LNG company president unbowed by Canadian opposition to proposed plant in Robbinston

Posted Jan. 11, 2013, at 6:52 p.m.

ROBBINSTON, Maine — Despite opposition from several fronts, Downeast LNG, Inc. will push ahead to seek approval for a liquified natural gas terminal in Robbinston, company president Dean Girdis said Thursday.

This week, St. Andrews Mayor Stan Choptiany sent a letter to the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reaffirming the town council’s disapproval of an LNG terminal directly across the St. Croix River from the town.

The town of St. Andrews and the government of Canada will continue to oppose the project, according to Mayor Stan Choptiany and New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson.

And they were j oined in voicing their concerns by Save Passamaquoddy Bay-A 3-Nation Alliance, said the Eastport, Maine group’s researcher and webmaster Robert Godfrey.

In November, Save Passamaquoddy Bay-Canada forwarded a letter to FERC from Williamson reaffirming that Canada will not allow LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage, between Deer Island and Campobello Island, into Passamaquoddy Bay.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper links Head Harbour Passage to sovereignty in the Canadian Arctic, Williamson said. If the United States attempts to force the issue, “there’s going to be a huge dust-up between our two countries,” he said.

But Girdis said that’s not debatable.

“The U.S. right of passage in that waterway, that’s not contestable,” Girdis said, restating Downeast LNG’s stance.

These opposing stances have changed little, if any, since Downeast LNG filed its application with FERC in December 2006.

The company has since filed a series of answers to technical questions FERC posed on Sept. 11. All the while, Save Passamaquoddy Bay-A 3-Nation Alliance has filed documents questioning the need for LNG import terminals, the suitability of the proposed site, and the slowness of Downeast’s answers to FERC’s questions.

Girdis declined to say much else other than to restate his view on Head Harbour Passage.

“I have no response,” he said. “They’re reiterating the point that has already been made.’”

“We’re sending responses [to FERC] because we are required to,” Girdis said. “We’re going to continue through the process.”

He hopes FERC will issue a final environmental effect statement within six months.

“They’re continuing in the permitting process. They’re bogged down in it,” Godfrey said. “The problems keep mounting for it.”

Williamson takes the same view as his predecessor Greg Thompson against LNG tankers in Passamaquoddy Bay.

“There’s been absolutely no change because the member of Parliament has changed,” he said Thursday.

“The idea that a U.S. company is going to dictate what comes through Canadian waters is not only laughable but is offensive,” Williamson stated. “A private firm is not going to dictate what comes through Canadian waters.”

Navigational risks and the value of fisheries make Passamaquoddy Bay a poor place for tankers, the letter filed to the U.S. body states.

“Because of the nature of the shared waters of Passamaquoddy Bay beyond Head Harbour Passage, Canada’s cooperation is required to ensure safe passage. That cooperation has not been forthcoming and it should not be expected,” Williamson wrote.

An LNG terminal in Robbinston would hurt St. Andrews, Choptiany wrote.

“The arrival of LNG tankers in Passamaquoddy Bay and the St. Croix River and the indicated restriction of shipping traffic would significantly affect the economic viability of our tourism businesses,” he wrote.

Kestrel Energy Partners, LLC, a private-equity investment firm formed by Yorktown Energy Partners VI, L.P., Paul A. Vermylen, Jr., and others, backs Downeast LNG financially. Downeast has a Robbinston address and telephone number but Girdis works in Washington, D.C.

This is the last of three proposals still standing for LNG terminals in Washington County.

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