The State of Maryland has granted a key approval for the controversial proposed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminal at Cove Point in Southern Maryland. The action by Maryland's Board of Public Works, which consists of Governor, Martin O'Malley, the state Comptroller, and Treasurer, is another step toward completion of the export terminal. The three member Board actually approved a permit for Virginia-based Dominion to build a pier in the Patuxent river to allow construction materials to be moved by barge for construction of the terminal. Final approval of the project still rests with the FERC.
The Cove Point project is controversial, as noted by the Baltimore Sun in its coverage of yesterday's hearing and approval, which occurred after more than 2 hours of testimony before the Board. The Cove Point project also underscores the unresolved status of hydraulic fracturing in mountainous, and economically challenged, Western Maryland. Maryland has not approved fracking in the state, whereas neighbors Pennsylvania and West Virginia are in the midst of a major energy boom from fracking activity.
Maryland is currently under a moratorium for fracking permits/drilling pending a report expected this fall by an Advisory Commission set up by O'Malley. Maryland's reluctance to permit gas development in Western Maryland, or at least its cautious approach to the process, sets up an interesting situation where natural gas produced in surrounding states may be exported by a terminal in Maryland, even though Maryland has not yet permitted hydraulic drilling within its borders.