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Testimony of

 

Norris McDonald

President

African American Environmentalist Association

 

Before the

 

Prince George’s County

 

Zoning Hearing Examiner

 

On the

 

Proposed Chillum, MD Liquefied Natural Gas Facility

 

County Administration Building

Upper Marlboro, Maryland

 

January 18, 2006

 

My name is Norris McDonald and I am the founder and president of the African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA). We do not have a position on this project. This written statement is being submitted to suggest a compromise regarding the Washington Gas proposal to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility in Chillum, Maryland. AAEA actively promotes environmental justice and supports liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in general because of the need for additional natural gas for electricity generation.

 

The African American Environmentalist Association was founded in 1985 and is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the environment, promoting the efficient use of natural resources, enhancing human, animal and plant ecologies and increasing African American participation in the environmental movement. Our headquarters is in Prince George’s County; we have chapters nationwide and members worldwide.

 

Although we do not have a position on the Washington Gas proposal to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility in Chillum, we believe there could be a compromise where everyone could benefit. Of course, the residents near the facility clearly do not want it in their backyard (NIMBY) and development planners see it as a locally unwanted land use (LULU). However, the community, Washington Gas and planners should consider equity benefits that could be positive for the community, Washington Gas, minority business development and the general public.

Here are recommendations we think the community, Prince George's County agencies and Washington Gas should consider:

1.      Washington Gas should pay $2,000 per month for 10 years to residents and businesses directly on the border of the facility.

2.      Washington Gas should pay $1,000 per month for 10 years to second tier residents and businesses near the facility.

3.      Washington Gas should pay for any increase in homeowners and business owners insurance premiums near the facility.

4.      Washington Gas should provide 51% minority ownership in the facility. Minorities own virtually no energy infrastructure in the United States.

5.      Washington Gas should build a state-of-the-art recreation and computer facility similar to the Fed Ex Field facility in Chillum.

6.      Washington Gas should examine the feasibility of partnering with minority firms for co-ownership of gas pipelines and LNG delivery services.

7.      Washington Gas should provide a 30-foot high barrier wall similar to the Beltway barrier walls around the LNG tank at the property boundary where homes are located.

Natural gas supplies in the U.S. are very tight and prices are reflecting this market condition. That is why energy companies are aggressively pursuing LNG imports. Washington Gas already has lines leading to that facility and had a storage facility there for decades.

 

Although LNG can be potentially dangerous, there has never been an explosion at one of these storage facilities in the U.S. that has led to neighborhood deaths. Of course, 130 people died when an LNG storage tank in Cleveland, Ohio cracked and leaked into the sewer system resulting in fires and explosions in that community. People do not stop flying because of single plane crashes though, and this unusual accident happened in 1944. There was also a serious LNG accident at a refinery in Algeria in January 2004. However, this industry has an excellent safety record over many decades. Although there have been some deaths related to LNG facilities, it is not significantly greater than other industrial projects.

 

LNG import facilities are being planned all over the U.S. and many residents in Prince George’s County use Washington Gas’ product. On the other hand, environmental justice calls for limiting or eliminating hazardous or polluting facilities in minority neighborhoods. Moreover, disproportionate gas leaks in Prince George’s County and a house explosion did not reflect very well on the company. Again, although we do not have a position on this project, we are sure that county officials will make the proper decision for our community.