In mid-May 2012, Dominion Resources, based in Richmond, Va., announced it had filed a suit in Calvert County (Maryland) Circuit Court asserting the legality of Dominion’s plan to convert from an import facility to an export facility the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Cove Point in the Chesapeake Bay (off Calvert County). In late April 2012, after Dominion announced its intention to move forward with its plans for converting the facility, the Sierra Club said that it would seek to block the conversion. The organization asserts that a 1972 settlement among the Sierra Club, the Maryland Conservation Council, and the owner of the facility at the time requires permission from the two organizations for any expansion of the Cove Point facility or changes to its purpose. UPDATE 9/21/12: A lawsuit over the issue was filed by the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club in Calvert County (Md.) Circuit Court, and the case was scheduled to be heard in early October 2012. The switch to an export facility is a response to a current large supply of natural gas in the United States, resulting from a large increase of new gas wells in gas-bearing underground formations, such as the Marcellus Shale formation underlying several eastern states (including a small part of Virginia). In February 2012, Dominion received approval from the U.S. Department of Energy to export LNG to about 20 nations with which the United States has free-trade agreements, and the company is seeking federal approval for exporting to any nation except those under trade sanctions. UPDATE 9/18/12: On September 18, 2012, an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that the U.S. Department of Energy announced on September 17 that it will be the end of 2012 before the agency decides whether to grant the broader LNG-export permit to Dominion and 16 other companies.
Sources: Dominion sues over right to export natural gas, Associated Press, as published by Bloomberg Business Week, 5/18/12; Sierra Club Challenges Natural Gas Terminal, Associated Press, 4/30/12; Dominion moves forward with LNG export terminal as Sierra Club objects, Baltimore (Md.) Sun, 4/27/12; and Marcellus shale fracking: Natural gas exports eyed through Calvert County, Baltimore Sun, 2/10/12.
For more on developments in the natural gas market that relate to Dominion’s plans at Cove Point, see Market Forces Mire Md. Gas Export Plan in Uncertainty, Southern Maryland Newspapers, 5/1/12.
Source for 9/21/12 update: For a detailed look at issues being raised in the lawsuit by the Maryland Sierra Club, see Dominion’s LNG export bid sparks legal dispute, Baltimore (Md.) Sun, 9/21/12.
Source for 9/18/12 update: Politics, environment, global trade issues complicate natural gas exportation, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/18/12.