2005 December 9
by Marie Jones Holmes
Robbinston voters will have an opportunity during the first part of January to express their opinion on a proposal to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and related facilities in the Mill Cove area of the town. Downeast LNG, based in Washington, D.C., has optioned land in the Mill Cove area and has started the process of preparing the necessary studies for the submittal of an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Robbinston First Selectman Tom Moholland says a special town meeting and secret referendum vote on the LNG proposal is slated for Tuesday, January 10, at the Robbinston fire station. A public hearing concerning the voting process and the LNG proposal will be held Tuesday, December 28, at 7 p.m. at the Robbinston Grade School. The scheduling of both meetings was approved at the regular monthly meeting of the selectmen on November 21.
Town selectmen have received two separate petitions from Robbinston voters requesting a referendum vote on the LNG project. The first petition calling for a referendum vote was presented on November 5 to Town Clerk Pam Reynolds. The petition was signed by 77 voters and asked that the vote be held no sooner than 45 days after the completion of an independent impact study being conducted by Yellow Wood Associates of St. Albans, Vt., in collaboration with the St. Croix Estuary Project, in order that Robbinston voters be allowed to study the report and make an informed choice. The study is expected to be completed some time this spring, but no definite completion date has been set.
The second petition with 195 signatures, which calls for a vote sooner on the LNG proposal, was presented November 17 to the town clerk. A total of 288 Robbinston voters cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election.
Moholland says he consulted the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) concerning the submission of two petitions and the policy to follow in scheduling a vote for town residents. MMA indicated there is no restriction on the number of petitions, but there are legal ramifications concerning a group's desire to control or dictate when a vote is to be taken. Moholland says the completion date of the Yellow Wood Associates report is indefinite, adding, "With the majority of the voters indicating they want to vote on the proposal soon, we decided to go ahead."
Moholland says private groups may feel it is necessary to spend $50,000 or more to have a study done, but he believes during the permitting process that FERC will study every impact of the project. He feels that once people realize this they will be more comfortable with the FERC application process.
Moholland believes the FERC process may be more independent than the Yellow Wood study, which is being funded by Save Passamaquoddy Bay, a Three Nation Alliance. Members of the group include Save Passamaquoddy Bay, US; We Protect Our Land, Pleasant Point; Save Passamaquoddy Bay, Perry; Save Passamaquoddy Bay, Robbinston; Save Passamaquoddy Bay, Canada; and Save Passamaquoddy Bay, St. Andrews and Fundy Islands.