Public airs LNG concerns

Posted Dec. 05, 2008, at 9:34 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — Politicians and the public Thursday night told federal regulators about the impact an LNG terminal would have on the city.

Many spoke in favor of the proposal, and there were a few dissenters.

Officials from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday evening had a firsthand opportunity to learn what the public wants when it comes to LNG. The FERC-sponsored public “scoping session” was held at Washington County Community Col-lege.

Calais LNG hopes to build a multimillion-dollar liquefied natural gas receiving terminal and storage facility on a 330-acre site located roughly seven miles south of downtown Calais between Route 1 and the St. Croix River. Plans call for the terminal to sit directly across from Bayside Marine Terminal near St. Stephen, New Brunswick. An interconnection with the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline is planned. LNG ships like those going to the Canadian port would travel through Canadian waters to get to the facility.

The majority of speakers at the forum focused on the project’s potential to bring jobs and economic prosperity to the area.

Of the 30 people who expressed their opinions, more than 20 said they favored it. Only a handful, some of them Canadians, said they believed it was wrong for the area.

Among the supporters were the Washington County Commission, the St. Croix Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Calais City Council, the Baileyville Town Council, state Rep. Anne Perry, D-Calais, state Rep. Howard McFadden, R-Dennysville, and former state Sen. Harold Silverman.

Calais Mayor Vinton Cassidy said the City Council supported the proposal, and he started off the public comment portion of the three-hour meeting by talking about the history of the city and the ships that used to sail into Calais.

“Shipping has been part of this whole process,” he said, “and this Calais LNG proposal is another form of shipping.”

Assistant City Manager Jim Porter said he favored the proposal because the terminal would create jobs during the construction phase and full-time year-round jobs once the facility opened. He said there also would be spinoff benefits.

“I believe the convenient availability of natural gas and the expansion of the tax base will make our area more competitive in attracting industry,” Porter said.

Among those who expressed opposition to the facility, Joan Livingstone of Calais questioned the reliability of the project’s financial backing. Calais LNG has said it has backing from the financial firm Goldman Sachs, which has been hit hard in the international economic crisis.

“I am wondering what kind of financing Goldman Sachs is providing and how firm it is,” she said.

Calais LNG’s plan is one of three proposals that have been put forward for liquefied natural gas facilities in eastern Maine.

Oklahoma-based Quoddy Bay LNG submitted an application to build an LNG terminal in Perry. FERC dismissed that application in October over a lack of information. Quoddy Bay officials have said the dismissal was a delay in their timeline, not an end to the project.

In addition, Downeast LNG has filed an application to build a facility in nearby Robbinston and also has experienced delays in the permitting process. The group said in July that it planned to refile a revised application for its proposal.

Those who were unable to attend Thursday night’s meeting still can file comments with FERC.

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