2006 November 24
by Gail Menzel
In a two-hour public informational meeting on November 21 in Robbinston, Rob Wyatt, vice president for environment and permitting for Downeast LNG Inc. and Downeast Pipeline LLC, described the permit applications the company will submit by December 1 to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Although the public meeting is required by state law and DEP rules, no representative of the DEP was present. About 100 citizens were on hand to hear summaries of the three applications that, if approved, would give DEP consent to the construction and operation of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Mill Cove in Robbinston, as well as to a 31-mile-long pipeline from there to a station in Baileyville.
The three DEP permits needed for the companies to proceed are: a site location of development permit, a Natural Resources Protection Act permit, and a water quality certification permit. In addition, Wyatt ticked off dozens of additional federal, state and local agencies, running the gamut from the Department of Homeland Security to local planning boards, whose imprimatur is needed before the project is fully approved.
The meeting was the first in a series of sessions designed to provide opportunities for public input as the permitting process proceeds. Wyatt narrated the slide presentation with company president Dean Girdis operating the projector and five or six company consultants standing by to add technical information as needed. The hour-long presentation followed the format required by the DEP and began with a recital of the agency's procedures. The entire session was recorded on video as well as audiotape, including the question and answer period at the end.
Summarizing the agency's timelines, Wyatt said he estimates at least a year will be devoted to the permitting process, and if construction were approved, the earliest anticipated start would be 2008 with a three-year target for completion. The earliest date operations could begin would be 2011.
The major features of the current site plan include a 3,882 foot-long pier, a regasification facility and two LNG storage tanks of 160 feet in height, each with a capacity of 160,000 cubic meters; permission is sought to construct two tanks, although only one will be built initially. The 30-inch diameter pipeline will traverse the municipalities of Robbinston, Calais, Baring, Baileyville and Princeton. The company expects that ships carrying LNG would arrive once every 57 days in winter and slightly less often in summer.
Considerations such as noise, lighting, visual quality and scenic character, water quality, impact on wildlife are addressed in the applications along with a host of others. Wyatt noted that the company has discussed with county educational facilities the need for training programs to develop a local pool of skilled workers in such fields as welding. The Maine Maritime Academy is also planning programs to lead to licensing in a range of shipboard occupations needed in the LNG industry.
Photo simulations were shown to depict what the site would look like from points along a circumference of four miles from the terminal site. Wyatt said the company would hold a town meeting in Robbinston for citizens to decide what color the tank should be to blend best with its surroundings, based on similar photo simulations. He acknowledged in response to a questioner that blasting would be required during pipeline construction and possibly at the tank site, and would last about two months.
A man whose mother-in-law owns property on the pipeline route inquired when she could expect to hear from the company's negotiators. Wyatt described an informal process for dealing with owners, saying the company would do everything possible to accommodate their wishes for placement of the conduit, and would avoid invoking eminent domain "except as a last resort." He noted that each town affected would also be consulted and "will receive income from the pipeline, in some cases, significant income."
People may submit written comments at any time during the course of the applications' processing, beginning December 1. They should be mailed to the Maine DEP, Eastern Maine Regional Office, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor ME 04401. Wyatt said the entire presentation at the November 21 meeting would be available within a week on the company's website, <www.downeastlng.com>.
Notification of the meeting was sent by certified mail to owners whose property abuts the site of the proposed terminal and to town offices of affected municipalities. It was not advertised in any Washington County media, but a paid notice appeared in the Bangor newspaper. Any persons wishing to be placed on the mailing list for future public meetings should submit that request to the DEP at the address above.
© 2006 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.