The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2006 February 17

Mayor storms out of LNG meeting


ST. ANDREWS — The people of St. Andrews don't want any liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Passamaquoddy Bay and Mayor John Craig made that very clear Wednesday night when he walked out of a public presentation being given by Downeast LNG.

About 300 people packed into the New Brunswick Room at the Fairmont Algonquin to hear the presentation from Downeast president Dean Girdis and vice-president Rob Wyatt. The company had sent out invitations to all residents to attend the informational meeting.

After listening to their overview of the $400 million project, Mayor Craig was the first of a number of people to speak then he walked out accompanied by all but one member of town council and a number of other people saying they would be holding a press conference in an adjoining room.

"The reason I walked out is because I have seen enough and heard enough and no matter what I heard from that point on the answer is still no. I am not going to waste my time listening any more. I have seen it all and heard it all," he said later.

Wyatt said they had a number of things they wanted to cover, but most importantly they wanted to hear the residents' thoughts and comments on the project.

Girdis apologized for taking so long to meet with the people of St. Andrews, and said they wanted to come sooner but delayed their visit until after the election. He said they are committed to developing an LNG facility that is safe and clean, to working in partnership with local communities to promote jobs and economic development and to building a project with minimal environmental impact.

"We have chosen technology which a lot of other developers in this area haven't chosen because we want to minimize impact."

He said they have experience in LNG and are committed to local hiring and local businesses. Girdis' comments that this proposed development will have a direct impact on businesses here in a positive way were greeted with laughter from the audience.

What they are proposing, he said, is one storage tank with 50 LNG tankers coming in a year — one every five days in the winter, and one every eight to 10 days in the summer.

Wyatt said they looked at the entire New England region for sites and evaluated them and the site at Mill Cove in Robbinston, Me., ranked the highest. He said they will be using 36 to 40 acres of the 80 acre site and will try to minimize the land disturbance. The channel navigation is good, said Wyatt, and there is minimal land development nearby.

They have a very simple design, he said, and because they have committed to no dredging they have a long pier of 4050 feet, the main site area with one tank for storage of LNG with possibly a second tank for expansion and then the pipeline for about 25 miles to Baileyville.

One of the major concerns, he said, is visibility. Wyatt showed slides of the Biological Station and Bayside terminal at night from the U.S. side and said St. Andrews will not have this visual impact from their LNG development. In fact, he said, a lot of St. Andrews will have no view of the site. Wyatt said they are continuing their analysis of the visual impact and there may be things they can do to minimize that.

Girdis pointed out that there are a number of LNG applications in the works but he reckoned only two will actually be built in all of the Maritimes and New England.

Dealing with areas of concern to St. Andrews and Campobello, Wyatt said the pier will be aligned perpendicular to St. Andrews, which will reduce the visual impact, and there will be minimal lighting that will be facing towards the U.S. Wyatt said these are not noisy facilities — they are simply gas storage — but when a ship comes in there will be ship-type noises.

Girdis added that he understood there would be no safety zone applied by the U.S. Coastguard in Canadian waters so the moving exclusion zone around the tankers will only apply to the US and they don't know what that is yet.

Speaking of concerns about disruptions to fishing, aquaculture and whale watching when an LNG vessel is coming in he said, "When ships come in, there is typically a 96 hour advance notice. You know when it's coming in and where it is so you can plan around it" and this was greeted with laughter from the audience.

Wyatt said one of the things that takes the most time is getting all the stakeholders together and determining what their needs are relative to their operations then Downeast can work to minimize the impact on them.

"If you are at a particular point with the ferry or whale watchers and your scheule is right on top of when we're passing you by, one of two things will happen. Either we will delay our entry ... or you'll wait 10 minutes until we pass.

"There are many instances where a lot of your operations will be able to transit along the coast without any interference from our ships at all... but it takes information... it's critical that you tell us."

Included in the misinformation that has been given out, said Wyatt, is the fact that ship traffic in this area is going to be disrupted because it isn't used to shipping, but there are over 100 ships a year that come in to the area.

Dealing with the concerns about right whales, he said the LNG ships will not go through the right whale sanctuary.

Girdis said the typical size of an LNG tanker that would come to their terminal would be 290 to 300 metres long, but this is dependant on a navigation simulation. The size will not be their decision, he said, but what the authorities consider appropriate.

Wyatt added that the ships will come in at slack tide which is the easier time to come in. Dealing with concerns about disruption to whale watching and tourism he said they are talking about a stationary operation that is affected through a ten to 20 minute window every eight to 10 days so that can be scheduled to be avoided.

A lot of people have been concerned about other industries coming after the LNG terminal, said Girdis, but Downeast is not planning any other facilities because from an economic perspective it doesn't make sense.

Mayor Craig then spoke noting that St. Andrews is the jewel of New Brunswick because of its natural beauty, character, charm and the town's hospitality and it has long been one of the premier vacation destinations in North America.

