CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — Four western Maryland residents face criminal charges for blocking a Cumberland courthouse entrance to protest Dominion Resources’ plan to export natural gas.

The Rev. Terence Ellen, a Unitarian minister, led the demonstration Thursday at Allegany County Circuit Court.

He says Dominion’s plan to export natural gas from the Appalachian region through its Cove Point shipping terminal in southern Maryland deserves closer scrutiny by state and federal regulators.

The issue also prompted a large rally last week in Baltimore.

Dominion says it will need thousands of workers to renovate the Cove Point terminal for converting natural gas into a liquid form so it can be loaded onto tankers.

Critics say the venture will needlessly accelerate the environmentally questionable gas-drilling practice called hydraulic fracturing, which is currently not allowed in Maryland.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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