The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2006 August 25

Dangers of LNG "underplayed"says MIT engineer


ST. ANDREWS — The potential dangers from liquefied natural gas (LNG have been underplayed by the proponents of the projects proposed for Passamaquoddy Bay, says Clif Goudey, a research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

He intends to provide information on some of those dangers at a public forum, which will be held at the Anglican Church Wednesday, Aug. 30 starting at 7 p.m. The subject of his talk will be "Does LNG belong in Passamaquoddy Bay?"

"There are still a lot of questions about what happens to LNG in extreme situations which, fortunately, the world has never seen. There have been some pretty bad accidents but, so far, a tanker full has never seen a catastrophe.

"These things are rather difficult to predict. What is clear to me is that it is just foolish to store or transport that amount of concentrated energy where the public can be impacted by it. It just makes no sense."

Goudey, a professor of marine engineering and director of the Centre for Fisheries Engineering Research, said he is going to try to offer facts on LNG at the meeting in a way that he thinks a lot of people have not really heard before because there is so much spin going on.

"I would like to be a little provocative. I don't claim to be a renowned international expert on LNG but I am a competent engineer," he said pointing out that he got involved in this topic in 2003 when an LNG site was proposed for Harpswell, Me., where he has a summer property.

The site was actually a couple of miles from his property, he said, so he would not have seen it and he didn't have a strong reaction until he saw the kind of tactics being used against the people who wanted answers.

"It was handled so poorly. There was so much misinformation being presented that myself and quite a few other people who were not satisfied gave ourselves some self education and formed together in a way which was clearly an opposition group.

"My role was to look at the engineering aspects of it and try to get as much information as possible to counter the misinformation being given out."

Fortunately, said Goudey, the Harpswell project was proposed on town land and therefore required a town vote so there was time enough for this education process to happen and it was voted down. It was a terribly divisive issue, he said, and it still is in the town.

Some people are in favour of such projects because they feel that anything which brings economic development to the area is good, said Goudey, but he questions whether LNG projects such as these are needed.

"I think there are alternatives to dealing with our energy needs. This is something that can cause serious harm to people who don't deserve to be exposed to these dangers. You have really got to have a wide area of exclusion around these tankers and storage facilities. I think offshore terminals are the best solution for LNG if, in fact, they are needed.

"I have heard about Head Harbour Passage and read about the kind of conditions and, to me, it does not seem like it would be anyone's first choice. I don't think it should even be on the list."

Goudey said he thinks the only reason for the proposals in Passamaquoddy Bay and the fact that they have got to the level they have is because of misguided economic desperation.

Such developments don't fit in with the normal coastal economy, he said, and certainly not with tourism. He said the fishermen in Harpswell quickly understood what would happen to their fishery if LNG came in.

"I am not familiar enough with the fishery in Passamaquoddy Bay, but I assume the fishermen realize their way of life is going to be hugely impacted.

"The challenge is what role Canada can play in helping the US and the region across the border from them to make the correct decision. People seem to think it is the answer to economic woes and they are prepared to take a chance on it."

The other complicating thing, said Goudey, is that the U.S. Coast Guard is mandated to escort these LNG tankers and, because the U.S. military cannot operate in Canadian waters that becomes a sovereignty issue.

"That could be a show stopper. You cannot be asking the Canadian Coast Guard or navy to do the escorting so who is going to escort them as they pass through Canadian waters?"

During his talk Goudey said there are things he wants to clarify because of the misinformation that is coming from the proponents. If you look at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) website, he said, there are a lot of comforting words that proponents are able to parrot when it comes to concerns about explosions and they cite perfect track records.

"If you look into it and dig deeper there are properties of the material and circumstances where it is way more dangerous than FERC is suggesting and proponents are admitting.

"The problem is people on the US side have been talked into believing this is a big economic opportunity. I don't believe it for a minute. If you look at the kind of offers other projects have made to communities they have not negotiated particularly favourable situations for them."

Goudey said it was also doubtful whether the people from Washington County would be able to run an LNG plant and they would have to bring trained people in to operate them.

He also pointed out that currently there are a number of projects being proposed and there is only a limited pool of trained people to draw from so you could have people with, at best, on the job training operating these facilities yet there is a tremendous amount of energy which could be released all at once.

During the meeting Janice Harvey, co-chair of Save Passamaquoddy Bay/Canada, who is director of marine programs for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, will also discuss what the people of Charlotte County can do to defend their communities from LNG development.

Following the presentations, there will time for questions from the audience and information about LNG and Save Passamaquoddy Bay/Canada will be available.

Also the lighthouse quilt, made and donated by staff from Sheriff Andrews House to Save Passamaquoddy Bay/Canada will be on display. All funds raised from the $2 raffle tickets will go towards defending local communities from LNG development.

Tony Huntjens, the incumbent MLA for Charlotte-Campobello, announced Monday that Premier Bernard Lord has officially declared the government of New Brunswick would act as the intervenor on behalf of the people of the province should the issue of allowing passage of LNG tankers through Canadian waters ever go to court.

Huntjens said the premier's declaration meant that "someone will definitely be standing up against the issue of LNG officially."


© 2006 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB