The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

14 Apr 2006

FERC hears views on LNG: Robbinston split

by Marie Jones Holmes

The pros and cons of constructing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and storage facility at Mill Cove in Robbinston were presented at a March 29 scoping meeting held at the Robbinston Elementary School. Representatives of the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Coast Guard listened intently as the majority of citizens who spoke stressed the economic benefits that would be derived from the LNG facility proposed by the Washington-based company, Downeast LNG.

Robbinston's first selectman, Tom Moholland, noted that a recent town vote revealed that 75% of Robbinston voters favored the construction of an LNG facility in Robbinston.

Ian Pratt, a Calais businessman, spoke in favor of the project, stressing the need for more economic development if young people are going to be able to stay in the area. Pratt noted that ships dock across the river at Bayside, and some of them transport ammonium nitrate, which can be used as an explosive.

Ship pilot Robert Peacock of Perry said he favored the LNG terminal and spoke of the need for economic development in the area. Peacock, who is also involved in the fishing industry, said that for the most part the fishing industry is in trouble Downeast. "Lets face it, we need economic development in this area," Peacock said. He summed up his support saying, "I am strongly for LNG; I think everybody knows that."

Regional siting approach advocated

Roger Fleming, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), presented comments on aspects of the proposal. Fleming said CLF recognizes the importance of expanding the natural gas supply in New England, in view of the benefits of natural gas over other fossil fuels in reducing harmful air emissions. "This project presents several significant public safety and marine and coastal environmental issues, and CLF asks FERC to undertake a thorough analysis of these issues as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) it is initiating."

Fleming stated, "The first area we wish to highlight for analysis stems from the fact that there are over 10 proposals for onshore LNG terminals and offshore deepwater ports in the Northeast and Maritime Canada. Only one or two of these projects are needed to meet the region's energy needs, according to the former FERC Chairman Wood. Already, two facilities have been approved in Maritime Canada, one of which is currently under construction in Saint John and one facility has been approved in Fall River, Mass. All proposed project sites to date have been advanced on a community-by-community basis and are not based on a coherent strategy for evaluating the overall need for additional LNG import capacity or on rigorously defined criteria for identifying what may be the 'best' potential LNG terminal or deepwater port sites. This ad hoc approach has not been efficient or effective and does not provide an adequate basis for decision-making about individual proposals."

"It is CLF's view that decisions to site LNG import facilities must be based on a region-wide evaluation of the potential merits and environmental impacts of adding one or more additional LNG import facilities to the regional energy infrastructure."

Fleming said the second area that needed to be highlighted for analysis is the proposed project's potential impacts on the coastal and marine environment. "This project is proposed in an area rich in natural and cultural resources but that lacks a comprehensive management plan for development or a regional plan for evaluating the need for and delivery of natural gas to the New England Market." Fleming told FERC, "We urge you to require a full exploration of the issues we have raised this evening in your analysis. This is a landmark opportunity to ask critical questions, thoroughly evaluate the alternatives and make the best decisions for the people of Maine and New England."

Park commission opposes facilities

Strong Canadian opposition was expressed in the form of a lengthy prepared statement submitted to FERC by the Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission. The statement was read by Harold Bailey of Lubec. Bailey said his statement, which was prepared in 2005 concerning the proposed LNG facility at Pleasant Point, was also pertinent to the Downeast LNG project proposed at Mill Cove. Bailey provided a history of the international park, established in 1964 by treaty between the U.S. and Canada. The commission's board, comprised of three members and three alternates, has raised numerous safety concerns involving the transport of LNG, noting that safety is a major consideration. "It is clear from analyzing the various safety reports available from both U.S. federal sources and private independent institutions, that the heat alone from any fire or explosion of an LNG tanker in transit to or from the proposed terminal would immediately render to ashes much of the shoreline vegetation and structures on northern and eastern Campobello Island, the islands most populated areas, including the park's shoreline and the historical cottage."

Commission members have also asked the Canadian government to restate their opposition to tanker traffic through Head Harbour Passage and to stress Canada's view that the waters are internal waters and therefore not subject to limitation of sovereign action as might be implied by the doctrine of "freedom of innocent passage." LNG proponents have supported the right of innocent passage.

FERC representative Shannon Dunn told the large audience in attendance at the scoping meeting that written comments could also be forwarded to FERC.


© 2006 The Quoddy Tides
Eastport, Maine
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.