FERC welcomes public comment on Calais LNG

Posted Dec. 02, 2008, at 9:32 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Calais LNG was the last of three companies to propose building a liquefied natural gas project in Washington County — but its directors intend for it to be the one that succeeds.

“When you’re running last, you have to work a little harder to keep up,” Arthur Gelber, the project manager for Calais LNG, said Monday. “We think that this will be the facility that gets built.”

The public is invited to comment about the project at a meeting held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday evening in Calais.

Gelber is an energy consultant and natural gas expert from Houston. His company, Gelber & Associates, provides clients with “energy commodity risk management services, trading support, and general energy markets expertise,” according to its Web site.

“We think that part of Maine could use some economic development,” Gelber said.

Calais LNG’s proposed facility already has a leg up on the other two, which were locally controversial. Both have withdrawn their applications with the state to build LNG facilities.

The Oklahoma-based Quoddy Bay LNG withdrew in October its state application to build on Passamaquoddy tribal land at Pleasant Point. Downeast LNG, which had planned a Robbinston facility, also has withdrawn its application with the state. Officials with both companies have said that they plan to refile.

Calais LNG, as of now the last project standing, would like to build a natural gas terminal and storage facility seven miles south of downtown Calais. The company’s 330-acre site features 2,800 feet of shoreline along the deep-water banks of the St. Croix River and Passamaquoddy Bay.

The site is located between Red Beach and Devil’s Head, and across from New Brunswick’s Port of Bayside industrial site and shipping facility.

Nancy Asante, a member of Save Passamaquoddy Bay, a group opposed to LNG facilities in the bay, said the Calais LNG site is south of the hiking trails of the Devil’s Head conservation area.

Devil’s Head is “a wonderful thing to have — but just to the south of it is where Calais wants to put in its terminal,” Asante said.

She also mentioned the fact that gas tankers would have to navigate through the harbor passage and through the narrowing river to get to the site.

“A 95-foot tanker would have a pretty hard time,” she said. “It’s not recommended that a site with such hazards be considered.”

Company officials have spent the last few months doing environmental studies and plan to file draft reports with FERC by Dec. 31.

If all goes as they hope, the facility — which would cost $775 million — would be operational by 2013, and shunt natural gas to Maine, elsewhere in New England, parts of New York state and Pennsylvania.

Although the Canaport LNG terminal in St. John, New Brunswick, is nearing completion, Calais LNG officials say there is room for another facility in Maine, citing a need for new jobs and an increased tax base.

“We think that some of that should be in Maine,” Gelber said.

Calais LNG officials say that having strong financial backing from international investment firm Goldman Sachs bodes well for them, as does having local representation on their team.

Rep. Ian Emery, R-Cutler, the development manager for Calais LNG, said that both Washington County and the St. Stephen, New Brunswick, area would benefit economically from their proximity to a new facility.

“St. Stephen’s a ghost town, just like Calais,” said Emery, who is leaving the Legislature.

The FERC meeting on the Calais LNG proposal is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, at the Washington County Community College auditorium in Calais.

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