Proposed Downeast LNG import terminal continues to draw objections

Posted Dec. 10, 2012, at 11:36 a.m.

ROBBINSTON, Maine — A long-lingering proposal to construct a $600 million liquefied natural gas, or LNG, import terminal in the Washington County community of Robbinston has proven to be a magnet for objections by area environmentalists who want no part of development fronting Mill Cove, which is situated near the St. Croix River’s confluence with Passamaquoddy Bay.

Two new formal objections to the project have been filed in recent weeks with the Federal Energy Regulation Commission by the Eastport-based Save Passamaquoddy Bay organization, which has proactively opposed the project for years. The project could not be built without FERC approval.

Downeast LNG Inc. and Downeast Pipeline LLC are seeking a federal permit that would be required to construct two LNG storage tanks, a regasification plant and a 4,000-foot jetty and deep-water pier for docking LNG carrier ships. Those facilities would be built on an 80-acre shoreline site for which Downeast LNG has a purchase option that extends through June 2013.

First proposed in 2005, the project also would include a 30-mile pipeline to Baileyville to link the facility to the existing Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline, which runs through Maine between Nova Scotia with southern New England.

In a Dec. 7 filing with FERC, the group claims that, beyond its perceived negative effect on the surrounding environment, the project should be scrapped for economic reasons alone. It cites a recent consulting report that suggests the U.S. Department of Energy encourage more LNG exports, not more imports.

“The Dec. 3, 2012, NERA [National Economic Research Associates] Economic Consulting Report to the Department of Energy indicates that LNG exports would be beneficial to the U.S. economy,” said Robert Godfrey of Eastport, a researcher and spokesman for Save Passamaquoddy Bay. “It further states that the more LNG exported, the greater the economic benefit.

“The report is a clear, scientific indication that the proposed Downeast LNG import project would be contrary to the public interest. There is no valid purpose or need for the proposed Downeast LNG project.”

On Nov. 27, Save Passamaquoddy Bay submitted to FERC another objection to the project, citing its potential effect on public access and use of the intertidal area that fronts the proposed construction site and concerns about the security of the proposed 4,000-foot jetty and docking pier.

In a cover letter submitted with that formal filing, Godfrey contends that models generated by the developers that predict where LNG vapors would travel should a spill occur include intertidal zone areas that, by law, allow unrestricted public access.

“In some scenarios that LNG vapor would spill over the cliff and down onto the intertidal zone in Mill Cove and the intertidal zone to the south, which would present a hazard to the public in the intertidal zone,” Godfrey said.

That same Nov. 27 filing expresses concern about the facility being adjacent to a Perry conglomerate shoreline cliff configuration. Over centuries, wave and tide action have created a geological “flower pot” formation that is isolated from the nearby cliff face. Known as “pulpit rock,” Godfrey said the geological oddity has been considered a sacred site by the Passamaquoddy tribal nation for hundreds of years.

“The cliffs and rock formations have been visited as a cultural and public attraction, as well as an educational tool for a very long time,” the filing reads. “The Mill Cove scenic turnout is the public’s only practical foot access to the Perry conglomerate formations and intertidal beach without crossing upland private property. If Downeast LNG were to receive a FERC certificate, the question arises as to Downeast LNG’s legal ability to keep the public away from the terminal jetty and operations to keep the facility safe and secure.”

Dean Girdis, president of Downeast LNG, said Monday his company has no comment about the Dec. 7 FERC filing related to the economic viability of LNG imports. In response to the Nov. 27 filing, he had this to say in an email to the Bangor Daily News:

“Regarding the submission of Nov. 27, the simulations submitted by SPB to FERC are inaccurate for a number of reasons. First, the SPB simulation places the vapor fences immediately adjacent to Route 1, beyond our property line. Second, the SPB simulation has the vapor fences painted bright orange. Third, it has vapor fences outside of the existing treeline.

“The proposed vapor fences would be 30 to 40 feet away from Route 1, placed behind the existing tree line, at or below the current height of the trees. The vapor fences would have a camouflage painting to mask them into the existing environment.”

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