2007 Nov 23
by Marie Jones Holmes
On November 14, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) reversed an earlier board ruling and granted a request by Downeast LNG to withdraw its application that was before the board for the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Robbinston.
Downeast LNG on two previous occasions sought to withdraw its application. In September, the company cited the need to obtain missing critical information from the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Downeast LNG again sought to withdraw its application following the Department of Interior's denial on September 27 of a proposed natural gas pipeline route through a portion of the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. During the BEP hearing on October 25, the board, by a vote of 5-3, denied the request by Downeast LNG to withdraw the application and refile at a later date. The board instead voted to suspend consideration of the proposal while allowing for submission of information on or before July 1. At that time, Downeast LNG President Dean Girdis said, "We are confident that over the next few months we can work out an alternative pipeline route and refile our application."
At the November 14 meeting, two BEP members, Matt Scott and Nancy Ziegler, reversed their previous votes opposing the withdrawal request and voted in favor of granting Downeast's request to withdraw the application and refile at a later date. The request to withdraw the application was granted by a vote of 5 3.
Downeast officials are pleased with the new vote by the BEP. Girdis issued a statement saying, "We will now be able to come back before the board next year with a new pipeline route and additional information that addresses concerns raised by board members following the public hearings held last summer." The BEP held week-long public hearings last July in Robbinston and heard testimony from lawyers and others supporting the proposed project as well as lawyers and experts representing Save Passamaquoddy Bay, a Three-Nation Alliance, opposing the LNG proposal.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) spokesperson Tamara Young-Allen says Downeast LNG has not requested suspension of the FERC process.
Save Passamaquoddy Bay attorney Ron Shems of Shems, Dunkiel, Kassel and Saunders comments, "I think what Thursday's action shows is almost desperate behavior by Downeast LNG to want to start over. They rushed into this. Their application was not put together well; they didn't have the studies; there were lots of problems with what they wanted to do. That became apparent at the July hearings, and so they want to start over."
"This takes a project in a very competitive and time sensitive industry and puts it back a couple of years, so now I really question the viability of the project," Shems said. "This is a blow to public participation in the permitting process because there was an enormous effort on everyone's behalf for the citizens to participate, and to simply go through this again because Downeast chose to jump the gun and not do a good job is to make everyone have to go through it again. Their feet should have been held to the fire."
Save Passamaquoddy Bay coordinator Linda Godfrey notes that Downeast LNG has attempted eight times since the hearing to strike testimony made at the public hearings or to add material that should have been included in the hearing process. "Each time the board held to their prescribed process and followed legal expectations clearly stated up front by the board," she says. "Now for the board to rush to a new decision where two members changed their votes, at a meeting that did not clearly state this specific agenda item in advance, and on a huge matter that did not provide for appropriate legal and public participation, is unfortunate, lessens public faith in the whole process and begs a host of questions."
© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.