Middletown group continues to oppose Dominion plan
Efforts reenergized by company's recent land purchase
Citizens for the Preservation of Middletown Valley has been reenergized in light of an energy utility's Dec. 29 purchase of 135 acres near Middletown.
Dominion Transmission's purchase of the property puts the Virginia company one step closer to building a natural gas pumping station in the region, according to many members of the group, which formed in January 2008 to oppose the proposed construction.
The company announced last fall that it would not be ready to move forward with the construction of a station in Frederick County for "a few years," and withdrew its first application for approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that ultimately decides whether to approve such projects. However, the citizens group is staying active and keeping up its efforts, and the recent land purchase only galvanizes them and lends the issue a renewed sense of urgency.
On Saturday morning, more than 15 group members met at the Main Cup coffeehouse in Middletown to brainstorm and plot a strategy.
"[The land purchase] is a trigger point to do something …" member Katherine Ruud said at the meeting. "Distributing fliers with the initial publicity campaign [last year] was very effective. I would be willing to get together with some people and distribute, maybe on a piece of paper, what's been going on … to let people know that there's still movement going on this."
The meeting was an open discussion of methods and strategies to stymie the company's efforts to site the station on the land at the intersection of Marker and Bolivar roads.
Many ideas were floated, including the possibility of drawing attention to the historic nature of the plot — which contains the 18th-century Fox's Tavern and has significance related to the Battle of South Mountain during the Civil War — by staging a September march of Civil War re-enactors across it.
The group focused much of its energy during the two-hour session on how best to organize its membership. President Richard Maranto emphasized the need to set up committees to split up the workload and maintain a level of order.
"I think we need to form committees and organize what we're doing," he said. "… It's really going to be teams of people going through the research and basing plans on that."
The group's popularity seems to be surging as well. Its e-mail list contained 189 members as of Saturday, and its Web site got about 15,000 hits in January, according to Maranto.
The citizen's group is trying to capitalize on that interest by using it to ensure ongoing, sustained action in opposition of the project, and by keeping as much pressure as possible on Dominion until FERC makes its decision about whether to allow the construction after the company re-applies for its approval. It is also discussing ways to raise money and attract new members.
But members are cautious about overextending people and resources, as they know Dominion's re-application could be years away.
"We don't want to be spinning our wheels looking at the same things over and over again," Ruud said. "… This is a great thing, but I think we need to be a little careful of the burnout."
The $55 million, 14,000-horsepower compressor station, which Dominion has said it hopes to have built and operating in 2014, needs to be built to allow more gas to flow through existing pipelines that transport natural gas between Pennsylvania and Virginia, the company says.
E-mail Connor Adams Sheets at firstname.lastname@example.org.