The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

28 April 2006

Suit claims tribe's land lease
poses risk to endangered whales

A Passamaquoddy group opposed to a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Pleasant Point filed suit on April 18 against the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for violating the Endangered Species Act by not considering the potential impact on endangered whales. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor by Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon (We Take Care of the Land), maintains that the BIA violated the act by authorizing a ground lease agreement between Quoddy Bay LLC and the Passamaquoddy Tribe. In December 2005, the group had served former Secretary Gale A. Norton of the U.S. Department of the Interior and BIA Acting Regional Director Robert K. Impson with a notice of an intent to sue for violation of section 7 of the act.

The lawsuit alleges that the BIA did not consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency with the primary responsibility to protect whales, when it authorized the LNG ground lease. Passamaquoddy Bay and surrounding waters are home to endangered and threatened whales species, and the Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to consider impacts on protected species associated with any decision, by consulting with the federal agency with responsibility for species protection.

One possible impact is the potential for ship strikes, since that is the most common injury to whales. The lease, as approved by the BIA, will allow LNG tankers to make hundreds of trips in the waters where endangered whales like the right whale are most prevalent.

Dr. Deanna Francis, a member of Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon, says, "The Split Rock site is a well-known location for traditional and ceremonial gatherings, including ceremonies dedicated to the whales. Even in times of great need, our ancestors remained steadfast in their connection with the land and the earth. Any impact on the land and bay affected them. Our ancestors paid a heavy price for our survival, and their values of generosity, reciprocity and ingenuity are not lost on us. It is our responsibility to assure our descendants we did everything humanly possible to keep the bay ecologically sound. The catastrophe that has already been inflicted upon the whales is inexcusable, but to ignore the obvious need for their continued protection is unconscionable. Construction of a massive industrial complex, along with some of the largest cargo tankers that carry volatile and hazardous material, places every whale in our bay at risk. Not having a healthy whale population has already had direct effect on our culture, as any harm to them brings us the same."


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