2007 Jul 13
by Edward French
At a public hearing next week, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) is expected to receive testimony on Downeast LNG's proposal for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal that will be disputing the proposed facility's impacts on the environment, commercial fisheries and recreational uses around Passamaquoddy Bay. Some pre-filed testimony concerning hazards posed by LNG, the size of exclusion zones around vessels and the terminal and impacts on Canadian waters and fishermen is not being allowed by the board, though. The board made its decision on what testimony it would accept at a meeting on July 5.
The board will be considering potential environmental impacts to coastal wetlands and existing uses in the vicinity of the project, including wildlife, fisheries and recreational uses, according to Cynthia Bertocci, executive analyst for the BEP. However, the board will not be considering the design and construction of the facility from a safety and engineering perspective, since those issues fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Some aspects of the layout of the facility, though, are relevant to the BEP's rule-making. The board will be accepting evidence concerning hazards to navigation because it needs to understand the impacts to existing uses of the waterway and the fisheries. However, the U.S. Coast Guard will be considering navigational safety issues through its simulation studies.
According to Bertocci, the board decided not to consider whether the project would have any environmental impact in Canada, since the BEP has no legal jurisdiction there. "The board decided it could look only at Maine's jurisdictional waters," notes Bertocci. However, the board recognized that fish move and do not recognize jurisdictional boundaries.
Among the pre-filed statements that were not allowed to be entered into evidence by the board are ones concerning Canadian fishermen fishing in Canadian waters, including testimony submitted by a group of four fishermen's associations, although some of their testimony will be allowed. Also Save Passamaquoddy Bay's testimony concerning whether FERC's review of the proposal is sufficiently adequate will not be allowed, since the board does not have the authority to issue instructions to FERC, notes Bertocci. In addition, some information related to the hazards of LNG and the probability of acts of terrorism will not be allowed, since the board is not in a position to evaluate such testimony. The size of the exclusion zones will be decided by FERC, but descriptions of the exclusion zones and their possible impacts will be considered by the board.
The hearing will begin on Monday, July 16, at 9 a.m. at Calais High School and continue through the week, beginning as necessary at 8 a.m. The entire hearing is open to the public. The sessions during the day will be devoted to testimony from the applicant and the following intervenors: Town of Robbinston; Save Passamaquoddy Bay/We Take Care of Our Land and a group of four fishermen's associations -- Fundy North Fishermen's Association, Fundy Weir Fishermen's Association, Grand Manan Fishermen's Association and Campobello Fishermen's Association; Robbinston Residents in Support of Downeast LNG and Professional Mariners and Waterway Users of Passamaquoddy Bay; Quoddy Bay LNG / Bear Creek Investments; City of Eastport; Eastport Port Authority; and Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission.
Two evening sessions for testimony from the public will be held on Tuesday, July 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the Robbinston Grade School and on Thursday, July 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Calais High School.
© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.