The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2009 Jan 6

Coast Guard issues favorable report
for Downeast LNG plan

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a letter of recommendation to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on January 7 stating the waterway proposed for use by vessel traffic associated with Downeast LNG, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility proposed for Mill Cove, Robbinston, is suitable, provided that recommended risk mitigation measures outlined in a supporting waterway suitability report are fully implemented.

The letter, issued by Capt. James B. McPherson, captain of the port for Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, states that, if and when the risk mitigation measures are put into effect by Downeast LNG, they will sufficiently mitigate the identified risks associated with LNG traffic along the waterway. The waterway includes Head Harbour Passage, Western Passage and Passamaquoddy Bay.

The Coast Guard made its suitability determination after a comprehensive review. The review focused on navigational safety and maritime security risks posed by LNG marine traffic and the measures needed to responsibly manage those risks. During the review, the Coast Guard consulted a variety of stakeholders, including the Passamaquoddy Bay/Downeast Regional Subcommittee of the Area Maritime Security Committee, the Maine and New Hampshire Port Safety forum, and other ad hoc groups.

"The Coast Guard engaged in significant public outreach and a comprehensive interagency review to ensure all safety and security risks were identified during the process," said Rear Admiral Brian M. Salerno, assistant commandant for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety, Security and Stewardship Directorate. "This yielded broad government support for the Coast Guard's finding that the waterway is suitable for LNG tankers provided all navigation safety and security risk mitigation measures are fully implemented by Downeast LNG."

Dean Girdis, president and founder of Downeast LNG, says that he is very pleased that the U.S. Coast Guard has issued a favorable Waterway Suitability Report (WSR) and Letter of Recommendation (LOR) for the company's proposed LNG import terminal and that the conditions for ship travel to and from the facility outlined in the report appear to be very reasonable. "The release of the WSR and the LOR are very significant milestones in the federal approval process and gives our project substantial momentum as we begin this new year," says Girdis.

Girdis notes that the proposed transit route is one that has been used by thousands of large ships over the years, adding, "Our waterway plan was designed to ensure that all LNG ship transits will be safe and secure, and we are very pleased that the Coast Guard has found it to be suitable. We are fully prepared to meet the conditions outlined in the report."

However, Linda Godfrey, coordinator of Save Passamaquoddy Bay, comments, "Study of the entire 100-page USCG's Waterway Suitability Assessment is necessary to fully comprehend the long list of conditions and requirements that have been set for possible LNG transit of Passamaquoddy Bay. The devil is in the details of this Washington-created document with huge hurdles for the proposed developer. This is a very complex international and domestic issue in an area with severe geographic, meteorological, economic, traditional and local constraints. The details are critical with documents created by several governmental departments who attempt to address all of these issues. Realities within the report promise to overshadow the issuance."

Godfrey also notes that FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher has resigned, effective January 20. "As a new administration comes into leadership in Washington, the days of the oil and gas industry cronyism of the Bush administration are ending. Our world and its fragile environment have much to celebrate and hope for under the new administration."

The waterway suitability report and the letter of recommendation were produced by the Coast Guard as part of the agency's contribution to the FERC review process. FERC will use the Coast Guard's report to publish a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). The DEIS, which is expected to be released in the near term, is important, Girdis says, because it provides a review of how the federal government views the project's engineering, environmental and socioeconomic details and identifies any issues that need to be addressed before final approval can be given.

Once the DEIS is released, FERC will initiate a public comment period and hold a public meeting in the local community for the purpose of receiving public comments on the DEIS. After receiving public comments, FERC will issue a final environmental impact statement.

Girdis also says the release of the WSR, LOR and DEIS will be helpful to Downeast LNG as the company prepares to file new state permit applications.


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