"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
Published in the Wall Street Journal on 2007 April 11.
Webmaster’s Note: The contents of the following letter were received by us via email on 2007 Apr 12.
I write in response to your March 22 editorial, “Maine Chance,” which claimed that “Canada’s LNG protests don’t hold water” when it comes to the two LNG facilities proposed for the Passamaquoddy Bay area of Maine. The editorial mischaracterized Canadian and New Brunswick concerns over these two LNG facilities as “an emerging trade dispute” driven by “energy protectionism” on our part. The editorial also is misguided in attacking the Canadian federal government’s decision to deny LNG tankers transit through Head Harbour Passage.
At the outset, there simply is no basis for your accusation of protectionism, and there are many examples of cross-border cooperation in energy as well as other sectors. New Brunswick recently has signed an MOU with Maine to improve inter-connectivity on our electrical grid. There also have been a number of other joint projects with the New England states, not the least of which is an international 345 kilo-volt transmission line that is being constructed right now at a combined cost of $160 million. We encourage competition, but competition is not the issue when it comes to the Quoddy Bay and Downeast LNG terminals.
What your editorial dismisses as “contrived, energy protectionism” with regard to LNG, we see as protecting the legitimate economic, environmental, safety and security interests and concerns of the people of New Brunswick to the best of our legal ability. New Brunswick’s interests in the Maine terminals are evident and significant. Our Province borders Maine. Campobello Island and Deer Island, both within New Brunswick, are located along the proposed vessel transit route. New Brunswickers living in these areas depend on the Passamaquoddy Bay for their livelihoods.
Moreover, all vessels destined for these proposed terminals would be required to transit through Head Harbour Passage, which is entirely Canadian waters. Once the vessels have transited through Head Harbour Passage and turn into the Western Passage, they will encounter the Old Sow whirlpool, the largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere. This whirlpool, which shifts location depending on the tides, is near one of the narrowest points of the transit at approximately 800 yards across between the southwestern tip of Deer Island, New Brunswick and Dog Island, Maine.
Consequently, our Province has intervened in the FERC proceedings regarding these LNG terminals in Maine to ensure that the FERC considers how the resolution of matters within its jurisdiction might impact the lives of New Brunswick citizens. Thus, despite any protests to the contrary, the Province is playing by the rules as U.S. laws and regulations have defined them.
At the same time, our intervention before the FERC does not and cannot place within that agency’s jurisdiction any aspect of the Canadian government’s decision regarding Head Harbour Passage and Passamaquoddy Bay. The Government of New Brunswick supports the federal government’s Head Harbour Passage decision without reservation. Matters of access to Canadian territorial waters lie within the exclusive jurisdiction of our federal government, and are not subject to review or critique by the FERC.
The truth of the matter is that not all sites are ideal for the construction of LNG terminals. The development of an LNG project represents a complex undertaking even under the best conditions, and presents myriad potential safety, security and environment concerns. It is precisely for this reason that the United States and Canada both have adopted thorough regulatory processes to evaluate the siting and construction of LNG terminals and facilities. On at least one occasion, the FERC process has rejected a proposed LNG terminal on safety grounds because the proposal “would be inconsistent with the public interest.” In contrast to the proposed Maine terminals, the Canaport LNG facility in Saint John, New Brunswick and its approaches are in easily navigable waters.
As Premier of New Brunswick, I will continue to ensure that the interests and concerns of our citizens are taken into account and strongly defended.