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Maryland Considers Natural Gas Export Facility

Environmental groups voice opposition

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A natural gas production facility in Central New York which makes use of the controversial hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" process.
Ari Moore: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arimoore/4142109554/
A natural gas production facility in Central New York which makes use of the controversial hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" process.

With demand for domestically-produced natural gas in the U.S. tempered by economic recession, Dominion Power has expressed an interest in building an export facility at Cove Point, Md. on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay, in order to sell their wares internationally. Area environmentalists are opposed to the plan, citing the controversial effects of the fracking process used to extract the gas.

"There is contamination of local drinking water, local ground water, there's a huge issue of what you do with waste," says Robin Broder, vice president of Potomac Riverkeeper, one of several Riverkeeper groups opposing the Cove Point plant.

They argue that exports would reduce energy independence and raise domestic prices, but Broder's primary concern is that exports might encourage fracking in Pennsylvania and parts of Western Maryland and Virginia in the Potomac Watershed.

"Demand on the gas would increase the drilling in some very marginal areas; millions of people get their drinking water from the Potomac River," says Broder.

Kevin Book is with ClearView Energy, he says the environmental problems solvable.

"All of these things can be addressed," says Book. "All of them imply a need for regulators and the industry to ensure best practices but there's nothing to say they can't be addressed."

More questionable, says Book, is what exports would do to domestic natural gas prices.  

"Natural gas has broken more hearts than anyone in America in a long time if you go back to shortages in '05, for example," says Book. "What is being tested is the idea that fracking is so cheap and so easy that with any price increase, gas will come to the market and buffer that price increase."

He believes that, indeed, prices won't be affected. Regardless, he says, public concern is the determining factor of whether an export facility will be built.  The more sensitive -- environmentally or politically -- a location is, the less likely any facility will be built there.

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