Calais LNG application remains in limbo

Posted Dec. 07, 2010, at 9:45 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:20 a.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — The status of the proposed Calais Liquefied Natural Gas facility at Red Beach remains in limbo, as state and federal officials react to the company’s loss of its land lease and its request for an extension of time on its permit applications.

Citing complex financial negotiations, CLNG recently asked the state Board of Environmental Protection for an extension to Jan. 15. CLNG originally asked for the process to be expedited but has since asked for five time extensions.

Meanwhile, interested and affected parties, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, have been weighing in against extending the permitting process.

In a letter to CLNG dated Dec. 3, FERC’s director of Office of Energy Projects gave CLNG 10 days to provide information on its land lease and financial status.

Jeff Wright wrote to CLNG that his office “will be assessing whether it remains appropriate for the commission to continue to process your application.”

On the state level, BEP analyst Cindy Bertocci said Tuesday that BEP chairman Susan Lessard is still assessing CLNG’s situation and the letters written by intervenors.

These include objections by a number of groups who feel that CLNG has had plenty of time to prepare and that the company was less than truthful when it lost its land lease Sept. 1 and failed to notify either FERC or the BEP.

Maintaining an option, title or interest in property is a requirement for both the state and federal application processes.

Robert Godfrey of Save Passamaquoddy Bay, which objects to any LNG facility on the bay, wrote to Lessard: “This request is far different from the previous four. In those, the applicant’s title, right or interest [TRI] in the land for the terminal site, and hence, standing before the Board and the Board’s jurisdiction, was not — at least to the Board’s and parties’ knowledge — in question.

“Now, the applicant concedes that it no longer has TRI in the land for the terminal and has not had it for nearly three months. Furthermore, despite the Chair’s order that CLNG ‘show cause as to why the applications should remain pending,’ CLNG failed to respond with any evidentiary or legal support for its position.”

Sean Mahoney, representing both the Conservation Law Fund and the Sierra Club, also wrote to Lessard: “As Chair, you have given this applicant more than a fair opportunity to get its house in order. The applicant has responded by asking for more while at the same time deliberately hiding facts that bear directly on the Board’s continued jurisdiction to process this application.”

Comments submitted by Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission were similar: “As several parties have noted earlier and throughout these deliberations, all these delays do impose time and personnel burdens on every participant, most of whom are either governmental (involving taxpayer dollars) or not-for-profits (involving very limited donation resources). Roosevelt Campobello sees nothing … that changes the fact that Calais LNG did not inform the Board it lacked title, right and interest on August 31 (and, as of December 2, still lacks TRI).”

Meanwhile, CLNG wrote to Lessard on Dec. 2 that it is continuing negotiations on the land lease and that Harold Ian Emery and Arthur Gelber, proprietors of North East Energy Development, have bought out the interests of former partner GS Power Holdings LLC.

“The new management of CLNG is vigorously pursuing efforts to get the project back on track,” according to the CLNG letter.

Emery, who could not be reached Tuesday for comment, wrote that he is renewing the land lease negotiations.

Godfrey called the ownership moves “smoke and mirrors” and doubts the extension will be approved.

Bertocci said Lessard could make a decision within the next few days about the fifth extension or the decision could be put off until the BEP’s next meeting on Dec. 16.

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