2007 Sep 28
by Marie Jones Holmes
A request by Downeast LNG to withdraw its applications for state permits currently before the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) and refile later this year was rejected by the BEP on September 21. The board voted 5 to 3 to deny the request. On September 14, Downeast LNG notified the BEP of its desire to withdraw its permit application to construct a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal in Robbinston and pipeline in Washington County and stated it expected to file a new application by the end of the year.
Downeast LNG President Dean Girdis, in a statement, says he is disappointed that the board would not allow the company's request to withdraw its application until the end of this year. Girdis commented, "While we would have welcomed the opportunity to provide additional information, we believe that our applications are thorough and complete and that the numerous studies that we submitted are more than sufficient to address all issues that were raised at the public hearings."
Girdis had stated that the company was seeking to take the step to ensure that a complete record, including information from the Maine Department of Marine Resources and data from additional studies, was before the BEP as it considers the application. Girdis said several issues were unresolved at the conclusion of BEP hearings held July 16-20, including the project's potential impacts on lobsters and other fisheries.
At the time of the request to withdraw the application, Girdis had said, "The BEP has suggested to us that refiling is the only way to ensure that complete comments from all of the appropriate state agencies can be included in the record." He added, "This should not impact our proposed construction schedule. We are continuing to work on all other permit applications and will work diligently to ensure that the board has a complete record upon which to base its decision."
In requesting the application withdrawal, Downeast LNG had also stated it was working with Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge to reach a decision regarding the proposed pipeline routing, and Downeast LNG did not anticipate that those discussions would be completed for several months.
Some of the intervenors in the Downeast LNG case had opposed the request, noting that it would raise questions about the integrity of the process, according to Cynthia Bertocci, executive analyst for the BEP. They had spent much time critiquing the application, and if Downeast LNG were to be allowed to withdraw and submit new information, it could have a chilling effect on organizations deciding to participate in a BEP review process.
Jessie Davies, co-chair for Save Passamaquoddy Bay Canada, commented in a release that Downeast LNG's effort to withdraw "would be diminishing the significance of permit hearings, while simultaneously creating unreasonable expense and burden to the state, intervenors and the public. Even though Downeast LNG knew the exact issues and requirements they needed to address long before they filed their permit application, they chose not to answer a number of critical concerns during the application and hearing process."
Paul "Skip" Cole, superintendent for the Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission, stated in a letter to the BEP that park commission staff represented the commission at meetings, pre-hearing conferences and a lengthy hearing. He noted that commission staff has spent considerable time reviewing all information submitted in the proceeding by Downeast LNG, all intervenors and the public. "The commission's representation and review have come at the expense of time and effort ordinarily devoted to other commission projects, duties and tasks and have come at financial expense to the commission as well."
Cole stated that the commission believes Downeast LNG had sufficient time to provide the BEP with any information required and sees further extensions as unnecessary and as a burden to others involved.
The BEP will hold one more day of the hearing on the Downeast LNG application in order to consider only three specified topics. Those topics are: compensation plan for impacts to wetlands; compensation plan for impacts to significant wildlife habitat; and the location of the tugboats when they are not assisting the transit of an LNG vessel. The hearing date has not yet been set, but it is expected it will be at the end of October or early November.
Last December, Downeast LNG filed for federal permits, and those applications are now pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.