The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2007 Oct 12

LNG pipeline route through refuge denied

by Marie Jones Holmes

Downeast LNG has notified the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the company's application for a pipeline right-of-way through part of the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County is "not appropriate." The pipeline would serve Downeast's proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal to be located at Mill Cove in Robbinston.

The U.S. Department of the Interior officially denied Downeast LNG's proposed natural gas pipeline route through Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge on September 27. In letters issued on behalf of Downeast LNG on October 1 by the New York law firm King & Spalding to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and on October 2 by Portland law firm Pierce Atwood to the BEP, the company stated that it is withdrawing its proposed pipeline route through Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. In the letter to the BEP, Downeast LNG attorney Matt Manahan wrote, "Because Downeast LNG does not have the power to use the Moosehorn refuge in the way that would be authorized by a DEP permit for the project that was proposed in Downeast's applications, Downeast no longer has administrative standing as an applicant."

According to Downeast and its attorneys, the finding means that the company no longer has "title, right or interest" in a portion of the natural gas sendout pipeline route that Downeast LNG proposed in its state applications. The company believes the Maine Department of Environmental Protection no longer has the ability to proceed with processing the applications.

Cindy Bertocci, executive analyst for the BEP, says the board has not taken any action yet on the October 2 letter. Bertocci says, "Our view is that they need a state permit for air licenses, site location, natural resources and also a consistency determination from the state under the Coastal Zone Management Act." She adds, "Where we are at present and where we go hasn't been sorted out yet."

"We advised the Maine BEP in our permit applications and again several weeks ago that we had not resolved issues with the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge," said company president Dean Girdis in a prepared release. "We are confident that over the next few months we can work out an alternative pipeline route and refile our applications."

At a meeting on September 20, the Maine BEP refused to allow Downeast LNG to withdraw its applications even though the Moosehorn issue was unresolved and there was additional information from state agencies that Downeast LNG felt should be included with its applications.

As indicated in the letter denying the pipeline route, the U.S. Department of Interior did its own work on the pipeline issue and also consulted with the State of Maine. The federal agency's denial provides six reasons for rejecting the pipeline route and land use through the refuge. The proposed use: is inconsistent with executive orders and department policies; is inconsistent with the goals and objectives in the approved refuge Forest Management Plan, refuge enabling legislation, and the Refuge Improvement Act of 1997; isn't manageable within refuge budget or staff now or in the future; doesn't contribute to public understanding or appreciation of, and doesn't contribute to the refuge's natural or cultural resources; would impair wildlife-dependent recreational uses now and in the future; would negatively impact migratory bird use and public use by destroying forest habitat in the forest management area, cutting in "no-cut" zones, including 38 individual wetlands, and crossing Magurrewock Dike, thus affecting habitats for over 120 bird species.

Attorney Manahan notes in his letter to the Maine BEP that, as required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permitting process, Downeast LNG 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.

"These issues can and will be resolved," said Girdis. "We are continuing to work on all of the important steps involved in getting this project approved and built." Downeast LNG Project Manager Rob Wyatt says, "We will have to specify a new preferred five-mile section around the Moosehorn refuge."

Speaking about these most recent rejections, Save Passamaquoddy Bay coordinator Linda Godfrey said, "This dramatic news of denying the Downeast LNG pipeline route is just the latest in a series of significant failures for Downeast and their investors. It's time for Downeast LNG developer Girdis and company to recognize that without land or sea access, their project needs to relocate offshore and outside of Passamaquoddy Bay."


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