ROBBINSTON, Maine — A Canadian legislator took aim this week at the proposed Downeast LNG terminal in Robbinston, contending that tankers making deliveries to the terminal would have to pass through Canadian waters against the wishes of that country’s government.
However, the president of Downeast LNG disagrees that the company needs Canadian approval for ships to transit the region in question.
Downeast LNG is seeking approval to develop a terminal that would provide about 500 million cubic feet of imported liquefied natural gas per day to the New England region. The proposed facility would consist of two storage tanks, a re-gasification plant, a pier to receive LNG carriers and a natural gas pipeline to connect the facility to the existing Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline that runs from Nova Scotia through Maine.
John Williamson, a member of Parliament, criticized the proposed project on the floor of the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Tankers carrying liquefied natural gas to the proposed terminal would have to navigate Canadian internal waters in Head Harbor Passage, said Williamson, who represents the southwest portion of New Brunswick. The transit route then straddles internationally shared waters of Passamaquoddy Bay, he noted.
The transit route poses “unique environmental, navigational and safety risks,” Williamson said in a floor speech lasting a little over a minute.
“The Americans concede they do not have the authority to establish or enforce the safety and security zones in Canadian waters,” said Williamson. “The U.S. Coast Guard has concluded Washington will need to coordinate maritime traffic in our waters with Canadian authorities for LNG tanker traffic to proceed.”
Canada’s prime minister has said Canada will not cooperate in those discussions, continued Williamson, and the government has told U.S. officials that “we will not permit LNG tanker traffic to threaten the livelihood of Canadian fishing communities.”
“Canada will not become a convenient doormat for the Americans,” concluded Williamson.
Robert Godfrey of Eastport, a researcher for Save Passamaquoddy Bay, an organization that opposes the proposed terminal, distributed a copy of Williamson’s remarks with a link to a video of his brief floor speech.
“Canada has held firm to its prohibition of Downeast LNG ship traffic since 2007, and for good reason,” Godfrey said in a prepared statement issued Wednesday. “It would endanger Canadian citizens, Canadian environment and Canadian economy.”
The U.S. has no standing in world court to challenge Canada’s decision to ban LNG transits into Passamaquoddy Bay, according to Godfrey. Therefore, “Downeast LNG has exactly zero possibility of receiving the very LNG it would need to operate,” he said.
However, Dean Girdis, president of Downeast LNG, rebutted Williamson’s claims.
Ships transiting through Head Harbor Passage, bound for the Canadian port of St. Stephens, the American port of Eastport or the proposed Downeast LNG terminal, do not “require any specific Canadian government approval or permit for transit of the passage,” said Girdis in an email to the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday.
Also, the Coast Guard is not required to establish or enforce safety and security zones in Canadian waters, observed Girdis. The project’s final environmental impact statement and a Coast Guard letter of recommendation note that coordination with Canadian officials “is encouraged though not required,” he said.
“Downeast LNG looks forward to moving forward to provide much needed economic development and jobs to Maine and New Brunswick,” said Girdis.
It’s not the first time that people on both sides of the border involved in the debate over developing LNG terminals on the coast of Washington County have tangled over the issue of tankers transiting through the region. Developers who have been looking to build terminals have characterized Canadian opposition as protectionism aimed at guarding the interests of terminals in that country.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its final environmental impact statement earlier this month, saying that the mitigation measures it recommends would eliminate impacts or render them of minor consequence.
The commission could vote on the project by spring or summer, Girdis said earlier this year.