The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2007 Jul 13

Crowd hears update on fight against LNG


ST. ANDREWS — Save Passamaquoddy Bay/Canada officials held a public meeting Tuesday to recap what they say has been an eventful year in their fight against liquefied natural gas terminals in the bay.

A crowd of about 150 people turned up at the W.C. O'Neill Arena Tuesday night when co-chairperson Janice Harvey explained that this was their first annual meeting so they decided to invite the public along to hear about their activities since the group was founded in February of last year.

Their mandate, she said, is to ensure Canadians are well informed about the proposals to establish LNG terminals in Passamaquoddy Bay in the St. Croix region, to provide a voice for Canadians who oppose such development, and to ensure that their voice is properly represented to government and the public.

Since their formation, Harvey said, they have focused on three levels — Ottawa, Fredericton, and the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

She also noted that besides the applications from Quoddy Bay and Downeast LNG, a third, rarely mentioned Red Beach proposal is not dead.

Going over the report presented by Cliff Goudey, an MIT professor who spoke in St. Andrews last summer, Harvey noted that this area is close to these proposals and, should there be a catastrophic accident, Canada will not escape the impacts.

She said Canada has asked the federal government to enact a regulation under the Canada Shipping Act to ban LNG tankers from transiting Head Harbour Passage on the grounds that it is a difficult passage combined with the dangerous cargo. These two factors together, she said, create too great a risk for adjacent Canadian communities.

In response to that request, Harvey said Prime Minister Stephen Harper has given a commitment to pursue all legal and diplomatic means to prevent LNG tankers from entering Head Harbour Passage.

Harvey said the lead department on this issue is the Department of Foreign Affairs and the group has developed good relations with them. She said they also have the support of the provincial government.

Quoddy Bay and Downeast LNG filed their applications in December and attorneys for SPB filed their notices of appearances in both proceedings in January as did attorneys for the province.

Downeast LNG has also filed with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection but SPB/Canada decided not to intervene in that process because the Maine jurisdiction is limited to the state, said Harvey. Fishermen's associations from Campobello, Grand Manan, as well as Fundy North and Fundy Weir have intervened.

She referred to a letter sent to FERC by Ambassador Michael Wilson in February stating that the Canadian government will not permit LNG tankers to pass through Head Harbour Passage. The letter touched off a firestorm of reaction from the U.S.

Canada's position, said Harvey, is based on Canada's long-standing assertion that the Bay of Fundy is historic to Canada and therefore solely subject to domestic and not international law.

The chairman of FERC responded to Wilson's letter saying this was not an issue to be resolved by FERC so unless the developers withdraw their applications the application process will continue.

Downeast LNG commissioned a paper by University of Victoria law professor Ted McDorman which questions Canada's position. Save Passamaquoddy Bay fired back by commissioning a paper of their own by Professor Jon Van Dyke of the University of Hawaii who outlined several grounds on which Canada could make a credible claim of domestic jurisdiction over these waters.

"There's no question that they are Canadian waters.The question is can Canada use domestic waters to prohibit shipping through it," Harvey said. "Van Dyke clearly states, in his opinion, that Canada does have grounds for that and he outlines what those can be."

Board member Carl Sapers said Van Dyke has set out three independent grounds for Canada blocking passage of LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage.

The first is that, not withstanding it's a dead end strait, the entry (the Bay of Fundy) is itself internal waters of Canada and therefore the principal that lets you go through a dead end strait does not apply.

There is also the second principal of historic waters, said Sapers. He said Canada has historically asserted its dominion over the Bay of Fundy and that, they believe, would be respected if it was ever challenged.

Thirdly, he said, there is the principal of international law which allows coastal countries to regulate shipping in non-internal waters and there are hundreds of examples of that.

Harvey said the Maine Board of Environmental Protection hearings for the Downeast LNG project are scheduled to start Monday at Calais High School and the sessions are open to the public. There will also be two evening public meetings — Tuesday, July 17 at Robbinston School and Thursday, July 19 at Calais High School. Those meetings will be informal, she said, and people are invited to speak to the board.

Harvey said FERC has not issued a notice of schedule for environmental review - the next step in the American review process.

She said LNG opponents feel like they're having an impact because SPB/Canada has been pushing and will remain vigilant and engaged.

Harvey thanked all those who have supported them, particularly New Brunswick Southwest MP and Minister of Veteran Affairs Greg Thompson, the two Charlotte County MLAs, Minister of Fisheries Rick Doucet and Tony Huntjens, and St. Andrews Mayor John Craig.

Treasurer John Clark said that since the group was organized it has raised about $81,000 of which $69,000 was donations.At the end of April the group had about $38,000 in the bank but by the end of June they had less than half that. He said they still need money for such things as legal fees.

He also announced that Harvey will be stepping down as co-chairperson of the group as she is going back to university to do her masters degree. Jessie Davis will take over her position.

Board member Margot Sackett reminded the crowd about a group photo planned for the St. Andrews wharf on New Brunswick Day, Aug. 6 at 11 a.m.

She said there will also be events that day at Sheriff Andrews House and the Ross Memorial Museum as well as an auction at the Fairmont Algonquin where,at 2 p.m., two donated paintings will be auctioned off to raise money for SPB/Canada.


© 2007 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB