The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2007 May 25

City council says LNG proposal poses "unacceptable safety risk"

by Marie Jones Holmes

Following an executive session during the May 14 Eastport City Council meeting, councillors voted unanimously to send a letter to Governor John Baldacci, U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and to Congressman Michael Michaud outlining concerns about liquefied natural gas (LNG) proposals for Passamaquoddy Bay and the possible effects on the city of Eastport.

Accompanying the motion was a statement clarifying that the councillors are not making a statement against LNG but expressing concern for the health and welfare of the community and ensuring that what they are doing is necessary to fulfill their elected duty. Councillors also approved a motion to be filed through the attorney who represents Eastport in the intervenor process. This motion would go forward stating the city's concerns to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about the Quoddy Bay LNG proposal.

The letter points out that Eastport has formally intervened in the FERC proceedings for both the Quoddy Bay LNG and Downeast LNG applications and that the city is planning on participating in the state permitting proceedings for these projects as well. The letter states, "First of all, the City of Eastport is not categorically opposed to the development of an LNG project in Passamaquoddy Bay. However, we do have very strong concerns that the Quoddy Bay LNG project poses safety and security proposals risks for the people of Eastport, and therefore, unless clear and compelling assurances protecting the health, welfare and vitality of the community can be provided, we do oppose this project." The letter points out that the Quoddy Bay LNG terminal and pier would be located at Split Rock at Pleasant Point, a narrow stretch of land over which Route 190 runs as it leads in and out of Eastport and with portions of the operations being in Eastport. Once off-loaded, liquefied natural gas would be transported via a super-insulated, cryogenic pipeline running underneath Split Rock and Route 190 to storage tanks in Perry.

"It is our view that docking of LNG tankers in such close proximity to and running of a cryogenic line under the only road in and out of Eastport poses an unacceptable safety risk in the event of an accident or terrorist incident. There is also very real risk that the people and businesses of Eastport could suffer great hardship if Route 190 were to be closed for any number of reasons related to the LNG project," states council President Earl Small in the letter. Small cites examples such as the potential closure of Route 190 as part of an exclusion zone during off-loading; or during repairs to the cryogenic line; or in the event of a leak or explosion. Also cited is the disruption to daily life without road access. "Eastport would effectively be shut off from the mainland. The economic and practical consequences of such a closure are severe," writes Small.

Concern was also expressed by the council relating the impact on cargo shipping that LNG tankers could have. "With two projects actively seeking permits, and one additional company exploring the possibility of developing an LNG terminal in Passamaquoddy Bay, the cumulative impact of numerous LNG tankers could have negative impacts to shipping in and out of the port of Eastport."

The Eastport city councillors requested the opportunity to meet with the governor to discuss the concerns.

Port authority expresses concern

City Manager George Finch, as chairman of the Eastport Port Authority board of directors, also wrote to Governor Baldacci expressing several concerns. "While the board does not think an LNG tanker once every week or so would unduly disrupt shipping, the board believes that, if two or more LNG terminals were to be built in Passamaquoddy Bay, the heavier volume of LNG tankers would unduly disrupt shipping to and from the Port of Eastport." The letter states, "The board is also concerned that during the working hours of the port, including weekends, trucks transporting goods in and out of the port could be impacted by the 190 location."

Finch said the board would greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with the governor and his staff to discuss various concerns.

Quoddy Bay willing to discuss concerns

Quoddy Bay LNG Project Manager Brian Smith believes there should be no concern over traffic stoppage. Quoddy Bay plans to tunnel 25 feet under the road, and Smith says the road will remain open during the tunneling process.

Smith notes that the company has done studies concerning the effect tankers might have on other shipping in the bay and these studies have been filed with FERC and are available for study.

Smith and Adam Wilson, deputy project manager for Quoddy Bay LNG, have expressed disappointment that Eastport's chief of police and Eastport's fire chief have not participated in the emergency planning process. Wilson, in a letter to Finch, expresses disappointment and concern that the police and fire chiefs did not attend an emergency response planning process in a structured workshop held on October 10 and 11, 2006. Also, in a May 11 letter of this year, Wilson stated, "We currently understand, through conversations with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Maine Emergency Management Office, the governor's office, the Washington County Management Office, the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the State Police, that both Police Chief Vinson and Fire Chief Clark are aware of their responsibilities to the citizens of Eastport and are willing to participate, but you are not allowing their participation in this important process. In a recent meeting on March 5, 2007, in which Quoddy Bay LNG briefed the city council on the project, a conversation with an Eastport city councilman also validated that you are instructing them to not participate in this important process."

Finch has told the councillors, "I am unaware which of you on the council stated I have instructed the respective chiefs to not participate in the process, but I will discuss it with you and correct any misunderstandings regarding such statement." Finch also states, "These charges are not new." He notes that the LNG process through FERC is one that is very long and complicated.

In response to the letter from the city council, Smith says, "We have been, over the past eight months, meeting with police and fire departments in various communities to give them an overview of security measures and inquiring about their security measures. I think through participation some of the concerns outlined in the letter will be alleviated."

Speaking on the issue that the city has limited training, Smith says, "They certainly have training in emergency management. I think that it is a very important thing to discuss, and we have tried to discuss the matter in the past."


© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Eastport, Maine
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.