2006 January 13
by Marie Jones Holmes
The vote was "yes." Robbinston residents turned out in force on January 10 to express their feelings on the proposed construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and related facilities at Mill Cove. The ballot question asked: "Shall the town approve the proposed Downeast LNG terminal at Mill Cove?" The vote was almost 3 to 1 in favor of the project.
Of the 311 votes cast, 227 voted in favor and 83 voted against the proposal. One vote was invalid. The voter apparently could not make a firm decision and marked both the yes and no boxes. Robbinston has 459 registered voters, for a voter turnout of 68%.
Robbinston Town Clerk Pam Reynolds said the balloting went very smoothly. "It is one of the best turnouts we have ever had," commented Reynolds.
Dean Girdis, president of the Washington D.C.-based Downeast LNG, presented an extensive economic package for Robbinston and Washington County at an informational meeting and public hearing held on December 28. The public meeting was a requirement prior to scheduling a vote. According to Girdis, Downeast's annual LNG obligations to the town of Robbinston would amount to $3.6 million.
Two petitions were presented to town officials in November asking for a vote on the proposed LNG project. The first petition calling for a referendum vote was presented on November 5 to the town clerk 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 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 report is expected to be completed this spring. A second petition calling for a timely vote on the proposal was submitted November 17 to the town clerk. After checking with the Maine Municipal Association, the town selectmen scheduled the January balloting.
Following the results of the vote, Girdis said, "We are happy that the residents of Robbinston had a chance to express themselves. We are looking forward to working with them. The voting result is an indication of the support of the community." Girdis remarked that community support is important in any permitting process.
Commenting on the voting results, Robbinston First Selectman Tom Moholland said, "I feel really good about this. A lot of people worked hard on this, and the vote shows this is what the town wanted us to do." Moholland described the voter turnout as the largest he has seen in 12 years.
Richard Berry, chairman of the Save Passamaquoddy Bay, 3-Nation Alliance, Robbinston group, says, "The vote reflects the fact that the majority of the voters were not interested in knowing the results of the comprehensive impact study of Passamaquoddy Bay and the surrounding area. The vote shows that the residents have not been truly informed of the consequences and changes the LNG complex will impose on the town of Robbinston."
Having attended a few of the Downeast LNG meetings, Berry is not surprised at the vote. Berry says the impact study is going forward and it will be used in any hearings. "It will be a fight to the finish," says Berry.
Sue Crawford, also a member of alliance, says, "The vote was suggestive but not definitive. It is a shame the voters did not wait for the Whole Bay Study. My question is, "What's the hurry?"
Linda Godfrey, coordinator of the alliance, commented, "This morning, looking across Passamaquoddy Bay and seeing that the only glow was the coming sunrise rather than industrial lighting, the one sound was silence rather than the hum of turbines or security boats moving about and the activity was the Eastport scallop draggers freely going into the bay at the time and to the place they wished to go. It is for these reasons and many others that Save Passamaquoddy Bay will continue our work to keep Passamaquoddy Bay free of a large industrial operation. We will deliver on our commitment to provide the Whole Bay Study for all communities around the bay to know the facts upon which final decisions can be made. As the developer of the proposed project in Robbinston said § an opinion today is not necessarily the same opinion tomorrow." Commenting on the voting, Godfrey says, "Given the developer's spoken concerns about the community's opinion prior to any official actions, it was surprising to learn that in fact the developer had initiated the pre-filing process five days before the vote was even taken."
On January 5 Downeast LNG requested that FERC initiate a National Environmental Policy Act pre-filing review of its proposed LNG terminal project. A similar application was filed on December 16 by Quoddy Bay LLC, an Oklahoma-based company that proposes to construct a LNG facility at Split Rock at Pleasant Point.
Downeast LNG expects to submit a siting plan to the Robbinston Planning Board on January 19 as part of the process of obtaining necessary state permits.
Girdis also plans to meet with Stan Lord, owner of East Coast Ferries Ltd. of Deer Island, a private ferry service that runs from Deer Island to Eastport and from Deer Island to Campobello. Girdis says the meeting was requested by Lord, who wants to discuss any potential disruption to the ferry service by the passage of LNG vessels en route to Mill Cove. Girdis says, "We don't see any disruption." According to Girdis, the passage of an LNG vessel would take approximately 20 minutes at any given point and at the most any delay would be no more than five or ten minutes.
© 2006 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.