Cove Point Fracked Gas Export Facility vs. Safety of 24,000 Residents
As a resident of the town of Lusby, MD, where a Virginia-based energy giant Dominion Resources wants to build a massive $3.8 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility, I've sought out and received a significant education on the safety risks inherent in this industry over the past year. In the process, I've returned again and again to this question: Is my safety—and that of the thousands of families living within several miles of this project—a significant concern to federal regulators?
These are facts, not mere speculation: on Sept. 13, 2013, a gas processing facility partly owned by Dominion Resources exploded in Natrium, WV. On March 31, an LNG plant exploded in Plymouth, WA, injuring five workers and rupturing an LNG storage tank, resulting in the formation of a flammable vapor gas cloud. On April 23, another major gas processing facility exploded in Opal, WY, forcing the evacuation of the entire town of about 95 residents.
These facts are highly significant because the potential consequences of a similar explosion at Dominion's proposed Cove Point LNG export facility in Lusby could be far more severe.
No other LNG export facility proposed in the U.S. would be located so close to so many people. My neighbor Dale Allison, a former aerospace engineer with the Navy, has dug into what that could mean for our community, and his findings are alarming. He found a 2006 report by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources showing that a flash fire from a LNG storage tank at Dominion's current import facility could already threaten a 4,265-foot “consequence zone” around the plant—an area which includes hundreds of homes. Dominion's current proposal would require the addition of new hazardous facilities to supercool the gas and require expanded transportation and storage of highly volatile chemicals, like liquid propane, involved in that process. And, as another Lusby neighbor, Lili Sheeline, wrote to our local newspaper, the Calvert Recorder, Dominion's facility will have far more equipment “squeezed in” to a facility footprint only a fraction larger than the one that exploded in Wyoming, “posing a far greater risk of accidents ... that could spiral out of control.”
These facts are significant because in the previously mentioned explosions, the area of evacuation was much smaller than the densely populated area surrounding Cove Point. The fire at Natrium burned for seven hours. Four hundred people in a two-mile radius were evacuated in Plymouth, across the river. The explosion could be felt as far away as six miles. In Opal, 95 residents in a five mile radius were evacuated.
By comparison, in Lusby there are 2,473 people living within one mile around Dominion Cove Point. In addition to nearly 600 homes, there are several schools, daycare and senior facilities, churches, and a major public park in close proximity to Cove Point. The zip code of Lusby—of which Cove Point is a part—is home to more than 24,000 residents according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and is serviced by an all-volunteer fire department. Recently, a local assistant fire chief, Mickey Shymansky, resigned over concerns that this department is neither trained nor equipped to handle an LNG-related emergency.
For months, my neighbors and I have been demanding answers. How will everyone evacuate in the case of a catastrophic event? How far could potential vapor gas cloud or flash fire catastrophes spread into the neighborhoods right next door? Is the 60-foot-tall, three-quarter-mile long barrier wall Dominion has proposed building along the perimeter really for “sound abatement,” as Dominion originally claimed, or “vapor cloud containment,” as the company later confirmed to federal regulators, or “fire-blocking,” as Dominion apparently told Shymansky?
The response to these questions from Dominion and local officials has been utterly insufficient. One of my Lusby neighbors was told by the Calvert Emergency Planning Office that, in event of an evacuation, Cove Point residents could drive under a burning vapor cloud to the neighboring, highly populated development of Chesapeake Ranch Estates, with its maze of winding roads. How ridiculous is that? If there is a viable emergency evacuation plan, no one within the county government or Dominion has bothered to share it with the public—perhaps because none exists and perhaps because no one has figured out how to evacuate so many people via a two-lane road that would turn into major gridlock in a matter of minutes.
Equally troubling, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) appears to agree that the people of Lusby are insignificant. Although numerous individuals and environmental groups pleaded for a full Environmental Impact Statement for Dominion's proposed export facility, on May 15, FERC issued a limited draft Environmental Assessment. It failed to even list the more than 24,000 residents of Lusby as a nearby “population center.” It failed to include an updated human risk assessment—required under 2013 National Fire Protection Association standards—to quantify the potential threat to nearby homes from potential vapor cloud, flash fire or explosion hazards. It failed to address Dominion Cove Point’s proximity to the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, three miles north, and to the naval aviation base across the Patuxent River. By all appearances, FERC is poised to merely rubber-stamp Dominion’s application, as it has done with so many other gas industry applications across the country.
This is why the Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community are joining thousands of Americans to rally at FERC headquarters in Washington, D.C. on July 13. FERC needs to know that we will not stand by while the safety of the residents of Cove Point and Lusby is placed at risk.
We must tell FERC that residents of southern Calvert County will not be treated like human test dummies. If you agree, please join us on July 13 to let FERC know that the battle has just begun.
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Overthinkers are people who are buried in their own obsessive thoughts. Imagine being in a large maze where each turn leads into an even deeper and knottier tangle of catastrophic, distressing events — that is what it feels like to them when they think about the issues that confront them.
Ruminating<p>According to the late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796420/" target="_blank">ruminating</a> involves replaying a problem over and over in your mind. We ruminate by obsessing over our thoughts and thinking repetitively about various aspects of a past situation.</p><p>It usually involves regret, self-loathing and self-blaming. Rumination is associated with the development of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. </p><p>People prone to such patterns of thought may, for example, overanalyze every single detail of a relationship that breaks up. They often blame themselves for what has happened and are overcome with regret, with typical thoughts being: </p><p>- I should have been more patient and more supportive. </p><p>- I have lost the most perfect partner ever. </p><p>- No one will love me again.</p>
Worrying<p>Worrying is wanting to predict the future. It involves negative thoughts about things that might and might not happen.</p><p>- They'll not like me in the interview; they'll not give me the job. </p><p>- I haven't heard back from other employers. How long will I be unemployed?</p><p>These thoughts are energy-draining and distressing. They could happen to anyone under stress. But when you reach the point where your thoughts and worrying are preventing you from doing what you want to do — from living your life to the fullest — then you should take action.</p>
Catch Yourself Overthinking<p>Reuben Berger, a psychotherapist at the university hospital in the western German city of Bonn, recommends several practical steps that you could employ in your daily routine when you catch yourself worrying or ruminating.</p><p>One effective remedy, says Berger, is the <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9938" target="_blank">thought-stopping technique.</a></p><p>"When the negative thoughts come or ruminations start, you say to yourself: 'Stop!,'" he says, adding that it is more effective when you actually say the word out loud.</p><p>He even recommends having a rubber band around your wrist to ping against yourself while saying the word. Adding a visual component by imagining a stop sign also makes the technique more powerful, he says.</p><p>The main idea here is conditioning yourself to stop the loop of worrying (making future predictions) or rumination (obsessing over past events).</p><p>Berger says the technique could take up to two weeks to take effect and that it needs to be practiced every day. "Consistency is very important," he says. </p>
Thoughts Are Just Thoughts<p>Another way of dealing with negative thoughts often used in modern therapy is realizing that thoughts aren't facts, says Berger.</p><p>He says it is important when we think something to ask: Is that real? Did that really happen? What is the worst thing that could happen?</p><p>Flight anxiety is one example where untrue thoughts are accepted as facts. Although air travel is the safest way to get around, people suffering from fear of flying accept their thoughts and fears as reality, then act upon them by refusing to fly.</p>
Mindfulness<p>Berger also recommends the use of mindfulness techniques, in which attention is paid to experiences in the moment without judging them, as a way of reducing worrying.</p><p>"Mindfulness helps you to distance yourself from your thoughts and to be more present in the moment," he says.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3432145/#R2" target="_blank">Several studies</a> have shown that mindfulness has a positive impact on reducing stress-related behaviors such as rumination and worrying, as focusing on the moment makes anxiety about other problems impossible.</p><p>Mindfulness can be practiced during routine activities by paying attention to your body and your surroundings. For instance, when you leave for work in the morning, you can focus on sensing the breeze, listen attentively to birds, feel the gravel under your feet and monitor your breath. </p>
Trick Your Brain Into Happiness<p>People plagued by obsessive thoughts do not always choose healthy ways like mindfulness to distract from them, however.</p><p> Dr. Edward Selby, a psychologist at Florida state university, has shown in a study that people try to avoid rumination by engaging in a range of uncontrolled behaviors, such as binge eating and substance abuse.</p><p>But he says that a much better way to overcome such distress is by distraction and shifting attention away from problems that are obsessing us.</p><p>There are many activities that can be used to distract from rumination, he says, and people should choose the one that works best for them. Here are some examples:</p><p>- Listen to music</p><p>- Read a book</p><p>- Take a hot shower</p><p>- Dance or exercise </p><p>- Talk to a friend (not about the problem)</p><p>- Watch a movie</p><p>- Mindfulness meditation</p>
Changing the Perception of Events<p>The way people perceive a situation largely influences their emotions and behavior. It is not the situation itself that determines how they feel, but rather the way they interpret it.</p><p>Reframing negative thoughts can lead to positive emotions and, subsequently, healthier behaviors — including a reduction in damaging overthinking and worrying.</p><p>Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently a gold standard in psychotherapy. CBT aims to change the way people think and act. It largely involves challenging unhelpful beliefs or attitudes such as overgeneralization — thinking "I always fail at public speaking" when you have had one bad experience in front of an audience, for example — or "catastrophization," i.e., imagining the worst possible outcome to a situation. </p><p>A psychotherapist can teach people how to implement such thought-changing techniques into their lives. Techniques vary depending on their issues and goals.</p>
Solutions Are at Hand<p>Try to find ways of avoiding worrying, rumination and overthinking that make you feel most comfortable.</p><p>Incorporating any routine in your life when you're stressed isn't an easy task, but you can do it! If you feel overwhelmed, you can always seek professional help. </p><p><em>If you are suffering from serious emotional strain or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek professional help. You can find information on where to find such help, no matter where you live in the world, <a href="https://www.befrienders.org/" target="_blank">at this website.</a></em></p>
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