The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2009 July 24


Avoiding a debilitating debate

Eastport so far has avoided getting too embroiled in the LNG debate that has derailed other communities in the area. While a healthy discussion about controversial issues is welcome, it would be good to avoid the antagonistic badgering and mean-spiritedness that can occur — and has taken place in some towns. Perhaps Eastport residents remember too well what the Pittston oil refinery debate did to the city and have wisely decided to chart a different course. The relative civility of the discussion so far will help the city as it continues to pursue economic possibilities.

Unfortunately, some now appear to be trying to get the city council and port authority involved in a squabble on the LNG issue. The city council has a responsibility to look out for the interests of the citizens of Eastport. In that role, the councillor designated as the LNG liaison had submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concerning the draft environmental impact statement for the Downeast LNG proposal in Robbinston. Those comments were not opposing the project but outlined areas of concern and suggested possible ways to mitigate those concerns. As elected representatives of the people of Eastport, the council had not only the right but the responsibility to express those concerns.

Now, though, under pressure from Downeast LNG representatives and some residents, the council has decided to withdraw those comments. While the council plans to submit new comments in September, there will be less time for FERC to consider them, and they may therefore have less weight. While the process for the council's writing of its comments provided insufficient opportunity for other councillors to give their input, and while a phrase in the letter was an unwise choice, the letter as a whole should not be withdrawn. If FERC gives the letter due consideration, it will be looking at the overall concerns of the city that are outlined and the suggested ways to mitigate them. It appears as though the majority of councillors are, in part, abrogating their responsibility to look out for the safety and security of the residents of this island. We resent the undue influence that company representatives and other interested parties in the LNG proposals are exerting on this process. The council should be able to make decisions without relying on the interested parties for their information.

Eastport does have promising possibilities for economic development — both for the port and for tidal and other renewable energy projects. It would be unfortunate if our focus is turned from pursuing them if it shifts to a debilitating debate on LNG.

It could well turn out that the only legacy of the LNG proposals may be to leave communities that are divided. That would leave us poor indeed. We would be wise to avoid the LNG debate as much as we can and keep our focus on economic development that will sustain us into the future much longer than LNG possibly can.

— Edward French

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