June 18, 2018
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Islesboro land trust hires ex-White House adviser to gauge risk of Searsport tank project

Paul Sakuma | AP
Paul Sakuma | AP
Richard Clarke, special advisor to President Bush, addresses a security conference in San Jose, Calif., in this Feb. 19, 2002 file photo.
By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

ISLESBORO, Maine — Members of a local island land trust have hired a firm headed by former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke to do an independent risk assessment of Searsport’s controversial $40 million liquid propane terminal and storage tank project.

“It’s an unusual step for us to go and hire this internationally known group of experts,” Stephen Miller, executive director of the Islesboro Islands Trust, said Tuesday. “But we think that the urgency and risk associated with this proposal really warrants this.”

Clarke served as a counterterrorism adviser to Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. His firm, Good Harbor Consulting, is based in Arlington, Va.

“From terrorism to natural disasters, from criminal actions to accidents, we provide unparalleled knowledge and a deep understanding of the threats and response needs currently facing government officials and private executives,” states the company’s website.

In Maine, the consulting firm will assess the proposed terminal and 22.7 million gallon storage tank, which Denver-based firm DCP Midstream would like to build in the Mack Point industrial zone. The project already has received approval from entities including the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard.

It now awaits approval only from the town of Searsport. The Searsport Planning Board is reviewing DCP Midstream’s application and has given the go-ahead for independent impact studies on traffic and economics. Last month, longtime planning board chairman Bruce Probert said the town would not contract to have an independent safety study done.

Beginning with Islesboro earlier this summer, several other area communities have indicated that they want a say in Searsport’s decision.

Miller did not disclose how much the Islesboro Islands Trust will pay Good Harbor for the risk assessment but did say the trust had learned of the work the company does because the state of Rhode Island had it conduct a risk assessment of a proposed liquid natural gas terminal in Providence. In that case, Good Harbor found that the proposal was too risky and it was subsequently shelved, he said.

“But they also looked at an LNG project proposed for an island in the mouth of Boston Harbor and gave that a green light,” Miller said. “This is by no means a group that says no all the time. They just look at the facts.”

Good Harbor will look at issues including the blast zones around the storage tank and tanker ships, the capacity of local emergency services, maritime safety and more.

“They will deal only in facts. They will tell us: this is the threat, this is what it will cost should scenario A or B or C occur,” Miller said. “It’s an incredibly comprehensive process.”

He said that Clarke was on Islesboro this past weekend in relation to the study and will be present for the study’s “roll-out,” which he anticipates will happen very soon.

“To get information to the Searsport Planning Board before they make a decision — there’s some degree of urgency attached to the schedule here,” Miller said.

Roz Elliott of DCP Midstream said Tuesday evening that she was not aware of the specifics of the risk assessment study.

“Our focus has been and continues to be providing the planning board with information they need,” she said. “We believe our application is strong, and addresses all the [town’s] performance standards. What is really standing out now is the loud support we’re hearing from local Searsport residents.”

Miller said he is pleased that the land trust and other interested parties will have more facts at hand after the Good Harbor risk assessment is completed.

“We’re glad that we’re finally going to get impeccable information,” he said. “I am personally disappointed that this wasn’t required of the applicant, but it wasn’t, and we had to step up.”

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