ROBBINSTON, Maine — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced last week its schedule for issuing a final Environmental Impact Statement for Downeast LNG’s proposed import terminal.
The federal agency said that a “Notice of Availability of the Final EIS” will be issued Sept. 18 and the 90-day federal authorization decision deadline would be Dec. 17.
“Our project continues to move forward through the federal approval process,” Dean Girdis, Downeast LNG founder and president, said in a press release. “Receiving the FERC scheduling order is another significant milestone for us.”
Now that the schedule order has been issued, Girdis anticipates that a draft EIS will be issued in the next month or so. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the draft and a public meeting will be held in the area.
But Downeast LNG critics Save Passamaquoddy Bay say the company should not be so confident. The group is an alliance of citizens from the United States, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Canada opposed to siting an LNG industrial facility in Passamaquoddy Bay, but not elsewhere in Washington County.
Spokesman Robert Godfrey said Monday the company is unlikely to succeed in its quest for several reasons.
“As we’ve seen previously, Quoddy Bay LNG was unable to satisfy that requirement, resulting in FERC throwing Quoddy Bay LNG out of the permitting process,” Godfrey said. “FERC’s latest questions indicate that Downeast LNG still hasn’t satisfied FERC.”
The Oklahoma-based Quoddy Bay LNG was the first LNG company to pursue FERC approval in Washington County. That project has since been placed on hold.
Downeast LNG project manager Rob Wyatt said Monday night, however, that his company was following FERC requirements as the review process unfolded.
“The recent FERC questions simply represent a requirement of evaluation of the facility that continues and will continue for quite a while,” Wyatt said.
Downeast LNG has proposed to locate, construct and operate a new LNG import terminal on about 47 acres in Robbinston, on Mill Cove near the confluence of Passamaquoddy Bay and the St. Croix River.
In January the U.S. Coast Guard issued a favorable Waterway Suitability Report for the Downeast LNG project, which will be included in the draft EIS, according to the company’s press release.
The release points out that the report states “the Passamaquoddy Bay Waterway is suitable for the type and frequency of marine traffic associated with this proposed project … provided that all of the recommended risk mitigation measures … are fully implemented by the applicant.’”
But Godfrey said the Coast Guard also “requires Downeast LNG to obtain Canada’s coordination — in essence, Canada’s approval — to transit into and through Passamaquoddy Bay. Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper stated, face-to-face, to [then] President [George W.] Bush that no LNG transits would be allowed into Passamaquoddy Bay. Simply put, Downeast LNG will not be receiving any LNG; therefore, FERC’s permitting decision is moot, and both FERC and Downeast LNG are powerless regarding this issue,” he said.
“I am afraid Mr. Godfrey misunderstands the Coast Guard approval, and the Coast Guard approval speaks for itself as to what Downeast will be required to do,” he said.
The issuance of the draft EIS will be an important step in the process because it will offer a review of how the federal government views the engineering, environmental and socioeconomic details for the Downeast LNG project and will identify any issues that need to be addressed before final approval will be given, Girdis said.
“This is a long process, but we now have significant momentum behind us in terms of obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals,” Girdis added in the press release. “Given the state of the economy, the Downeast LNG project is more important than ever because it will provide Maine with an important new source of natural gas and bring good paying, much needed jobs to Washington County.”