2007 March 9
by Edward French
In a February 27 referendum, Indian Township residents overwhelmingly approved entering into an agreement to share in revenues from the Quoddy Bay LNG project, but the referendum did not ask if they favored the liquefied natural gas project at Split Rock or the signing of a tax agreement with Quoddy Bay LNG. By a vote of 224 to 10, residents approved the question: "Do you favor Indian Township entering into an agreement to share in the revenues of a liquid natural gas (LNG) facility on the Passamaquoddy Reservation at Pleasant Point?"
Pleasant Point Chief Rick Doyle believes the question was not sufficiently clear and should have been more explicit. However, he notes that residents were told that a vote in favor of the agreement would authorize the Indian Township Tribal Council to accept a revenue-sharing proposal from Pleasant Point and to support with the Pleasant Point Reservation the development of the LNG facility. A community guide on the referendum, sent out by the Indian Township tribal government to residents, stated that the Sipayik Tribal Council agreed in a resolution on December 27 to share on a per capita basis with Indian Township all income from lease fees from the LNG project, if the Project Coordination and Tax Agreement is adopted by the joint tribal council. The current populations of the two reservations would result in a split of approximately 60% of the revenues to Pleasant Point and 40% to Indian Township.
Indian Township resident Stephanie Bailey, who is opposed to the LNG proposal, says the wording of the question is a "pretty pathetic way to help your people understand" the greater meaning the question. She says residents were asked only if they wanted to share in the profits, not if they approve of the project or approve of signing the tax agreement. "There was absolutely no community discussion on the issue. There wasn't any understanding provided as to what the actual tax agreement was, and there was no platform for the people to discuss or even consider whether or not this was a fair, good or ethical venture. I am deeply saddened and ashamed at the way my people have embraced the lies of man once again."
Vera Francis of Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon, We Take Care of Our Land, is more blunt in her comment on the referendum: "You ask a silly question, you're pretty much guaranteed a silly answer." She adds, "What the developers have failed to figure out is that Passamaquoddy descendants' rights are unassailable."
Indian Township Governor William Nicholas could not be reached for comment.
Chief Doyle has expressed concerns that the agreement between the two reservations would allow Indian Township to share in the profits from the lease agreement with Quoddy Bay LNG, while not having to bear any of the risks. However, he notes that Governor Nicholas told him that he believes that Indian Township will share in the financial liability with Pleasant Point. The agreement between Pleasant Point and Indian Township, though, "doesn't say if they would be obligated to the requirements of the land lease," notes Doyle. "It doesn't answer that question." The Pleasant Point chief also notes that the LNG terminal would "greatly impact us more than Township."
Quoddy Bay LNG viewed the vote as showing support for the project and directing the tribal councillors to sign the tax agreement. As part of the Ground Lease Agreement between Quoddy Bay and the Pleasant Point Reservation, the reservation and the joint tribal council were required to sign the agreement. The agreement lowers the Tribal Employment Right Ordinance (TERO) tax to 1% and eliminates all other personal and property taxes for the LNG project in exchange for lease payments from Quoddy Bay LNG to the Pleasant Point Reservation.
"We couldn't be happier with the outcome of the vote," said Quoddy Bay LNG Project Manager Brian Smith, in a prepared release.
"The generous offer from Pleasant Point and the overwhelming vote of support from Indian Township shows that the reservations are behind this project and that they wish to move forward together," said Quoddy Bay Tribal Relations Director Fred Moore. "The support shown by the tribe as a whole is indicative of the importance of this project to the tribe and to the region."
© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.