Jose Luis Magana/AP

Hundreds protest US plans to export fracked gas

Critics say shipping domestic fuel abroad will raise prices at home, exacerbate climate change

Hundreds of protesters marched Sunday in Washington, D.C., to show their opposition to a planned natural gas export terminal in Maryland that would ship gas fracked in the United States overseas to Asia.

The Stop Fracked Gas Exports rally, backed by more than 40 environmental groups, called on the U.S. Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulations Committee (FERC) to halt final approval of a port they say will endanger local health and safety. 

"This Cove Point terminal would drain huge pools of Marcellus Shale gas for export 6,000 miles to Asia. It would be the first such liquefied natural gas export facility ... ever, built right next to a residential neighborhood," the groups said in a press release. "Local residents are deeply concerned about an accident on the facility that could escalate into a major fire or other life-threatening event."

Nearby residents believe many homes would be within one mile of the proposed terminal, Think Progress reported.

U.S. oil and gas production has skyrocketed along with the advent of fracking or hydraulic fracturing — a controversial process in which large volumes of water, chemicals, and sand are shot underground to release trapped oil and gas deposits. With plans already in motion to begin converting other U.S. import terminals to export oil and gas, a growing national movement has argued that exporting U.S. oil and gas will raise fuel prices at home, reduce America's energy independence, and contribute to climate change.

Conditional approval has already been given to Dominion Energy to export gas from the Cove Point terminal proposed in Lusby, Md., just 50 miles south of the capital. But demonstrators are calling on the Department of Energy and the FERC to halt final approval.

If the project is approved, gas fracked from areas such as Pennsylvania’s vast Marcellus shale deposits will be shipped to companies in Japan and India. FERC is considering 14 other proposed export terminals, according to the group's press release.

FERC has said Dominion Energy can build Cove Point safely and with no significant environmental impact, according to the company's website. It added that the project would bring thousands of construction jobs to the area, boosting the local economy up to $40 million a year on average in the first five years of operation.

But protesters argued if export projects move ahead, fracking will increase in the U.S. to keep up with the demand and more damage will be done to the environment and the health of local residents in the process, according to the organizers of Sunday's action.

"Our message to President Obama and FERC will be clear: Keep the gas in the ground. You can’t fight climate change by expanding fossil fuel use," the groups said.  "You can’t lower greenhouse gas emissions by addicting the world to methane leakage that’s as bad as or worse for the atmosphere than coal. You can’t make America great by destroying her rural communities with drilling, pipelines, compressor stations, earthquakes, and flammable tap water."

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