2005 August 26
by Marie Jones Holmes
The Canadian government should simply say no to the passage of ships [LNG tankers] through Canadian waters. It is not innocent passage. We have the right to say no," stated Greg Thompson, Conservative Member of Parliament for Southwest New Brunswick, speaking at an informational meeting on liquefied natural gas (LNG) held in St. Andrews on Monday, August 22.
Two companies, Quoddy Bay LLC and Downeast LNG, are proposing to build LNG facilities on the American side of Passamaquoddy Bay, but ships carrying LNG to the Maine terminals would pass through the Canadian waters of Head Harbour Passage between Campobello and Deer Island. Thompson noted that on December 15, 1976, the federal government in Ottawa stated that it would object to the passage of oil tankers passing through the same waters. In the 1970s the Pittston Oil Company was proposing to construct an oil refinery at Eastport. Thompson noted that the proposed LNG terminals and ships would raise similar concerns.
Thompson described the St. Andrews meeting, which attracted more than 1,000 people, as "a great initiative."
Shawn Graham, leader of the Liberal opposition party in New Brunswick, declared, "It is very evident tonight [that] as elected officials we have to listen and to learn and as a caucus send letters to the Minister of Environment. We have a common goal and a common concern. Collectively we will make our case known."
The Liberal MLA for Charlotte, Rick Doucet, told the audience, "We are all joining as one team to say we don't want LNG. We will travel to Ottawa with the message 'No LNG in this area.'"
St. Andrews Mayor John Craig conducted the public meeting that had originally been requested by Brian Smith of Quoddy Bay LLC. Smith later opted out of the meeting citing security concerns. Quoddy Bay LLC proposes to build a terminal at Split Rock at Pleasant Point and three storage tanks at Robbinston. Downeast LNG had also asked for a meeting with St. Andrews officials and area residents. Downeast LNG proposes to build a terminal facility and one or two storage tanks at Mill Cove in Robbinston. Dean Girdis of Downeast LNG also declined to attend, saying he had prior commitments for the August 22 date.
The meeting opened with a prayer and song by members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe. For the past 14 months a group of tribal members have been opposing the siting of an LNG terminal at Pleasant Point. Tribal member Deanna Francis spoke in both Passamaquoddy and English about protecting Mother Earth and the whales.
Mayor Craig told the crowd, "I granted their request to meet with the people of the St. Andrews area and the town council. We went to great lengths to accommodate the requests of the developers and they opted out after the date had been set." Information based on printed matter prepared by both companies for general distribution was read and presented on a large screen. "They didn't have the gumption to be here so we did it for them," commented Mayor Craig.
One of the lighter moments of the meeting came during the reading of the Downeast LNG presentation concerning visual impact. The W.C. O'Neil hockey arena, site of the meeting, rocked with laughter following a line in the Downeast LNG report that stated, "On the Canadian side of the river, there will be limited view shed opportunities. Because the river is 3.5 miles wide at the project site, the visual impact of the Downeast LNG pier would naturally be obscured or visually unremarkable on days in which fog, rain or haze exist." Following recent days of heavy fog, the audience could relate to reduced visibility. The Downeast LNG facility is in direct line of sight from the St. Andrews community. Deer Island and Campobello would have views of the Pleasant Point terminal.
Following the reading of the reports prepared by both companies, there were presentations by St. Andrews biologist Art MacKay; Linda Godfrey of Save Passamaquoddy Bay, a 3-Nation Alliance; and Charlie Atherton, a Lake Charles, La., resident.
MacKay gave a detailed report on the economic and environmental value of the bay. Over 2,000 types of marine creatures, including endangered species, live in the bay area. The area is important for whales including the North Atlantic right whale.
According to MacKay's data, the region generates $1.2 billion province-wide and $300 to $400 million locally. The traditional fishery is worth $173 million today and employs 3,500 persons. Tourism is also of vital economic importance to the area. MacKay described the St. Andrews area as having the potential to be "Bar Harbor North."
Linda Godfrey then spoke, describing the St. Andrews meeting as a further alliance of groups and individuals opposed to LNG. She acknowledged Lorraine Francis as the first tribal member to stand up against the LNG project. Francis had earlier confronted Passamaquoddy Governor Melvin Francis at a meeting and asked, "What have you done to us?" Lorraine Francis was overcome with emotion following a standing ovation from the St. Andrews audience.
Godfrey then introduced Charlie Atherton, a resident of Sulphur, La., who worked in one of the 26 chemical and related businesses in Lake Charles where two LNG facilities are located. He described the Lake Charles area as "not 'the way life should be' but the way life has become." He described LNG as the lifeblood of industry. The glow from industry produces a constant haze and constant background noise. He said that on his first night Downeast he was surprised that he was aware of the "deafening sound of silence." Speaking at several public gatherings in the area recently, Atherton has said that the industries bring jobs but there are major tradeoffs. "The jobs are so highly specialized that the jobs won't go to the people here. In the gas and chemical industry you don't want people learning on the job. When they promise jobs, the reality is that it doesn't happen. They bring specialized people in and the people move into town, register to vote and they are now 'local.'" He suggested that "a handful of people are selling out your future."
Mayor Craig closed the meeting, telling the audience to "do what is right and don't let this happen. 'No means no' from all sides of the nay. We need everyone's help so Ottawa can stop it. We must stop these companies from destroying our way of life."
Smiths send written response
Following the August 22 meeting, representatives from Quoddy Bay LLC stated that they had delivered responses to many of the concerns to the mayor of St. Andrews in advance of the meeting. On Wednesday, August 17, Quoddy Bay hand-delivered a letter and a presentation to the town of St. Andrews, which outlined responses to many concerns voiced at the meeting.
In the letter, Brian Smith, project manager of Quoddy Bay, wrote, "The solution of separating the LNG import facility and the LNG storage facility made the most sense to maximize the benefits to local communities, which include St. Andrews, while minimizing any negative effects. Our ships will not travel within several miles of St. Andrews, will not present a 'broadside view' from anywhere in the bay, will not be visible at berth from Eastport, and will berth in water that is not prime for fishing or considered a marine estuary."
According to the company's press release, when viewed from St. Andrews, the LNG tanker would be "no bigger than a spot the size of a pin head on a piece of paper held out arm's length from the viewer."
Concerning safety, the company's statement reads, "The worst of all of the worst case scenarios, even the near impossible ones, considered in any report does not put St. Andrews in danger from a Quoddy Bay LNG ship or an LNG storage tank. However, Quoddy Bay and all regulatory bodies will ensure the safety and security of all storage and transport of LNG to minimize any risk to anyone or anything at any time."
In response to concerns about fishing and tourism, Smith writes, "Canadian authorities will bear most of the responsibility to ensure our ships do not interfere greatly with local fishing, lobstering or whale watching."
While the chemical characteristics of LNG were not addressed in the letter from Smith or the presentation, Don Smith, president of Quoddy Bay, responded to environmental concerns, saying, "LNG and natural gas are both non-toxic, which means, unlike oil carried in supertankers, LNG does not harm the environment even if spilled. One of the biggest reasons to import LNG is to improve the environment by replacing dirty fuels like oil and coal with clean burning natural gas."
August 26, 2005