The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2008 Aug 22

Government to spend $100,000
in fight against LNG


ST. ANDREWS — The federal government will provide $100,000 for a new study to provide it with more ammunition in the fight against proposed LNG developments in Passamaquoddy Bay, Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson announced Wednesday evening.

He was speaking at the annual meeting of Save Passamaquoddy Bay/Canada held at the W.C.O'Neill Arena here which attracted over 200 people from both sides of the border. About 50 people had to be turned away from the meeting as only 180 could safely be accommodated in the meeting room.

Thompson, MP for New Brunswick Southwest, said the federal government considers Head Harbour Passage, which would have to be used by LNG tankers to access the proposed LNG terminals in Maine, as internal Canadian waters and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said his government will use every legal and diplomatic means to defend that position.

"We will protect PassamaquoddyBay, we will protect our citizens and we will protect our environment," promised Thompson. "In addition to that, we have said we will fund another study where we collectively will write the terms of the study to defend our position. We are dedicating $100,000 to that project."

The minister said the government would be relying on the men and women from the scientific community in St. Andrews to do that job because they have the expertise.

"We are putting our money where our mouth is in terms of that official study that I believe and you believe is necessary. There are a number of studies that we can also depend on and we will make sure they are properly used. It will be $100,000 and most of it, if not all of it, will most likely be spent on the expertise that exists in this community."

Thompson said the LNG debate is not going to end overnight because the proponents — Quoddy Bay LNG, Downeast LNG and Calais LNG — have a lot at stake but, in his opinion, they are too late at the market place to be successful.

"What investment company in the world would want to fund a project of that magnitude when they are staring a sovereign nation in the eye saying we don't want you to come there?" he asked.

Thompson said that, in his opinion, the proponents don't have a supply of LNG but that is not going to change the federal government's position.

"Basically we are firm in our position. We will stand by our position and we will be there with you every stage of the fight.It ain't over until it's over."

He thanked everyone from throughout Charlotte County and beyond as well as on both sides of the border who have fought so hard against LNG and singled out particularly St. Andrews Mayor John Craig and town council for the leadership they have shown.

"We have a responsibility collectively to protect our way of life, to protect our environment, to protect our economy and there are so many people in this area that make their living from the sea," said Thompson.

During questions from the floor St. Andrews resident Max Wolfe asked how the Canadian government can make the US players listen while Bill Chandler, another resident said statements are simply words. He said there should be something written by the government recording its opposition to LNG while another speaker asked whether the issue had been brought before parliament.

Thompson said this was something which could happen through a private member's bill which was a very distinct possibility, and St. Andrews Eric Gozna suggested presenting a bill stating there will be no LNG tankers going through Head Harbour Passage.

The minister said it would take an individual MP to write the resolution and carry it through parliament and Gozna suggested that that MP should be Thompson.

Bartle Bull, a summer resident, asked about the legal side of all this since the developers are not being swayed by the message they are getting from the Canadian government, and Thompson said theoretically it may have to be arbitrated in the International Court of Law.

"All of us are hoping it does not have to go that far but whatever distance we have to go we are prepared to do it. We have a team of lawyers working on this."

He added, "We are not going to relax our vigilence and will continue to work on it and, at the end of the day, whatever is necessary for the government of Canada to do, we will do it."

Co-chair of SPB/Canada, Jessie Davies gave an overview of the three proposed LNG projects at Split Rock, Mill Cove, and Calais.

All three, she said, would have to get tankers through Head Harbour Passage, and the proponents seem unconcerned about Canada's statement that they will not allow tankers through there.

She spoke about the support SPB/Canada has received from different fundraising ventures and mentioned the massed choir concerts coming up in September in St. Andrews, Eastport, and Grand Manan.

SPB/Canada board member Carl Sapers said there were four ways to stop the developers in their tracks — the group can seek to persuade the Maine authorities to reject the applications for state permits; it can challenge each licence application before the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); if it is not successful in its opposition before FERC and the licence is issued, then it can make an appeal to the US Court of Appeals; and, finally, the Canadian government can exercise its sovereign control over Head Harbour Passage and deny all LNG developers access to the bay.

Challenging all three proponents could cost about $600,000, said Sapers, so SPB/Canada and their US allies concluded it would be best to find a partner in this fight. He said SPB/Canada has found such a partner in the Conservation Law Foundation subject to the approval of its New England board of directors.

It would intervene at hearings before the Maine Board of Environmental Protection with the assistance of SPB doing research and gathering material for it — much of which has already been accumulated, said Sapers.

He said the Conservation Law Foundation, the most respected legal advocate in Maine, will make arguments against LNG going forward, and SPB will support them with a grant.

Challenging the developers before FERC will also required a partner, said Sapers, and Premier Shawn Graham has already said the provincial government will intervene in these proceedings, so SPB hopes to hold on to those coattails.

"Our best hope fastens on Ottawa to take the next definitive step to make clear the Harper government will not allow LNG tanker vessels into our bay. Doing so will stop all three developersin their tracks.

"We, despite our best efforts, must convince Ottawa that there is a limit to our capacity to keep our finger in the dyke. We need Ottawa's unequivocal support. We hope they will take affirmative steps to end this struggle."

Mayor Craig said the current towncouncil is unanimous in its opposition to LNG as well as any expansion of the Bayside quarry across to the other side of Route 127.

"As a council over the next four years we can accomplish many goals, but if we lose this battle to prevent the industrialisation of our bay by the introduction of LNG, it will all be invain."


© 2008 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB