The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2006 February 24

St. Andrews voices defiance

by Marie Jones Holmes

You must understand that due to its location your project cannot happen without Canada's consent," stated St. Andrews Mayor John Craig. The message was delivered during a February 15 public informational meeting held in St. Andrews by Downeast LNG, a firm based in Washington, D.C., that proposes to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Mill Cove in Robbinston.

Craig further stated, "That consent will definitely not be given, and if you choose to pursue your project in the face of our country's opposition, you will be forced to pursue the matter in our Canadian courts. Such an effort would be extremely challenging, costly, time-consuming and ultimately will prove to be an insurmountable obstacle to your project." Craig notes that the message also applied to the other two companies proposing to build LNG facilities that would use Passamaquoddy Bay. Craig says Canada does have the authority to prevent LNG ships from entering the bay through Head Harbour Passage.

"As I have stated before, January 23 marked the beginning of the end for all LNG terminals being proposed for the beautiful Passamaquoddy Bay." According to Craig, the citizens of Canada have given the newly elected prime minister, Stephen Harper, and Member of Parliament Greg Thompson a mandate to protect Passamaquoddy Bay by banning LNG tankers from entering through Head Harbour Passage. "This area is not only risky and dangerous for navigation, but most importantly these are vital, internal, Canadian sovereign waters."

A prepared statement received from Thompson and read by the mayor states, "I want to assure you as a member of parliament, my position has not changed nor has the position of the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper. We are opposed to the transit of tankers through Head Harbour Passage. We are committed to this position."

Pamela Greenwell, spokesperson for Media Relations Division, Foreign Affairs Canada, in response to a question as to whether the government of Canada has a position on the use of Head Harbour Passage by LNG tankers, responded, "The government is in the process of analyzing all the potential impacts from these proposed projects and will be in a position to ensure Canadian interests are reflected. The government will thoroughly analyze any project proposal and application and will do what is in the best interest of Canada."

Downeast presentation

The presentations of Dean Girdis, president of Downeast LNG, and Rob Wyatt, Downeast LNG vice president, drew strong statements of opposition and at times much laughter from the large group in attendance at the meeting held at the Algonquin Hotel. A statement by Girdis that they would build a facility that would blend in with the community of Robbinston and would not be an eyesore to St. Andrews brought an outburst of laughter.

Girdis described the physical structures that would be associated with the LNG site, including a 4,000-foot pier with mooring dolphins for an LNG ship, a loading platform on the pier, one full-containment LNG storage tank, a closed-loop regasification unit, small support buildings and an access road. Once operational, the facility would receive shipments once every eight to 10 days in the summer and once every five to seven days in the winter months. Ships would unload LNG within 14 hours before departing.

In discussing environmental issues, Downeast LNG says their operations will not require the discharge of process chemicals or other pollutants into the St. Croix River or Passamaquoddy Bay. According to Downeast LNG, an operation has been designed that will not have these types of environmental impacts.

Visual issues were also discussed. According to Girdis, the Robbinston site is uniquely suited to accommodate the necessary structures with minimal visual impact from either Route 1 in Maine or from St. Andrews. Girdis says Downeast LNG has given special consideration to this issue and has developed a site plan that leaves natural vegetation on the waterfront as well as behind the storage tanks. Also the site is sufficiently sloped that natural vegetation on the higher treeline of Robbinston Ridge serves as a backdrop to the project. According to Girdis, the project is being designed to keep lighting at a minimum. "Only minimal lighting will be used and it will face toward the U.S., with lesser viewshed impact than that created by the St. Andrews Biological Research Station." The most visible aspect of the project will be the ship itself, which will be in port for a limited time and at a distance of more than two miles from St. Andrews. The Powerpoint presentation included photographs that showed much of the ship will be blocked by Navy Island. The presentation also included photographs taken at night of the numerous lights of St. Andrews as viewed from Robbinston and daytime photos of Bayside as visible from Robbinston.

Under navigation issues, Girdis and Wyatt pointed out that the local pilots, both U.S. and Canadian, bring large ships through these channels to piers in Eastport and at Bayside. Approximately 150 ships navigate the waters safely every year.

Girdis and Wyatt emphasized that Downeast LNG believes in working in partnership with the whole community, openly sharing information and listening to the concerns and interests of all stakeholders in both the U.S. and Canada.

First Nation response

Chief Hugh Akagi of the New Brunswick band of the Passamaquoddy Tribe spoke of his opposition to the Downeast LNG proposal. "Mr. Girdis, your newsletter has conveniently left out any consultation with the First Nations people, who are indigenous to this territory since time immemorial. Your efforts to ignore First Nations while seeking access and rights within our territory are considered an infringement upon our constitutional rights as native peoples within our territory."

Chief Akagi does not share the interest of some of the Passamaquoddy tribal members who are pursuing a LNG project on the other side of the bay at Pleasant Point.

Chief Akagi states, "The problem, Mr. Girdis, is that you have nothing I want. With all your millions/billions of dollars, you have nothing I want. To consider any offer you might make as a fair trade, to consider any exchange of paper for my consent as a good deal, I need only revisit the past to reply: No, Mr. Girdis, this time there will be no beads for Manhattan."

St. Andrews Councillor Mike Craig believes a line from a Bob Dylan song sums up the feelings of the mayor, the town council and the people of St. Andrews: "You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."


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