The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

26 May 2006

Government agencies identify LNG issues in FERC comments

by Edward French

Tribal, state, provincial and federal agencies have been sending comments about the liquefied natural gas (LNG) proposals for Passamaquoddy Bay to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), ranging from concerns about the archaeology and traditional uses of the Split Rock site to the lengths of the piers, from impacts on endangered or threatened species to environmental justice. FERC is receiving comments about two of the three proposed projects, Quoddy Bay LNG and Downeast LNG.

Concerning both projects, New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord wrote, "The importance of a thorough review process for the placement and development of LNG facilities in appropriate locations cannot be overemphasized so as to ensure public safety and security as well as environmental protection. These types of operations clearly belong in industrial settings with superior docking facilities, clear shipping lands and safe anchorages, all of which are attributes of an appropriate site without being environmentally harmful. In our view, it would be difficult for facilities in Passamaquoddy Bay to meet these site characteristics."

The premier lists concerns about the impact on fisheries, recreational boaters, tourism activities, aquaculture and sensitive ecosystems. The potential impact of a spill should also be considered, he wrote.

The Passamaquoddy Historic Preservation Office recommends that Split Rock and the adjacent ledge be protected if an LNG terminal is constructed by Quoddy Bay LNG, with no material placed on the rock and a barrier placed around it to prevent any damage. Historic Preservation Officer Donald Soctomah reviewed the traditional uses of the site, including ceremonial uses and the Full Moon Ceremony. He writes, "Split Rock is a vessel where the wonakomehs (little people who live among the rocks) come and go from the underworld to the world of the Skicin (people). Often they are seen playing among the rocks. Some individuals have seen them dancing along the rocks. In another legend, Split Rock was created from lightning striking the rock and opening it up."

Soctomah also notes that an archaeological survey was conducted of the site in 2005, and a report will address potential impacts to archaeological resources from the LNG development.

State and federal agencies have also written with comments. The Maine Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands, expresses concerns about the length of the 1,700-foot pier for Quoddy Bay LNG, noting it would block navigation for approximately 40% of the distance to the U.S. and Canadian boundary. The Downeast LNG pier would extend approximately 3,800 feet to 4,050 feet from shore, or more than half the distance to the U.S. and Canadian boundary. Under the bureau's rules, piers may not extend more than 1,000 feet from shore unless it can be shown that no reasonable alternative exists. "Given the length of Maine's coastline and the shallow depth and narrow waterway at the proposed terminal site relative to the navigation and berthing requirements of the LNG vessels, it is difficult to imagine that the proposed site is the most suitable," wrote Dan Prichard, of the bureau's Submerged Lands Program, concerning both projects.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urges that the Quoddy Bay LNG, Downeast LNG and the Calais LNG projects be considered as alternatives to one another and that "cumulative impacts analysis for each of these projects will need to fully consider the impact of the other projects." The federal agency also recommends that alternative locations for the LNG terminals be evaluated and that the impact of a possible expansion of the Maritimes & Northeast pipeline, to serve the LNG terminals, be considered. Water and air quality impacts that should be assessed in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) are outlined, although the EPA notes that Nonattainment New Source Review requirements would not apply for nitrogen oxides (NOx), since Maine received a NOx waiver from the EPA for Washington County.

Under an executive order to address environmental justice, the EPA has identified "several communities in the proposed project area as potential environmental justice areas of concern. Specifically, impacts on the significant population of low-income and minority residents in Perry, Maine, should be considered in the EIS." EPA's environmental justice principles state that no group of people, including a racial, ethnic, or a socioeconomic group, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal and commercial operations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urges that FERC carefully consider a broad range of alternatives for both projects, including alternative sites both within the state of Maine and in other states in the region. The federal agency also recommends that alternatives for portions of the natural gas sendout pipeline be evaluated, pointing to issues that need to considered in siting the pipeline, including the presence of rare species, such as the endangered Atlantic salmon and the threatened bald eagle, wetlands, streams crossings, other important wildlife habitats and impacts to protected conservation lands.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also expressed concerns about possible impacts on essential fish habitat and several protected species, including Atlantic salmon, sea turtles and endangered North Atlantic right, humpback and fin whales. Also, marine mammals that are not considered endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, such as seals and other whales, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Numerous individuals and organizations have also submitted comments. The comments are posted on FERC's website at The docket number is PF06-11 for the Quoddy Bay LNG project and PF06-13 for the Downeast LNG project.


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