2007 Jul 13
By BARB RAYNER
ST. ANDREWS A U.S. Coast Guard official says a vital report onproposed liquefied natural gas developments can't be completed because Canada isn't providing some essential information.
Coast Guard officials say they're having difficulty gathering information for a Waterway Suitability Report for the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in relation to the proposed LNG facilities on the shores of Passamaquoddy Bay and they're not getting much cooperation from Canada.
Extracts from a letter to FERC's Richard Hoffman from Capt S.P. Garrity of the U.S. Coast Guard were read at a public information meeting of Save Passamaquoddy Bay/ Canada Tuesday night at the W.C. O'Neill Arena in St. Andrews.
He says the Coast Guard required additional information in order to fully assess the security and safety of LNG vessels transiting to and from and mooring at the proposed Quoddy Bay LNG and Downeast LNG facilities on the western shore of Passamaquoddy Bay.
"In addition to meeting Coast Guard needs, I anticipate the commission will find the described information to be essential in its decisionmaking process regarding both applications and siting proposals and will require such information prior to making a final decision on the applications," Garrity writes.
Janice Harvey, co-chairperson of LNG opponents Save Passamaquoddy Bay/Canada said the Coast Guard has a big role to play in the U.S. federal review. She said the developers are being told to get information that may not be available to them.
"What this does essentially is put the FERC review back even further although I suppose one possibility is that FERC could change its rules and suggest that it doesn't need to see any of that stuff, but the Homeland Security rules and regulations on these things are fairly strict and it would be, I think, quite unprecedented for the standards to be reduced."
Garrity says LNG vessels transiting to and from the proposed terminals will pass through the waters along and adjacent to the U.S.-Canada maritime boundary, including entry into Canadian waters.
The safety, security, and potential environmental impact of LNG vessels navigating these waters are of mutual interest to Canada and the U.S., he said. As such he said the Department of State recently delivered a diplomatic note to Canadian officials urging their input on the maritime safety, security, and environmental issues involved.
"To date, the Canadian agencies have not provided substantive inputin response to the requests, creating an informational void regarding the review of those pertinent issues," Garrity writes.
The Coast Guard believes that information on maritime safety, security, and environmental issues related to the LNG vessel transits, including measures to address such issues, is essential to informing the commission's siting decisions, said Garrity.
"The commission and Coast Guard need to consider trans-boundary impacts, which require a fuller understanding of the Canadian position that we have currently," he writes.
Garrity says the applicants should be required to demonstrate that the proposed facilities will be sited "where they can be served by LNG vessels in a manner that meets all safety, security and environmental interests."
While the Coast Guard will continue to work with the State Department to gain Canadian cooperation in this process, he said the applicants have a responsibility to obtain and provide the necessary information regarding their site selections to permit the required safety, security, and environmental reviews to be completed.
Therefore, said Garrity, they are asking that the developers obtain and provide as soon as possible a number of documents/information. These include the prospective Canadian LNG study or some other suitable governmental articulation of Canadian issues upon which Canadian ambassador Michael Wilson's letter to FERC in February was based.
In that letter, Wilson said that as a result of a study to review the navigational safety, environmental, and other impacts that the LNG projects would have on Canada, "the government of Canada has decided it will not permit LNG tankers to pass through Head Harbour Passage."
The letter went on to state that the impact of the proposed sites of the terminals and the potential impact of LNG tankers through the environmentally-sensitive and navigationally-challenging marine and coastal areas of the sovereign Canadian waters of Head Harbour passage present risk to southwest New Brunswick and its inhabitants that the government of Canada cannot accept.
Wilson concluded, "We are therefore prepared to use domestic legal means to address our concerns and prevent such passage from occurring."
The developers are also being asked to provide specific options to facilitate the safe and secure movement of LNG tankers through U.S. and Canadian waters should Canada remain committed to a policy of noncooperation.
Issues of particular interest, said Garrity, include detailing how marine near-shore terrorist threats and civil disobedience incidents, especially those originating from Canada, would be addressed; identification of what additional security measures would be put in place, and whether coordination with Canada would be necessary to implement them; and an explanation of what emergency response plan would be developed with Canada including the activities that would be undertaken to train and equip Canadian first responders, enhance crisis communication procedures with Canada, and develop protection strategies for the affected Canadian public and natural environment.
The proponents are also being asked to compile a list of anticipated legal issues in fishermen equipment loss, special rights of Passamaquoddy fishermen, and liability resulting from accidents, attack, use of force, or any other trans-boundary concerns expressed to date.
Garrity says requesting the applicants to respond to these issues will allow the Coast Guard to provide more informed recommendations regarding the suitability of the waterways at and near the proposed facilities.
"As a cooperative agency in your environmental impact statement, we believe all of the information requested must also be properly assessed even in the upcoming Draft Administrative Environment Impact Statement," Garrity writes.
Until the Coast Guard obtains the information, he said, the organization considers both applications incomplete and will not be able to finish and submit the Waterway Suitability Reports for either of the two projects.
© 2007 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.
The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB