CALAIS, Maine — One of the three companies with plans to construct a liquefied natural gas terminal in eastern Maine held a public informational meeting this week at Washington County Community College.
More than 240 people attended the forum held Tuesday by Calais LNG, which organized the session to present the findings of last year’s fieldwork and to receive comments and questions from the public, the company said in a press release.
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, past St. Croix Island and Devils Head recreation area to get to the facility.
Calais officials said Friday that an LNG facility could mean economic development and jobs.
“It is going to provide high-paying jobs,” Calais City Manager Diane Barnes said Friday. “There are going to be jobs out there that hopefully the younger generation is going to want to stay in this area instead of moving out.”
Mayor Vinton Cassidy echoed the same sentiments Friday.
“Oftentimes other [economic development] things will follow,” the mayor said.
The mayor called it a positive meeting. Although opponents of LNG did attend the meeting, the mayor said, they did not speak.
The 27 people who spoke supported the project, the press release said.
The proposed project comes at a time when jobs will be needed Down East.
Earlier this month the Montreal-based Domtar Corp. announced it was idling indefinitely its Baileyville pulp mill. The shutdown will impact more than 300 workers.
The Domtar annoucement has thrown communities in Washington County into a tailspin worrying about the future.
“That is why the informational meeting was so well attended,” Barnes said. “It is coming on the heels of such bad and devastating news to this area. And there is no economic growth out there. We haven’t had it here for years. This is something on the horizon that could possibly spur a new energy hub for the state of Maine and it could be right here in Calais.”
LNG opponent Bob Godfrey of Save Passamaquoddy Bay said late Friday that opponents of LNG recognize the need for good jobs, but the LNG facility is not the way to go.
“The mill closing is an unfortunate thing to happen. But that doesn’t justify a business that is actually going to harm the area,” he said. Passamaquoddy Bay is not the place for an LNG facility, he said.
“It might be elsewhere,” he suggested.
Godfrey also said he did not believe the Canadian government would approve passage of LNG tankers through Head Harbor Passage. The LNG ships will have to travel through Canadian water to get to the terminals.
In 2007 Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly told then President Bush that Canada would not permit tankers through the narrow waterway that Canada considers internal waters.
Godfrey said Save Passamaquoddy Bay planned to make formal presentations when the actual state and government hearings on the facility plans are held. “If [the LNG developers] get to that point … we will be intervenors,” he said.
Godfrey attended Tuesday’s meeting but chose not to speak.
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 2008 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.
Every member of the Washington County legislative delegation, led by state Sen. Kevin Raye, R-Perry, submitted letters in support of Calais LNG, excerpts of which were read at the meeting by former Calais Councilor Marianne Moore, the press release said.
“The Public Information Meeting is one of several outreach activities initiated by Calais LNG to encourage public involvement. Open house sessions were held in Calais and Baileyville in the fall of 2008 and Calais LNG participated in a Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) scoping session in December of 2008 that was attended by over 100 people,” the release said.
The session ran more than one hour over the allotted time due to the number of people waiting to speak in support of the project, according to the release.