The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2009 July 24

Canada restates position on LNG ship passage

by Edward French

The Canadian government has restated its opposition to liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels passing through Head Harbour Passage to terminals on the Maine side of Passamaquoddy Bay, in comments made to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concerning the draft environmental impact statement for the Downeast LNG proposal in Robbinston.

Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., expressed Canada's "serious concerns" with the LNG proposals, in a July 7 letter to FERC. "The waters of Head Harbour Passage are internal waters of Canada by virtue of historic title, and Canada maintains the right to control and regulate their use. Canada's opposition is also based on concerns regarding navigational safety, environmental and other impacts that such projects could have on Canada."

He continued, "As stated in the draft EIS, Government of Canada cooperation would be required to ensure safe passage. In light of continuing Government of Canada opposition, you may therefore wish to advise project proponents that they should consider withdrawing their applications as these projects cannot go forward as envisioned."

Dean Girdis, president of Downeast LNG, says he's not surprised by the comments, as they reiterate the Canadian government's earlier statements. The U.S. government, though, maintains that vessels have a right of innocent passage through Head Harbour Passage, under the United Nations' Laws of the Sea Treaty, and that the waters, while in Canada, are not internal Canadian waters. Although the U.S. Senate has not ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty, Girdis believes it will soon, and he believes if ultimately the U.S. government went to international court over the issue that Canada would lose the case. Girdis says, though, that he hopes that dialogue continues. "We're willing and interested in discussing" the proposal with the Canadians, he says.

Although both the Canadian ambassador and New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham have raised concerns about impacts of the proposed LNG terminal, Girdis says the Canadian government's study on the U.S. LNG proposals did not find "any troubling impacts." While the study does not draw any definitive conclusions, it does point out potential risks.

Girdis expects if the project does receive FERC approval and other necessary federal and state permits that the Canadian government would engage in the process of discussing passage of the LNG vessels through Head Harbour Passage. He notes that the U.S. Coast Guard's Waterway Suitability Report on the Downeast LNG project points to the importance of Canadian cooperation for navigating LNG vessels through Canadian waters.


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