ROCKLAND, Maine — Rockland City Councilors voiced support Monday night to send a letter of concern to Searsport officials about a proposed liquefied propane tank terminal.
A group of Islesboro residents spoke before the council Monday night, urging them to intervene in the project that is before the Searsport Planning Board. The council agreed to vote on sending the letter when it holds its regular monthly meeting on July 9.
Councilor Eric Hebert said that when Walmart proposed and received approval to construct a supercenter in Thomaston, the Maine Department of Transportation looked at the effect on roads in neighboring communities.
“That was just a retail store. This is much more than that,” Hebert said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to have a seat at the table.”
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson also said she would support sending the letter because of the potential effect such a project in Searsport could have on Rockland. She said that exclusion zones set up by the Coast Guard when an LPG tanker uses Penobscot Bay could affect cruise ship and schooner traffic.
Councilor Larry Pritchett said he would like to see any letter to specify what particular effects there would be for Rockland and not a form letter.
He also pointed out that the Coast Guard has already reviewed the project and signed off on it.
“But we haven’t and it’s our harbor,” Dickerson responded.
Kim Tucker of Islesboro told councilors that this project would have an unprecedented regional effect.
“They’ve thrown your dog into the fight,” Tucker said.
The Islesboro residents warned that a fire at the terminal in Searsport or with a tanker in Penobscot Bay would pose a substantial risk beyond Searsport.
Tucker said there would also be tanker trucks carrying the fuel along Route 1. She noted there was a traffic accident on Mount Desert Island recently that involved a bus with a propane tank that resulted in the only highway to the island being closed off for hours.
Rockland is the latest community to enter the controversy over the Searsport project.
Islesboro and Belfast have already sent letters of concerns.
The Camden Select Board has on its Tuesday night agenda a proposal to send a supplemental letter to the Searsport Planning Board to “request that the applicant provide a risk assessment analysis appropriate to the scope of their plans.”