Kitchen-Table Nonprofit Rallies Community To Defeat Energy Giant

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Above photo: Lili Sheeline testifies before the Charles County Zoning Board, by Jeff Dixon.

In what feels like a miraculous victory, the Charles County Board of Appeals voted 4 – 1 to deny the zoning special exception that Dominion needs to build Charles Station — the fracked gas compressor station it wants to put on New Marshall Hall/Barry’s Hill Rd. in Charles County, Maryland, on the Cove Point pipeline.

Board members, fully aware that this case will move into the circuit court when Dominion appeals their decision, took great pains to lay out the reasons that they voted as they did, citing legal documents, ordinances, and codes to support their positions.  Two issues stood out as being matters of grave concern for all five Board members:  the risk of explosion and Dominion’s repeated failure to provide information that the Board expressly asked for, which they found suspicious.

Unbeknownst to the Board, at the time the hearing was coming to a close, a house was burning to the ground approximately a mile and a half from the proposed Charles Station site because local fire fighters cannot get water to the area in time to save structures.  This pattern has been borne out four times during the hearing process.  In one case, a man and his dog were killed in a fire at the end of the street on which Dominion wants to build. A home and a 3,500 square foot outbuilding and a greenhouse also burned down during the hearing process, which began in July 2017.

Several Board members specifically mentioned the compelling evidence received from the Opposition, represented through seven BOA hearings by J. Carroll Holzer, Esq.

Sean Johnston, the outlying voter, said during the public deliberations that he was voting against the project, but something in the wording of the motion apparently did not sit well with him, and that resulted in his dissenting vote.

The AMP Creeks Council will continue to fight this project on every level.

The status of the scheduled March 28 MDE air quality permit hearing is now unclear.  Regardless of whether or not it is still held, the MDE is prevented from making a final ruling on the permit until the zoning is in place.  Dominion has already received its CPCN from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  There is some disagreement about whether or not the BOA’s decision can or will be preempted by FERC (thus the prospective court battle.)  However, if MDE denies their air quality permit, that decision cannot be preempted, and the project will die.

Regretfully, Dominion is still allowed to cut down 13.3 acres of trees at the would-be project site.  They were permitted for that separately, not by the Board of Appeals.  The tree trunks will remain in the ground, and the trees will remain on site for the time being, as they do not have permits to disturb the earth or drag the trees out.  Two community blockades have occurred in the last week to protest the tree clearing.

“At a time when we see local governments in other parts of Maryland, and the whole of Virginia kowtowing to Dominion, it feels good to know that we have a Board in Charles County willing to stand up to this juggernaut and protect residents,” said Emily Canavan of Bryans Road.