The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2009 June 26

Downeast LNG proposal garners local support

by Marie Jones Holmes

Strong support for the proposed Downeast LNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Robbinston was in evidence at a public meeting held June 16 at the Robbinston Grade School. The purpose of the meeting was for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to gather public comments on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS). Shannon Crosley of FERC chaired the meeting, Alan Moore represented the U.S. Coast Guard New England District and Jay Clements represented the Army Corps of Engineers. Other state and federal agencies will be involved in the permitting process. Many members of the public who spoke stressed the need for employment in the area and the continued loss of young people from the area because of lack of employment opportunities.

Calais resident Harold Silverman, a former state senator from Washington County and a proponent of the project, said, "It used to be children leaving the area; now whole families have to leave. There is a difference between no development and safe development." Silverman believes the opposition is putting forth many myths to oppose the project. "May we be able to put our next generation to work in Washington County." He noted that there is Canadian shipping using the same waterways that the Downeast LNG project would use, except this project will be the U.S. side of the bay.

David Turner, a member of the Perry board of selectmen, said the board will be sending a letter to FERC in support of the Downeast LNG project.

Calais resident Billy Howard said, "I am in favor of the project. I would like to commend Downeast for their patience and for sticking with this project."

Gwen Clark of Robbinston said, "Our youth are leaving because they can't afford to stay. I don't want to see this as a retirement community. I would like to see something happen in Robbinston."

Jim Runyan of Pembroke faulted the federal government and Maine's congressional delegation for not moving things along concerning LNG projects in the area and the Canadian opposition to them. "Where is the government and where in the hell is Snowe, Collins and Michaud? Nobody in Washington gives a damn." Runyan, who has a degree in forestry, says, "We are taking common sense out of this project." Concerning Canadian opposition, he suggested getting the State Department involved.

Rep. Anne Perry of Calais told of the high unemployment rate in the area as well as high cancer and diabetes rates. "This is related to our economy and the difficulty in accessing health care." Perry expressed her support for the work FERC and Downeast LNG are doing.

Ian Emery, a partner in the proposed Calais LNG project, said, "We are excited about our project, and we support the Robbinston project."

Lubec resident Felicia Newman, an engineer who has worked for Louisiana-Pacific in Washington County and for Domtar but now works for Verso Paper in Bucksport, said, "I am very much in favor of the project. I would just as soon be employed here." She said, "We have the people with the appropriate education and experience. We can do it."

Harold Clossey of the Sunrise County Economic Council described the Downeast LNG project as good for Maine and for the region, stressing that the project would be especially good for Washington County. He said the county cannot afford to have so many of its jobs tied up with relatively few employers, such as the Domtar pulp mill in Baileyville. He noted that Domtar has just reopened after temporarily laying off 300 people. "We can no longer be a one-trick pony."

Captain Robert J. Peacock of Quoddy Pilots told the group that he is one of the state and federal ship pilots for the area. "I have been a pilot here for 33 years and have 947 successful passages as pilot in Head Harbour Passage. I have read the FERC EIS and especially the sections concerning marine operations. I believe the U.S. Coast Guard and FERC got the correct mix between safety parameters and operation parameters in the EIS." Peacock noted that within days of the Robbinston meeting, Canaport in Saint John, about 50 miles away, would receive its first LNG ship. "Irving started the planning and permit process at the same time as Downeast LNG. Canada can produce an operational terminal even before we can get through the permitting process here in the USA. We are losing these opportunities in the USA to our foreign competition, and any additional delays will cost more jobs in our U.S. economy."

Opposition speaks out

Not all speakers were in favor of the project. Madonna Soctomah, a Passamaquoddy tribal elder, spoke against the proposal, saying industrialization is to blame for much of the pollution in the world. "I would not exchange a paying job for good health." Soctomah said LNG does not provide what people need in this area for the land and for their children.

Robert Godfrey, a member of Save Passamaquoddy Bay from Eastport, said that the draft EIS has "numerous broad omissions and errors" that would be commented on in writing before the deadline for comments.

Carl Sapers of St. Andrews, a member of the Canadian chapter of Save Passamaquoddy Bay, stated that Downeast LNG will have to get permission from the Canadian government before any LNG deliveries can occur in Passamaquoddy Bay. He does not believe such permission is likely to be granted because both the federal government and the New Brunswick government have said they oppose passage of LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage.

Alan Moore of the U.S. Coast Guard said he was neither a proponent nor an opponent of the project. He said the U.S. State Department believes Canada cannot prevent LNG tankers from transiting Head Harbour Passage. Moore says his agency and FERC are moving ahead with their review of the Downeast LNG project based on the State Department's position.

FERC is taking written public comments on the proposed project until Monday, July 6.


© 2009 The Quoddy Tides
Eastport, Maine
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.