Community divided over Cove Point natural gas terminal

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..."Dominion Resources began work in October at Cove Point, the shipping terminal that the company plans to convert into an export facility for natural gas. The ambitious $3.8 billion project will involve about a thousand workers a year over several years.

Dominion’s project is intensely controversial in Lusby, Md., where residents are concerned about pollution and safety. Protests against the plan have led to dozens of arrests across Maryland and in Washington. Environmental groups have asked federal regulators to reconsider their approval for the project and have threatened to sue if construction isn’t halted.

Meanwhile, a sizable tax credit Dominion received to build the project has received little public attention. Last year, Calvert County’s commissioners voted unanimously to waive about $506 million in county property taxes that Dominion would have owed over 14 years if the project is successfully completed.

By comparison, the county’s entire budget this year is $309 million...

As engineers drill wells, lay pipe and design cooling plants like Dominion’s, lobbyists are pressing for favorable tax policies to make new investments more profitable...

The federal government provides subsidies as well. Dominion is organizing the Cove Point project as a master limited partnership, a separate legal entity that will exempt some of the company’s earnings on the facility from federal corporate income tax. Master limited partnerships are chiefly found in the fossil-fuel industry. There are more and more of them as firms look to maximize profits on the boom in natural gas, said Doug Koplow, whose research organization Earth Track monitors fossil-fuel subsidies.

Koplow is skeptical of these awards. He thinks they unnecessarily encourage businesses that pollute and deplete natural resources and that they distort markets.

“Are we a developing country where we’re subsidizing our resource extraction and export?” he said. “Or are we a developed country where we price our resources accurately?”...