ROBBINSTON, Maine — In a part of the state where developers once feverishly competed for approval to build liquefied natural gas import terminals, the last of these proposals has been rejected by federal regulators.
Tamara Young-Allen, spokeswoman for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said Thursday that last month the agency fully dismissed an application from Downeast LNG to build such a terminal in Robbinston.
“We did terminate that proceeding because there was inactivity in that docket,” Young-Allen said.
A lack of activity for any proposal does not automatically result in a dismissal, she said, but it is a factor considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when weighing whether to reject an application. She said Downeast LNG is free to submit another application if it wants to, but it would have to start over from scratch.
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s order of dismissal, which is dated Aug. 17, the developer asked the agency several times since last October to postpone proceedings while it continued to try to line up investors and customers for its proposed terminal. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission officials said, however, that Downeast LNG’s application proceedings had become “stale” and warranted dismissal.
“At this point, Downeast’s project has been before the commission in one form or another for more than 10 years,” the order indicates. “There has been essentially no progress at all toward completion of an application in the past nine months, and Downeast has presented nothing to persuade us that its situation is likely to change in the immediate future.”
Attempts early Thursday afternoon to contact Downeast LNG officials were unsuccessful.
Similar attempts Thursday to contact officials with Save Passamaquoddy Bay, a group that has opposed development of LNG terminals on Passamaquoddy Bay, also came up empty.
The group consistently maintained for more than a decade that Passamaquoddy Bay was an inappropriate location for major industrial development, that none of the developers involved in the Washington County proposals were qualified to complete the development projects, and that the developers would never get approval from Canadian officials to transport the combustible fuel through the tricky passage that leads in and out of the bay and which lies entirely in Canadian waters.
In the early 2000s, several locations along the Maine coast were considered by energy developers for possible liquefied natural gas terminals. The speculative proposals were fueled by rising gas prices and projections that North American gas production would decrease at the same time that natural gas consumption on the continent would increase. As a result, more than 40 LNG import terminal sites in the United States, Canada and Mexico were proposed or seeking developer investment in the mid-2000s.
Locations in Maine that were considered included Harpswell, Gouldsboro, Sears Island and Hope Island in Casco Bay, a privately-owned 88-acre island owned by New York developer John Cacoulidis. None of the plans came to fruition, mainly because of local opposition and the fracking boom that soon after vastly increased domestic production of petroleum products and sunk demand for imported energy fuels.
Downeast LNG’s proposal, announced in 2005, lasted the longest of three in Washington County that were formally submitted to federal regulators. In 2014, in recognition of the shifting dynamics in the energy markets, the firm expanded its proposal to include an export capability as well, so natural gas produced in North America could be shipped overseas.
Funding to shepherd the Downeast LNG proposal through the planning and permitting process continued to be an obstacle, however. Just this past spring, despite having enlisted a major engineering and construction firm in June 2015 to build the still-unapproved facility, Downeast LNG put the project up for sale.
Other proposals in Washington County included a bid from Oklahoma-based Quoddy Bay LNG to build a terminal on land owned by the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point. That project surfaced in 2004 but, after it was dismissed by FERC in 2008, it fully disintegrated in 2010 after the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs canceled its lease contract with the tribe.
A third proposal, from Calais LNG, materialized in 2005 but was dismissed without prejudice by FERC in 2012.