2005 November 2
ST. ANDREWS The developer proposing a $400 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal facility for Robbinston, Me., across the Passamaquoddy Bay from this Canadian tourist community, said he still plans to hold a public meeting here to allay residents' fears over the impact his project would have on their town.
Dean Girdis, president of Downeast LNG, said he plans to be in St. Andrews for a meeting either in late November or early December. Girdis said he visited with the town's Chief Administrative Officer Tim Henderson in early October, expressing his continued interest in a public meeting.
Henderson confirmed Friday he had spoken with Girdis about a month ago, but added that Girdis will not be having a private meeting with members of Town Council.
Henderson said council will not meet privately with Girdis on the LNG issue and have made it quite clear than any meeting they have with the developer will be in a public forum.
"Council won't have a private meeting, not on this subject," said Henderson.
Girdis said he was sorry the meeting with Canadian residents has been delayed, and said it was due to time constraints and his workload in preparing various aspects of the project.
"I've been trying to run around and get all these other things done," explained Girdis, adding he had hoped to kick off the Canadian meetings in St. Andrews, Deer Island, and on Campobello Island all at the same time. Unfortunately, he said, because of scheduling, that may not be possible now.
"I'm sorry the meeting's been delayed, but we are going to do it, " promised Girdis.
"I have no security concerns on my side," he added in reference to a statement by an official with Quoddy Bay LLC, another LNG company with its own plans for a $230 inland LNG storage facility at Robbinston, Me., who cancelled plans for a public meeting in St. Andrews for "security concerns."
Opposition in St. Andrews and the rest of Charlotte County to the LNG facilities was swift and very vocal when the projects were announced.
Girdis said he expects within the next two weeks to file a request with the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to initiate the environmental study process for his project at Mill Cove, south of Robbinston, which includes a docking pier stretching anywhere from 3,000 feet to 4,500 feet out into Passamaquoddy Bay and one to two storage tanks.
"This will initiate the two-year review process," explained Girdis.
He added that there is a "fair amount of preparatory work" necessary before filing the application.
"The full application isn't really presented until July of next year. It's a very long process, a very stringent process, not anything you can rush."
The company has held several public meetings in Maine, and Girdis announced that he's taken the process of allaying public fears amongst Robbinston residents one step further.
Downeast LNG will fly eight Robbinston residents to the Cove Point LNG facility in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, for a visit from Nov. 13 to Nov. 15.
Girdis said the residents were chosen by the residents' committee and include representatives from the fire department, community leaders and those with environmental concerns.
"The area is relatively rural with a big tourist economy," said Girdis, describing the areas as "more touristy than St. Andrews" with a large sailing community located at Solomon Island, "living in a symbiotic relationship about two miles away."
Girdis said he had no plans to take any St. Andrews residents on a similar fact-finding trip to the Chesapeake Bay facility. He said he would be happy to arrange a tour for them and to even accompany them to answer any questions they might have, but doesn't have the budget necessary to pay for their trips.
The company is going ahead with the next step of its project the hiring of workers for the facility.
Girdis said a job fair would be held Nov. 17 at the Grade School in Robbinston from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the hiring of construction and operations staff. The website at www.DowneastLNG.com can provide details of job descriptions available, Girdis said.
Girdis said he was very pleased to have already received a resume from a resident of New Brunswick who was applying for a job with his company.
During construction, the company will employ about 300 people, including locals, Girdis said. Once the LNG facility is built, it will employ about 63 people, in positions such as plant management, security, health and safety, operations, administrative, book keepers and tug boat operators.
"We will need a fair amount of people," said Girdis.
Girdis said while he wasn't "in a race with the other guy" to build his LNG facility first, the commercial reality was that there is sufficient gas from other supplies already in the marketplace and even if all the projects planned for this area get their environmental permits, that's no guarantee they will all be built.
"I'm not in a race with the other guys," said Girdis.
"We all have to go through the same hurdles. The reality is that we could submit perfect application and get approval, but the commercial reality of the market is there is sufficient gas from other suppliers in the marketplace, so even with a permit that doesn't guarantee the terminal will get built."
He said as far as the Canadian government not allowing the LNG tankers through Canadian waters like Head Harbour passage, people may get a surprise.
"Once the application process is initiated with FERC, the Canadian government can then decide (what it wants to do)," said Girdis.
Girdis said all his investigations into this issue have not come up with any regulatory laws that need to be addressed in Canada.
He said tankers coming to his terminal would be allowed to do so under "rights of innocent passage."
© 2005 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.
The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB