The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2008 Jan 18

Quiet Calais LNG proposal still alive

Opponents maintain plea
to close Head Harbour Passage to tankers


ST. ANDREWS — The news that the third liquefied natural gas (LNG) project proposed for Passamaquoddy Bay, which many thought was on the back burner, is still alive and well has prompted Mayor John Craig to reiterate the town's strong opposition to all such projects.

The proposal for the third LNG terminal, [proposed for location] in the Red Beach area between [St. Croix Island International Historic Site] and Devil's Head Park, was first presented to Calais city council in 2005 and not much more was heard about it until last year when it was revealed there were new partners behind the project — North East Energy Development of Maine and Texas.

Energy consultant for the company, Art Gelber of Texas-based Gelber Corp., was in the Calais area this week to talk with city officials about the project.He did not return calls from the Courier.

Mayor Craig said he knew that this third project — the other two companies proposing LNG projects in Passamaquoddy Bay are Downeast LNG and Quoddy Bay LNG — was still alive because State Representative Ian Emery (R-Cutler) spoke to him about it last summer.

"But it doesn't matter what these guys are doing because the prime minister of Canada has said you cannot take LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage," Craig said.

"As far as I am concerned, the investors are just throwing their money away."

Although Emery told him this third project would have the least effect on St. Andrews of the three proposals, Mayor Craig said the LNG tankers would still have to go through Head Harbour Passage, which is the only way to get into Passamaquoddy Bay.

He said the town is opposed to all LNG projects in the bay.

Jessie Davies, co-chair of Save Passamaquoddy Bay/Canada, said she had been assured that the third LNG project was dead in the water.

“It is very clear that this is not a good idea. ”

Save Passamaquoddy Bay/Canada
She referred to a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which states that the U.S.Coast Guard, the lead federal agency for maritime security, has insufficient resources to protect LNG tankers from terrorist attacks.

GAO's review looked at the types of threats to tankers and the potential consequences of a successful attack, measures taken to protect tankers and challenges federal agencies face in making these actions effective, and plans in place for responding to a successful attack and potential challenges stakeholders face in responding.

The report states, "Highly-combustible commodities, such as liquefied gases, have the potential to catch fire or, in a more likely scenario, explode, posing a threat to public safety. Attacks could also have environmental consequences, and attacks that disrupt the supply chain could have a severe economic impact."

It goes on to say that the U.S. faces limitation in helping to increase compliance, as well as limitations in ensuring safe passage on vulnerable transport routes.

"Domestically, units of the Coast Guard, the lead federal agency for maritime security, report insufficient resources to meet its own self imposed security standards, such as escorting ships carrying liquefied natural gas.

"Some units' workloads are likely to grow as new liquefied natural gas facilities areadded. Coast Guard headquarters has not developed plans for shifting resources among units."

The report states that while multiple attack response plans are in place to address an attack, stakeholders face three main challenges in making them work.

First, plans for responding to a spill and to a terrorist threat are generally separate from each other, and ports have rarely exercised these plans simultaneously to see if they work effectively together.

Secondly, ports generally lack plans for dealing with economic issues, such as prioritizing the movement of vessels after a port reopens, and third, some ports report difficulty in securing response resources to carry out planned actions.

"Federal port security grants have generally been directed at preventing attacks, not responding to them, but a more comprehensive risk-based approach is being developed," states the report.

Davies said this report is the best possible news for LNG opponents who have cited passage of the tankers through Head Harbour Passage as one of their major concerns.

"Basically what this is saying is what we have been saying all along. It is very clear that this is not a good idea," Davies said.

She said it also adds fuel to the argument that new LNG facilities should not be land based, but should be located off-shore.


Bob Godfrey, of Save Passamaquoddy Bay in the U.S., said the Calais project is well behind the LNG terminals planned for Canaport in Saint John and the offshore project off Gloucester,Mass., which is ready to go. Plus, there is second offshore [Gloucester] project that is not quite so far along.

With these projects underway, he said, there will be an oversupply of natural gas by about 400 per cent [in the Northeast] in the future, so the projects in Passamaquoddy Bay are not needed.

Another issue, he said, is that all three projects proposed for Passamaquoddy Bay are violating their own industry's terminal siting standards.

While they are not required by law to follow the standards set down by the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operation (SIGTTO) he said the organization is the world authority on siting practices.

SIGTTO is a non-profit company formed to promote high operating standards and best practices in gas tankers and terminals throughout the world.

It provides technical assistance and support to its members and represents their collective interests in technical and operational matters.

"Quoddy Bay, in their agreement with the (Passamaquoddy) tribe, indicate that once they get their terminal built they will abide by SIGTTO standards — but not for the terminal siting," Godfrey said.

"As for Downeast LNG, they are speculators who have not even checked their own industry standards before picking their location. How can they justify this in the light of SIGTTO standards, which say you cannot do it here?

"If there was a spill, the vapours are going to affect the civilian population," he said.

"The transit routes come so close to the civilian population they cannot avoid them. "

Godfrey said another problem the developers cannot overcome is that the tankers must be located away from the transit area so they cannot be struck by any other vessel.

"I don't see that happening in any of the three locations. The ideal thing would be a sort of cul-de-sac that no other ships use," he said.

"Even at the proposed third location on theSt. Croix River, heavily-laden vessels from Bayside would be coming close enough to violate the standards."

Godfrey said SIGTTO's general manager offered to assist the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in any way they can, but FERC has ignored them.

"SIGTTO has indicated these standards are there to protect the industry, so if you don't follow these standards you increase the probability of a catastrophe," he said.

"These speculators are potentially endangering the energy sector of the U.S. by picking inappropriate locations."


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

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB