Baltimore Crude Oil Terminal Placed on Hold for Environmental Concerns

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By Neil Saunders

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) recently placed on hold a Houston-based company’s permit application to ship crude oil through its Baltimore port terminal in Fairfield, Maryland. The company, Targas Resources, which presently owns one of the Fairfield terminals, which it uses to store and ship oil, natural gas, and petroleum products, sought the permit to allow shipments of crude oil to pass through the terminal as well. In its decision to temporarily deny the permit, MDE sighted a lack of information and insisted that additional information from Targas Resources was necessary before the agency would consider further review.

Maryland’s Oil Pollution and Tank Management laws require facilities operators to obtain a permit before they may transport or store more than 10,000 gallons of oil, including crude oil. The permit approval process requires, in general, that the applicant submit a contingency and clean-up plan in the event that a leak or spill occurs, and to maintain a facility that is properly equipped to prevent oil pollution and contain spills. These are important criteria to ensuring safety to surrounding neighborhoods and the Chesapeake Bay, and promising news that MDE has, at least in the interim.

Had MDE approved the permit, Targas Resources would have become the second company to ship crude oil through the Fairfield terminals, which sit along the Patapsco River just outside Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Currently, Axeon Specialty Products ships tens of millions of gallons through its nearby terminal. According to MDE’s Oil Control Program, Axeon Specialty Products shipped over 100 million gallons of crude oil over the previous two years. According to a Sierra Club blog post, the Targas terminal would result in an additional 9 million gallon annually. More troubling is the fact that the potential impact area of an accident sits right in the heart of downtown Baltimore.

The shipment of crude oil carries added significance to the Bay area because of the rise in oil production in recent years, particularly from the Bakkan shale field in North Dakota. The rise in production has caused an increase in demand, which has led to increased shipping. Shipping crude oil, which is performed primarily by rail, poses risks to local populations and the environment. Just last year, a derailment in Lynchburg, Virginia, caused thousands of gallons of crude oil to spill into the James River. In 2013, a derailment in Quebec, Canada, resulted in spillage of over 1.5 million gallons of crude oil and caused an explosion that killed 47 people.

Time will tell if Targas Resources makes another attempt to obtain the permit from MDE. Hopefully, with enough local opposition, MDE will continue to reject it.

To read the Baltimore Sun article, please visit: http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-crude-oil-20150603-story.html

To read the Sierra Club blog post cited in this post, visit: http://www.sierraclub.org/compass/2014/12/baltimore-residents-oppose-oil-export-facility

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