Turner Station. In fact, the very community garden dedicated last year by the Baltimore County Executive, our Baltimore County Councilman, and one of our state legislators, has tested positive for hexavalent chromium. This means that our residents are directly consuming a known carcinogen. Clergy in our churches are not imploring their congregations not to eat from any gardens in Turner Station for health purposes. It is clear that the contamination did not occur from run-off from the marine terminal, it strongly indicates that the contaminant is airborne. Federal and state government indifference and inaction may well be poisoning and/or killing our residents.

 

v     Just south of the DMT is the BGE Riverside Power Plant.

 

v     To the south of the BGE Riverside Plant sits the site for a Synthetic Natural Gas facility. This site was once the location of a Turner Station subdivision called Sollers Homes. The units were demolished at least 40 years ago and the site harbored a succession of industrial businesses. Given the impacts of successive industries on this site that is zoned manufacturing, heavy industrial and the lack of information of what activities were conducted, it is possible that this site could be classified as a Brownfield site. The Turner Station Development Corporation became aware of Merchant’s Terminal Corporation expressing an interest in the area adjacent to this site in 2004, however it was our understanding that the firm was reticent to develop the site until it did its own testing for contaminants.

 

v     To the south of Turner Station on the other side of the Francis Scott Key Bridge are locations in Anne Arundel County that contain two BGE power plants, Brandon Shores and Wagner. According to a Baltimore Sun article dated Sunday, May 28, 2006, these plants have collectively generated 12,739 air pollution violations since January 2003.

 

v     Of course to the immediate south and east of Turner Station is the Sparrows Point industrial site. There are industrial sites that surround the Sparrows Point site such that wind conditions can affect the amount of air pollution Turner Station receives from these sites.

 

 

It is important to remind the Commission that the U.S. EPA in its 1992 report, Environmental Equity concluded that socioeconomic conditions and race are the major factors determining environmental discrimination. The report stated that communities inhabited by poor whites are also vulnerable to toxic threats. Turner Station also falls under guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the placement of hazardous facilities in an acceptable separation distance from residences. HUD specifically classifies LNG as a hazardous gas and Title 24 CFR Subtitle A, Subpart C Appendices I and II detail measures that should be implemented. Using U.S. HUD guidelines that would create an Acceptable Separation Distance for volumes associated with LNG spills and pool fires would lead to ASD distances of 2.37 to 2.56 miles from the fire. This would move fire and/or thermal radiation beyond Turner Station into Greater Dundalk. Dundalk contains the largest of number of HUD assisted housing units in Baltimore County and it does not appear from our review that either AES or FERC has considered these guidelines or acceptable separation distances.

 

It is clear that Turner Station is located in an industrial area. What is not clear is the effect of this proximity to these industries through the years on the health and mortality rate of our residents. We have only anecdotal evidence from the multitude of funerals, early deaths, mounting asthma and other respiratory ailments among the old and young, and the prevalence of chronic illnesses that something is wrong. It appears that those federal and state government agencies that were charged with guarding our community’s health and safety weren’t the least bit interested. We have paid the price and may continue to suffer. That means under no circumstance will we allow another industry to locate on our doorstep with the potential not to only pollute our air and water (which is a distinct possibility), but rather through their mishaps, miscues, or AES’s cavalier attitude about our community’s welfare to cause massive injuries and death. We will not negotiate our lives with anyone. We urge FERC to deny the application and for EPA to investigate the cumulative health effects of continued air and water pollution on our residents.


 

The “Science of LNG” is inclusive to justify moving forward

 

Throughout the FERC pre-filing process, AES officials have admonished Turner Station residents to “… trust the science.” Turner Station Development Corporation members and other Turner Station residents are not engineers or physicists who could develop their own research to assess health and safety concerns. As such we reviewed extensively the material provided by the AES consultants, EcoLogix, and we reviewed other materials recommended by AES and others. We reviewed each document listed on page 6 of the AES Request to Initiate the Pre-Filing Process submitted to FERC dated March 24, 2006. After a review of especially the report by Sandia National Laboratories (December 2004), we are convinced that the CFD modeling in its current state has not been validated and therefore we cannot say with any certainty that the equations adequately calculate reliable impacts and distances. In fact stated recommendations in the Sandia National Laboratories report cast serious doubts: (from page 97, Guidance of Risk Analysis and Safety Implications of a Large Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Spill Over Water)

 

 

 

 

After reviewing the Sandia National Laboratories results of all four models for various incidents with LNG spills and resulting impacts we are left to conclude that:

 

ü      Asphyxiation is a hazard to ship crew, pilot boat crews, emergency response personnel and others (if these personnel are incapacitated then even greater damage could ensue following their incapacitation)

 

ü      Cryogenic burns will injure the above mentioned personnel and others who come in contact causing major injury and even death. Cryogenic spills will degrade LNG ship structural integrity which in turn will create a cascading event spill that compounds the incident and cause greater and even more widespread damage

 

ü      Thermal hazard from all four models show the LNG vaporizing during spread irrespective of wave action and in all cases igniting instantly

 

ü      A summary of the “skin burn” distances range from a low of 490 meters to 1,900 meters. Depending on the wind conditions and wave actions and the position of the “pool fire” within the Brewerton Channel the upper limit would place “second degree” skin burns well into Lyons Homes and Day Village in Turner Station. The Fleming Center which houses the Head Start Program and is the home of the Senior Center would be placed most at risk.

 

ü      A summary of thermal intensity level distances range from a low of 554 meters to 2,118 meters which would place thermal radiation on-shore in Turner Station at the Fleming Center and Lyons Homes.

 

ü      An assessment of possible vapor dispersion to LFL for an intentional event with a 5-meter squared hole with either one or all three LNG tanks breached ranges from 2,450 meters to 3,614 meters. At this distance (3,614 meters or 2.25 miles) with the dispersion of a vapor cloud, the entire Turner Station and Watersedge community could suffer asphyxiation in addition to all of the personnel working at the BGE Riverside Power Plant and perhaps personnel working at the southern end of the Dundalk Marine Terminal. If a vapor cloud of this magnitude were to ignite, the impact would be catastrophic.

 

The Turner Station community reviewed these reports and assessed parameters of a worst case scenario. We always chose the worst case scenario because we cannot naively believe that we won’t encounter a worst case scenario. It would be irresponsible and foolhardy not to plan and expect a worst case scenario even based on models that have severe gaps and limitations and likely underestimate the impact. We have been admonished by AES to “trust the science” but the science tells use that it can’t predict the worst case or the likely case. The worst case hasn’t occurred yet even where deaths and major injuries have already occurred.

 

I would remind the Commission that most of the top engineers in this nation were adamant that a major fire event at the Twin Towers in New York City would not topple these buildings. On September 11, 2001 our engineering and modeling were proved wrong and thousands of people perished. Many engineers “believed the science” that the levees in New Orleans could somehow withstand a category 5 hurricane. Again we were proved wrong and within the past two weeks our engineers whose science we trust have admitted to flawed design and human error in the construction and maintenance of these levees.

 

The residents of Turner Station do not wish to become victims of flawed design and hasty judgment incurring injury and death to make the point that “we told you so.” The science is not sufficient for siting this facility and its associated activities in such close proximity to Turner Station. AES must find a more remote site. We urge the Commission to deny this application and protect the interests of some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.


 

We thank you for your consideration.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Dunbar Brooks, Board Chair

Turner Station Development Corporation, Incorporated

 

 

 

 

 

Attachments: Southeastern Baltimore County PDF map