2007 Nov 20
By BARB RAYNER
ST. ANDREWS Downeast LNG have been granted permission by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) to withdraw their previous state applications and plan to file new ones next year, but the [Co-chair] of Save Passamaquoddy Bay (SPB) says they still have many more issues to deal with.
Last week the BEP decided by a vote of five to three to allow the company to withdrawtheir state permit applications reversing two earlier decisions that denied Downeast's withdrawal requests.
"This is the right decision for the people of Maine and for our project," said company president Dean Girdis.
"We now will be able to come back before the board next year with a new pipeline route and additional information that addresses concerns raised by board members following the public hearings last summer. A more complete record will enable the BEP to make a more informed decision on our project."
However, Save Passamaquoddy Bay Canada [Co-chair] Jessie Davies said she remains confident Girdis's proposal will be rejected.
"They know they haven't done their homework. They don't have a good project. It is our view this will raise a lot of road blocks in the industry and their investors will be looking. They still have not dealt with the Coast Guard report or Canada's refusal to allow transit through Head Harbour Passage," Davies said.
"For us this is a bump in the road. We were very, very pleased with the previous decisions of the BEP. This will slow down the process and markets are very likely to kill the project. Probably about seven out of the 40 proposals will actually be built, because there is not enough supply and there is not enough demand."
Davies said Downeast is just throwing investors' money down a hole and unfairly raising false hopes in the community of Robbinston. The change of heart by the BEP is also disappointing, she said. "We feel that the loser is the public process and the ability of communities to protect their economies, the environment, and their way of life," she said.
"We applauded the board members who came to the July hearing well prepared and professionally and actively engaged in a full week of testimony. Since then, Downeast [has] tried to strike testimony or add testimony and now we have two board members who have changed their votes and it was at a meeting when this was not on the agenda."
SPB will continue to try to protect the bay, said Davies, but now they will have to raise more resources to do it.
"The communities on both sides of the bay are the losers because we have to continue doing this rather than getting on with some positive economic activities that will actually bring jobs to the area," Davies said.
By allowing Downeast LNG to file new state applications, Davies said the BEP is giving the company another kick at the can, but now they know what their weaknesses are and they can rebuild their case.
"There is something blatantly unfair about that because the process says they get one kick at the can," she said. "They had asked for this very thing before and I am not sure what happened here. It is really very unfortunate, mostly because it churns the process on and anything can happen."
Davies said they flew people in for the hearings earlier this year and she has no doubt this will now go to another hearing, so they will have to do this all over again.
"They (Downeast) are not spending their money. We are spending everybody's money."
St. Andrews Mayor John Craig said he feels the company will now have to start from square one.
"When do these investors decide to stop pouring money into this because this is something they won't win? They have never addressed the issue that Canada will not allow them through Head Harbour Passage and will use every diplomatic means to stop them," Craig said.
"They have never addressed that issue head on, and it is something their investors should take a look at. They will have to throw out more money again for something they are not going to achieve. When will these investors finally wake up and realize Downeast is foolishly throwing their money away for them?"
Downeast LNG needs to find a newpipeline route, because earlier this fall the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informed the company that they could not run a portion of their proposed pipeline through the Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge. Girdis said the company will be able to find an acceptable alternate route.
He said the board's decision to revisit the withdrawal issue came as a surprise, noting that it was initiated by a BEP member and not by his company.
The decision, he said, unlike the two previous denials, is completely consistent with Maine law and best practices of the board and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Much of the work that has been done on Downeast LNG's initial applications can be incorporated into the new applications, said Girdis, and the company's federal permit applications remain active before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Downeast is proposing to build an LNG import terminal at Mill Cove in Robbinston, Maine, on an 80-acre site where the St. Croix River meets Passamaquoddy Bay.
The proposed facility [would] consist of two storage tanks, a re-gasification plant, and a pier to receive LNG carriers. The project also [would include] a natural gas pipeline that [would] connect the facility to the existing Maritimes and Northeast pipeline that runs from Nova Scotia through Maine to southern New England.
Last year the residents of Robbinston voted 227 to 83 in support of the project, and the company has subsequently received approval of their land use permit applications from the Robbinston Planning Board.
© 2007 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.
The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB