June 21, 2018
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Searsport tank proposal sews seeds of conflict

By Suzanne Farley, Special to the BDN

The thing that is so heartbreaking about the DCP Midstream big tank project is the discord that has been created amongst the people of Searsport. We have a developing situation considered potentially dangerous by many of the residents. They formed a coalition and together they set about researching and learning as much about this project as possible. They have acted like any reasonable group of citizens would.

They worked to initiate a moratorium vote that will give the community additional time to fully understand the effect of the project. The opponents have taken this citizens’ initiative and morphed it into a sideshow that spreads propaganda portraying anyone who votes for the moratorium as against jobs, tax relief, progress, and yes, firemen.

That’s what makes this whole mess so heartbreaking. Reasonable citizens have asked to have more time to better understand the effect of this project, and in asking they have naturally wondered if, due to the tremendous size of the project and the potential hazard of distributing LPG to numerous trucks daily from a storage facility larger than just about anything on the East Coast (23 million gallons), whether our volunteer fire department can handle this size scale.

What makes this so heartbreaking is that the opponents have spun this very reasonable question into insinuations that those in favor of the moratorium don’t trust their fire department. And thus, the discord began.

Ironically, this is a situation wherein one might expect that the chief of the fire department would actually be leading the citizens’ initiative because it would be the prudent and wise course of action. The thing is this, there was no need for it to have ever gotten this much hype except that DCP Midstream is a soulless corporation that uses people as tools to get what it wants.

At a recent selectmen’s meeting, the superintendent of the water district spoke about how the water district is remaining neutral on the DCP project but then went on to explain how DCP came to town a year ago and “invested” $1 million to $2 million on its application process and has also committed to paying $1 million for its own water (which will benefit Mack Point) if the company gets the approved go-ahead. He further explained how unfair it is of us a community to put the “open-for-business” sign out, let DCP invest in our community, and then hit it with a moratorium. What nonsense! DCP Midstream is the manipulator, not the citizens of Searsport.

A year ago DCP worked behind the scenes to influence how a particular height ordinance would be presented to the people at the town meeting in order to ensure it wouldn’t raise any red flags. Searsport residents voted for a change to what was widely understood to be intended to accommodate the new crane. At the last minute, embedded in that ordinance change was also the OK to put in a 137-foot-high LPG storage tank.

It was a clever manipulation by DCP and the town officials fell for it. Next they began the public campaign about jobs and at first it was all about hiring local Searsport residents. With push back it has now morphed into local “Maine” jobs.

The company is also hitting on the tax relief card, which is highly questionable. If this is truly a plus for our town’s economic development, then let’s get the economic impact study done. The moratorium gives the town additional time to look into it as well as to investigate potential hazardous safety risks and ensure that everything is in order.

DCP Midstream is to blame for the discord in our town. It is in such a hurry to get this project moving, that it has strategically created the tension and the made up issues. It has never been unreasonable for a group of citizens to thoughtfully analyze and investigate new development in their community. It’s what any civil community would do. It’s only inconvenient for DCP Midstream, and thus, the creation of the message to “vote no” on the moratorium.

That’s why this mess is so heartbreaking. I’m voting yes on the moratorium on March 10. Yes for due diligence. Yes for common sense. Yes for measured prudence.

Suzanne Farley lives in Searsport.

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