D.C. Circuit affirms Dominion natural gas compressor station in Maryland

A Dominion (NYSE:D) subsidiary won a legal victory April 24 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against a citizen group in Maryland that opposed a new natural gas compressor station being developed by Dominion Transmission.

A three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the petition brought by Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community were “without merit.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over the objections of the Myersville citizens conditionally approved it in December 2012. Dominion then fulfilled FERC’s conditions, which included obtaining a Clean Air Act permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Dominion built the station, and it has been operating for several months. The citizen group appealed the FERC order to the D.C. Circuit. Lawyers for the parties had argued their case before the appeals court panel in October 2014.

Citizens of the small town of Myersville, in Frederick County, Md., oppose construction of a natural gas compressor station in their town. “The compressor station is a small part of a larger expansion of natural gas facilities in the northeastern United States proposed by Dominion Transmission, Inc., a regional natural gas company,” according to the appeals court.

 “They [the Myersville citizens] attack the Commission’s decision on a number of fronts,” according to the appeals court document.

The citizens argued that FERC lacked substantial evidence to conclude there was a public need for the project. They asserted that FERC unlawfully interfered with Maryland rights under the Clean Air Act. They challenged FERC’s environmental review, including consideration of other alternatives. Finally, the citizen groups claims that FERC “unlawfully withheld hydraulic flow diagrams from them in violation of their due process rights.”

The appeals court found the citizen group arguments without merit.

Compressor is part of the Allegheny Storage Project

The Dominion affiliate is in the business of storing and transporting natural gas. Dominion runs underground natural gas storage and transportation facilities in six northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states.

Dominion operates over 947 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and approximately 11,000 miles of natural gas pipeline. Before it sought the Commission’s approval, Dominion conducted an “open season” in which it offered contracts for future supply of natural gas to potential customers. It entered contracts with two municipal utilities and a natural gas distribution company for firm transportation and storage services.

Dominion’s proposed project, called the Allegheny Storage Project, called for new or expanded natural gas facilities in Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The estimated cost was $112m.

The Project required the building of two compressor stations—facilities along a pipeline that compress gas to move it through the system at high speeds—and additional pipeline to serve the compressors. The compressor station involved in the D.C. Circuit case is located on 21 acres in Myersville, Md.

The case Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community et al versus FERC is No.13-1219. Members of the three-judge panel that heard the case were Circuit Judges David Tatel, Nina Judge Pillard and Judge Patricia Millett.

The Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community (MCRC) acknowledged the appeals court loss on its website. But the group said it will fight Dominion on a follow-up project. “DTI has announced the nearly doubling the size of the Myersville gas compressor station a mere two weeks after it went into operation. We will vigorously oppose the Leidy South expansion and the unnecessary negative impact of safety and health risks to our community,” according to the citizen group.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.