Dominion Transmission purchases Middletown land
Energy company passes on Jefferson site
An energy company with plans to build a natural gas compressor station in Frederick County has purchased 135 acres at the intersection of Marker and Bolivar roads in Middletown.
Despite having announced last fall that the company will not be ready to move forward with the construction of a station in the county for "a few years," Dominion Transmission purchased the site on Dec. 29, 2008.
"We wanted to purchase that property while it was available as a potential site. We moved on the opportunity to buy the property," Dominion spokesman Robert E. Fulton said. "In our minds, and in our studies, it was the best location, and so we purchased it in anticipation as a potential site."
Dominion also allowed its option to buy a 13-acre slice of land near the intersection of Md. 180, U.S. 340 and Gene Hemp Road in Jefferson expire, Fulton said. He said the company chose to purchase the Middletown land instead because its studies indicated it was a preferable location to the Jefferson land. Two opposition groups have sprung up in the last year to oppose the company's plans — Citizens for the Preservation of Middletown Valley (CPMV) and the Jefferson MD Community Association (JMCA).
The groups, which drew hundreds of residents to meetings last year, argued that the station should be sited on land that is zoned as industrial, not agricultural, such as the Middletown and Jefferson sites.
"It's clear to us that building industrial facilities on agricultural land is less expensive than building them on land that is already zoned industrial," Richard Maranto, president of the Middletown group, said Tuesday. "But at the local level we have planning and zoning departments that we pay to decide how land is used in our county. We think Dominion could be a good neighbor and look at land that is already zoned industrial."
Another key concern of the Middletown group is that the $55 million, 14,000-horsepower station — which Dominion says it needs to allow more gas to flow through existing pipelines transporting natural gas between Pennsylvania and Virginia — would disrupt the Middletown Valley's natural and historic beauty.
According to a Feb. 28, 2008 letter U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Dist. 6) sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, "nearly $4 million has been spent to protect approximately 1,313 acres of the historic battlefield at South Mountain — through Project Open Space" — land with views that could be obstructed if the station were constructed at the Marker Road site.
But Dominion maintains that its studies indicate that the Middletown swath is the best location in Frederick County for the station, and that building in Frederick County — which would not be served by the lines — is the best option.
Dominion gas transmission certificates manager Matt Bley offered in June three central reasons for building the station in Frederick County instead of pursuing other options such as building a 40-mile pipe "loop" or building two smaller stations in adjacent states.
"It will result in less overall environmental impact, less impact on homeowners and the economic cost ... is less," he said.
Fulton indicated that the company will have to restart the FERC application process when it completes preliminary work in Pennsylvania, and that Dominion does not have a timeline for exactly when construction will begin on the compressor station.
Maranto said the Middletown group will remain active in coming months, keeping residents aware of any developments regarding the group's plans and Dominion.
"We want people to stay engaged on it and we'll have some announcements coming up in the future, so stay tuned," he said. "… We've spoken with FERC, we have notified local politicians, and we have not spoken to Dominion yet, but we plan to because we'd like them to publicly state their intentions or their timeline."
For more information about the CPMV or to see any announcements they make, visit www.cpmv.org.
E-mail Connor Adams Sheets at firstname.lastname@example.org.