The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine


8 Sep 2006

LNG forum speaker challenges FERC on public safety focus

by Marie Jones Holmes

The impact from a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility cannot be confined to one town, and one cannot depend on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to protect the community. These were two of several messages delivered at the August 30 public forum held in St. Andrews, sponsored by Save Passamaquoddy Bay Canada. Approximately 500 people attended the forum. Professor Clifford Goudey, director of the Center for Fisheries Engineering Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was a guest speaker. Goudey was instrumental with others in the rejection of an LNG terminal in Harpswell in 2003.

Goudey asked, "Who is looking out for the public safety? I don't think it is FERC. They have approved all the projects that have come before them except for a Providence, Rhode Island, site. This was not approved because of an inadequate foundation." According to Goudey, FERC's philosophy is approve all of them, and let the market place decide what gets built.

"Look long and hard before you store concentrated energy near communities," urged Goudey. He noted that LNG won't explode in confined spaces, but vapor from LNG can explode. He said LNG vapor will hug the ground until it warms and becomes lighter than air. It can travel and remain a fire hazard.

Goudey believes an alternative to LNG sitings in communities is offshore sites. The offshore sites reduce public safety hazards, cost less, have faster permitting, have operation flexibility, can be located near markets and have lower decommissioning costs. Goudey believes LNG is a terrorist target of choice. "You cannot assume a site is safe because it is rural."

There are three proposals to build LNG terminals on Passamaquoddy Bay  at Split Rock at Pleasant Point; at Mill Cove in Robbinston, across from St. Andrews; and at Calais. The Split Rock and Mill Cove projects are now involved in the FERC pre-filing process. To access any of the three sites, LNG ships would have to transit Head Harbour Passage, which is Canadian water separating the Canadian islands of Campobello and Deer Island. Save Passamaquoddy Bay Canada has incorporated as a legal organization and will participate as an intervenor in the upcoming FERC hearings. Serving as volunteer co-chairs are Janice Harvey and Dr. Lesley Pinder of St. Andrews. While the proposed projects are located in Downeast Maine, two-thirds of the affected water and two-thirds of the affected population are in Canada. Save Passamaquoddy Bay Canada is part of Save Passamaquoddy Bay: A Three-Nation Alliance, which also includes U.S. and Passamaquoddy groups who are fighting the LNG proposals.

Goudey urged those in attendance to read the recently released Whole Bay Study produced by Yellow Wood Associates.

Sooner not later

Carl Sapers, a retired lawyer and Harvard professor, outlined strategies for opposing the LNG projects. Sapers, who is a St. Andrews resident part of the year, said community action is necessary. He stressed the importance of intervening early on. "In order to have standing to challenge a FERC license, you must have intervened and responded early on." Sapers noted, "The only way to play the game is to go through the process step by step." According to Sapers, Quoddy Bay LNG, which is in the pre-filing process for the construction of an LNG facility at Pleasant Point, has hired two of the most expensive law firms in the U.S. Save Passamaquoddy Bay Canada has raised enough funds to hire a lawyer to represent them.

Canadian officials urged to put it in writing

Group co-chair Janice Harvey said Canada needs to make good on its opposition now. According to Harvey all three levels of government have responded appropriately in stating their opposition to the passage of LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage, but it needs to be put in writing. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised to pursue "all diplomatic and legal means" to prevent LNG tankers from transiting Head Harbour Passage, and should Canada do this, one FERC official at an earlier meeting on the U.S. side admitted that the Passamaquoddy projects would be dead in the water.

A ban on passage through Canadian waters has to have the force of law, she said, explaining, "This is normally done by regulation under Canadian law, in this case, the Canada Shipping Act. This has not been done yet." Those in attendance at the forum felt strongly that it is time for Ottawa to put pen to paper and make good on its position and its commitments to Charlotte County communities. American LNG developers have maintained they have right of "innocent passage" through Head Harbour Passage.

"The important thing is that we want the government to act sooner not later," Harvey stated. Those attending the forum were urged to write to their elected officials and demand action now under the Canada Shipping Act.

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