Labor groups unite to support LNG proposal

Local,Jaime Malarkey
In the first show of unified support for a proposed liquefied natural gas facility, Baltimore-area labor leaders said the project was inevitable and urged resistant local officials to prepare.

A coalition of union officials launched the Sparrows Point Workforce Alliance just one day after the U.S. Supreme Court removed what may have been the last legal roadblock to the proposed plant at the former Bethlehem Steel site.

“We stand ready to work with anyone willing to accept that this project is likely coming,” said Rod Easter, president of the Baltimore Building Construction & Trades Council. “... We need to get ready now.”

Easter spoke at a Tuesday news conference at the proposed site of the $400 million plant, now a dusty parking lot with trash heaps.

Officials at virtually every level — including Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith — have opposed the project, citing potential terrorist attacks and the environmental dangers of dredging to accommodate massive LNG tankers.

Residents along a proposed 88-mile pipeline to Pennsylvania also have opposed the project. They continued to vow to fight this week, even after the country’s highest court declined to hear Baltimore County’s appeal of a ruling that overturned a local law banning LNG facilities from environmentally sensitive areas.

“This is not the end,” said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat whose district includes Dundalk.

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must make the final decision. I have said from the very beginning this proposed liquefied natural gas plant is absolutely inappropriate for this residential area in eastern Baltimore County.”

FERC staff members and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez have recommended approval.

FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen on Monday said the agency has requested additional information from the company proposing the plant, Virginia-based AES Corp., and a decision originally expected in November is expected to be postponed.

Labor leaders said they hoped the LNG plant would spur additional economic activity at the shipyard.

Tim Goins, president of the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union chapter, said several area grocery stores want to build cold food storage if the plant is approved.

Mike Day, president of Baltimore County’s fire union, said county officials have suggested AES create a private fire department to handle potential accidents.

“We should be working on an emergency response plan, so we’re not playing catch-up on the eleventh hour,” Day said.  “If AES has deep pockets, I want to make sure we’re getting updated training facilities, maybe funding for additional staffing.”
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