2009 Jan 13
ST. ANDREWS – The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) may have approved the passage of LNG tankers through Passamaquoddy Bay but Minister of Veterans Affairs and MP Greg Thompson says Canada will use every legal and diplomatic means to keep them out.
“No matter what they say, it makes no difference to our position. Our position is that we will use every legal and diplomatic means to keep LNG tankers out of Head Harbour Passage. Regardless of what the U.S. Coast Guard says, that position is not going to change and we are not going to negotiate that position,” said Thompson Friday.
Last week, the USCG issued a letter of recommendation to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) stating the waterway proposed for use by vessels associated with the proposed Downeast LNG facility in Mill Cove, Maine, is suitable provided the recommended risk mitigation measures outlined in a supporting waterway suitability report are fully implemented.
Since the Canadian government is not going to change its position, he said, the proponents will have to decide whether they want to take on a sovereign nation.
The USCG 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 on the Passamaquoddy Bay Waterway. The waterway includes the waters of Head Harbour Passage, Western Passage, and Passamaquoddy Bay.
“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 Adm. 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.”
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.
FERC has responsibility for LNG facility siting, environmental impact, construction authorization, and for issuing certificates for import and export of LNG.
Submission of the waterway suitability report and letter of recommendation completes the Coast Guard’s role as a cooperating agency to assist FERC in developing a comprehensive review of the Downeast LNG facility proposal.
While implementation of the risk mitigation measures identified in the letter of recommendation and the accompanying report is the responsibility of the project proponent, the Coast Guard is the appropriate agency to ensure full implementation of the risk mitigation measures prior to the operation of the Downeast LNG facility.
Thompson, who is opposed to any LNG projects in Passamaquoddy Bay, said that in the financial world as it is today it will be difficult for the proponents to raise the capital necessary for a project like this, especially when they are taking on a sovereign nation that is opposed to the project.
“No investment bank in the world is going to take on a project like that. Under the present economic conditions in the U.S. there are safer investments in which to place your money,” he said.
“That, coupled with the fact that Canada has said no as a sovereign nation and will continue to defend that position is a pretty strong signal to them that they should go some where else.
“These are internal Canadian waters and we have an obligation to protect them, to protect the public, to protect the environment and to protect our economy. That is exactly what we have done and that is what we are going to continue to do.
“Where do you go and raise $1 billion in the present economic climate that exists on Wall Street and where are they going to get the LNG? Some of these projects have been abandoned because of not securing a supply of LNG.
“As a sovereign nation, we have taken the position that we are going to stand up for our citizens and the environment so that, coupled with other market realities, should resonate with the proponents of this project.”
Thompson said the LNG market is saturated and pointed out that a project in Nova Scotia has been abandoned because they don’t have a secure supply of LNG.
Dean Girdis, president and founder of Downeast LNG, feels the conditions for tankers travelling to and from the facility outlined in the report are reasonable.
He said 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.” He said that the Coast Guard report is a key element in finalizing the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) that FERC is preparing.
The DEIS, which is expected to be released in the near term, is especially important because it provides a review of how the federal government views the project’s engineering, environmental, and socio-economic 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 to receive public comments. After receiving public comments, FERC will issue a final environmental impact statement.
Girdis also said the release of the waterway suitability report (WSR), the letter of recommendation and the DEIS will be helpful to Downeast LNG as the company prepares to file new state permit applications.
“Downeast LNG is a safe, environmentally responsible project that will increase Maine’s supply of natural gas and provide good paying jobs to the people of Washington County,” Girdis said.
“Both are badly needed. We are already at work addressing the Coast Guard’s recommendations as reflected in the WSR, and we are pushing full speed ahead with our plans to get this project approved and built.”
Downeast LNG is proposing to build an LNG import terminal at Mill Cove in Robbinston, Me., on an 32-hectare site on Passamaquoddy Bay. The proposed facility will consist of two storage tanks, a regasification plant, and a pier to receive LNG carriers.
The project also includes a natural gas send-out pipeline that would connect the facility to the existing Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline that runs from Nova Scotia through Maine to southern New England.
The terminal would have a storage capacity of 320,000 cubic meters, with an output capacity of 500 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscfd) and peaking capacity of 625 mmscfd.
The Robbinston site was selected by Downeast LNG after they evaluated more than 27 different sites in New England.
In January of 2006, the people of Robbinston voted 227 to 83 in support of the Downeast LNG project in a special town election and the project subsequently received approval of its land use permit applications from the Robbinston Planning Board.
© 2009 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.
The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB