April 19, 2018
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Canada expects Maine to be its energy doormat

By Dean Girdis, Special to the BDN

While Maine is open to being New Brunswick’s energy partner, Canada expects Maine to be New Brunswick’s energy doormat.

New Brunswick has ambitious plans to become an energy hub. It touts its nuclear power plant, oil refinery, hydropower and LNG terminal — boasting on the provincial Web site “We have the infrastructure and distribution systems to deliver this energy to the Eastern United States. We are geographically ideal to reach these markets.”

Ideally located, they might add, as long as they can use Maine to get their energy to population centers in the U.S.

You would think that this would be a great opportunity for Maine and New Brunswick to work together, especially given the long-standing economic and social ties between these neighbors.

Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t really want a partnership. A real partnership would have benefits for Maine, too. Instead, New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham, MP Greg Thompson and other Canadian politicians are indulging in a totally self-serving double standard when it comes to their opposition to LNG across the border in Maine.

Five years ago, Downeast LNG set out to build a safe and environmentally sound project that will bring many new good-paying jobs to Washington County and create a new source of clean-burning natural gas for Maine and the Northeast. Agreeing with Gov. John Baldacci that no major development project in Maine should go forward without the support of local residents, we sought and received the overwhelming support of the people of Robbinston.

Permitting a project of this magnitude has been a long and difficult road, but we have pushed on, knowing that we have the strong support of local residents and government and business leaders throughout Maine.

In recent months, Gov. Baldacci and Sen. Susan Collins, in particular, have been especially forceful with Canadian officials in asserting the right of all ships — including LNG ships — to transit the international waters of Passamaquoddy Bay to reach Maine ports, and we appreciate their efforts.

All we have asked for is a fair and transparent review of our project based on its merits. That is what we have received from U.S. authorities. In January, we received a favorable waterway report from the U.S. Coast Guard, which said “the Passamaquoddy Bay Waterway is suitable for the type and frequency of marine traffic associated with this proposed project.”

That was followed in May by a draft environmental impact statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, the lead permitting authority, which said that the environmental impacts of our project would be “reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of the applicants’ proposed mitigation measures and the additional measures we recommend.”

But despite the fact that our project is receiving intense scrutiny from federal regulators — much greater than a similar project would receive in Canada — Canadian politicians just continue to say “no way.” Acting like petulant children, they aren’t about to let facts, reason, precedent or even international law get in their way.

New Brunswick Premier Graham tells FERC that our project would negatively affect New Brunswick’s environment, its tourism and its environmental-based economy, as well as its residents’ safety and security (but apparently their industrial ports, nuclear power plants and oil refineries are just fine.)

Even the Canadian ambassador to the U.S. has gotten into the act, telling FERC that Canada opposes the project because of concerns about “navigational safety, environmental and other impacts.”

Well, the Coast Guard already has addressed navigational safety, not to mention the fact that hundreds of large ships safely transit these waters each year to get to Eastport and the Port of Bayside in New Brunswick. FERC certainly is addressing the environmental issues, as will the Maine Board of Environmental Protection.

Honestly, if all of these Canadian politicians were really concerned about navigation, public safety and the environment, there would be no rock quarry or shipping at Bayside, no nuclear power plant a short distance from the Maine border at Point Lepreau, no oil refinery in Saint John.

What they really are concerned about is protecting New Brunswick’s economic interests, because what they really want is a one-way energy highway through Maine that only benefits Canada.

Thankfully, Maine’s leaders are standing up to the shameless hypocrisy coming from New Brunswick and the Canadian federal government, and all Maine people should support them. If New Brunswick wants a real partner, great. If it just wants to walk all over Maine on its way to lucrative U.S. energy markets, let them find another route.

Dean Girdis is the founder and president of Downeast LNG in Robbinston.

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