"People have been coming to our area to get away from heavy industry, pollution and terrorist threats. They come here to feel safe with their families and enjoy an area that is still beautiful and natural. People come here because we do not have what they are trying to escape — and what you, unfortunately, are trying to force us to accept here."

He said it was his responsibility and that of all community leaders to build on their strengths and enhance what their area has built and not destroy what has worked for generations.

"As leaders we owe that to two generations. The generation before us that gave us a beautiful gift of a town and the next generation to come — our children and their children."

Mayor Craig said Jan. 23 — election day — marked the beginning of the end for all LNG terminals being proposed for Passamaquoddy Bay as the citizens of Canada have given Prime Minister Stephen Harper and New Brunswick Southwest MP Greg Thompson a mandate to protect the bay by disallowing and banning any and all LNG supertankers from entering through Head Harbour Passage.

"This area is not only risky and dangerous for navigation but, most importantly, these are vital, internal Canadian waters that are the foundation of our society.

"Canada does have the authority to prevent LNG supertankers from entering our bay through Head Harbour Passage. Prime Minister Harper has made that commitment to all Canadians. Further, our Member of Parliament, now a Cabinet minister with the fourth ranked in seniority Cabinet position out of 26, is adamantly opposed to the passage of these supertankers through Canadian sovereign waters."

Due to its location, said Mayor Craig, the Downeast project cannot happen without Canada's consent and that consent will definitely not be given. If they choose to pursue it in the face of Canada's opposition, he said, they will be forced to do so in the Canadian courts which would be extremely challenging, costly, time consuming and ultimately will prove to be an insurmountable obstacle to their project.

He questioned whether their investors understood the risk and added, "You must take this message back to them and accept the fact that Canada does have the authority to block your plans and all others for LNG facilities on the Passamaquoddy Bay and that Canada will do so."

Mayor Craig also read a letter from Thompson, who was unable to attend as he is in Ottawa, in which he said the proposed LNG terminals on the US side of Passamaquoddy Bay is one of the most important issues facing the community.

"I want to assure you as the MP for New Brunswick Southwest and as a Minister of the Crown, my position on LNG tankers in Passamaquoddy Bay has not changed nor has the position of Prime Minister Harper and the government of Canada. We have consistently stated from the outset that we are opposed to the transportation of LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage.

"During the election campaign the Prime Minister stated that we will use every diplomatic and legal means as a government to defend our position, our communities, our citizens, our environment and our economy. We are committed to this position."

The mayor then said he would be holding a press conference in the adjoining room in ten minutes despite a request by the next speaker, Judy Gibson, that they delay this until after other people had a chance to speak and ask questions.

Gibson said she grew up in St. Andrews and she was there to represent her elderly aunt and all her friends who are against the LNG facility in Passamaquoddy Bay. The Downeast newsletter to residents, said Gibson, was simplistic and didn't even attempt to cover the issues.

She told the audience,"They didn't chose our area because they wanted to bring us jobs. They chose it because the hazards and risks to urban areas, to people's health, to the environment, to other species are so great they wanted under-populated areas. We are to assume the risk. That is how honest these gentlemen are being with us."

If LNG vessels come every five days, said Gibson, vessels would be on constant notice in the Bay of Fundy and shipping as well as the fishery would basically be stopped.

"You are about to destroy this area economically. You are not going to bring benefits. I would like to have some honesty from you people," she added to applause.

Girdis said they didn't come to this area because it has a low population area but because of the analysis they did.

Burl Taylor, of Bocabec, said he was not against LNG, but he was against them in Passamaquoddy Bay. He said he did not understand how they could safely navigate vessels that are up to 140 or 150 feet wide and 1,000 to 1,200 feet long through Head Harbour Passage, and around the turn at Eastport, with tug boats on each side.

"I don't believe it can be done even at the best of times, and you're talking about doing it in all weathers year round. I think you're not coming through on the real safety issues on bringing those large ships into the bay."

Wyatt said it will be up to shipping experts to determine what is possible but they have been told by marine experts that it is very possible. However that decision has not been made yet, he said, as this is part of the permitting process.

"The fact is that if that channel or any of the channels cannot be transited safely by those ships we're not going to get permission to do it. No decison has been made. We don't make that decision.... People who know this industry and know the ships and the area will be making that decision. With respect to your point — you may be absolutely right."

Nancy MacIntosh, who worked as regional advisor to former Liberal Cabinet minister Andy Scott, said they could have told Downeast 10 months ago that there was probably not one person in St. Andrews who wanted to support LNG.

"There is not one person in Ottawa who is supportive of LNG tankers going through Head Harbour Passage. Now we have a new government and you've already heard what our new minister said so both sides of the House are adamantly opposed to LNG and the passage of tankers through Head Harbour Passage. We are supportive of LNG terminals and you have 3,000 miles to choose from — just not here."

The Conservation Council's Fundy Baykeeper, David Thompson, told the developers, "There's no place for LNG projects in Passamaquoddy Bay" and his comment was greeted with applause.


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

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB