2007 Nov 6
by Marie Jones Holmes
A request by Downeast LNG to withdraw its application before the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) for the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility at Mill Cove in Robbinston was denied October 25 by the board in a 5-3 vote. The company wished 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.
Cindy Bertocci, executive analyst for the BEP, says, "We are putting them on hold. I don't know how much it will slow them down at the federal level. The board was simply saying, 'We will just keep your application pending. When you are ready we will proceed.'"
Downeast LNG made the request to withdraw the application and refile a new one following denial on September 27 by the U.S. Department of Interior of the use of a five-mile section of Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge for a pipeline route that would serve the proposed LNG terminal. The Department of the Interior, in denying the company's application for a right-of-way, stated, "It is not appropriate." In wanting to withdraw the application and refile, Downeast LNG lawyers maintained that "because Downeast LNG does not have the ability to use the Moosehorn refuge in the way that would be authorized by a DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] permit for the project proposed in Downeast's applications, Downeast no longer has ability to proceed with processing the applications."
Following the refusal of the BEP to grant Downeast's request, company officials said they plan to refile an amended application after securing an alternative route from the proposed Mill Cove terminal to existing gas lines in Baileyville that would avoid refuge land. Bertocci says, "They need to file an alternative route and share it with federal agencies."
Downeast LNG attorney Matt Manahan, in an earlier letter to the Maine BEP, noted that, as required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permitting process, the company had previously submitted multiple alternative routes and had designated what they called "Option 4" as the best route the rejected route. The other route options still exist in their FERC application docket.
Dean Girdis, president of Downeast LNG, says, "Between Baileyville and before Moosehorn, we have to find a way to connect those two dots." According to Girdis, Downeast LNG will amend Option 4 and not use the alternative routes.
Girdis says he doesn't believe there has been a pipeline route in the U.S. that hasn't been changed somewhat in the application process. The company had argued in their request to withdraw their present application that it was based on the fact they no longer had right, title or interest to all the pipeline route, and as a result, the application did not comply with the BEP's standards for project review and should be withdrawn.
Maine Assistant Attorney General Peggy Bensinger ruled that the BEP had the right to suspend the application rather than grant a withdrawal of the application. "We have a different viewpoint," stated Girdis.
Girdis says, "We are very optimistic about our project. We are not going anywhere. We are here to stay. We are committed, as is the town of Robbinston."
© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.