2005 August 12
by Eileen Curry
About 25 people attended an informational session on August 4 to discuss the Robbinston Inland Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Storage Project proposed by Quoddy Bay LLC. Robbinston residents had received invitations to attend the meeting that was held at the Washington County Community College gymnasium.
Project Manager Brian Smith gave the group a presentation and overview of the project including the "advantages of having storage in this location." The location for the proposed storage facility is near Mill Cove in Robbinston adjacent to the Perry town line and approximately seven miles from the proposed LNG facility at Split Rock at Pleasant Point. The large tanks would be about one half mile west of Route One. Quoddy Bay has taken options on about 150 acres of land from area landowners at the site. "We want to be good neighbors. We would purchase more land near to this area if any resident wanted to sell," said Smith. "We are in consultation with Robbinston selectmen and planning board. We want to make sure we fit into the plan for this area, and we want to listen to the concerns of Robbinston residents."
Several questions were asked by local residents during the two and a half hour meeting. "Why not put the whole thing in one spot in Robbinston?" asked one man. "Well, that is possible," said Smith, "but there are three reasons why we probably wouldn't. One, we are working with the Passamaquoddy Tribe for the Split Rock project. We are standing by our verbal agreement with the tribe. It is a spiritual agreement that we don't want to break. Two, we've learned some things from Gleason Cove. Environmental sanctuaries are important. This was a relatively shallow area, the Split Rock area is better. And, three, the town of St. Andrews influenced our decision by telling us that their resort community would be disrupted. It is a place of pride, and they didn't want it a mile away." A comment was made from the audience, "Yeah, and the people in Perry didn't want it there." Smith agreed, "We think we've found the right spot. We were told that the people of Robbinston wanted it here. It is the logical choice."
Other related questions were asked. "Did your company look anywhere else [for a site]?" "You made a proposal to the town of Perry. Will you do the same for Robbinston?" Smith's replies to both questions were "no" and "not at this time." Regarding the offer of $1 million dollars to Perry, Smith stated, "We are not looking to make a deal with the town of Robbinston. We are going through the necessary steps through federal, state and town law to provide a safe facility that all surrounding towns can be proud of."
Smith also had informational handouts stating that if rigorous environmental and safety reviews were passed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the project was given a green light, then $1 million will be given "to an economic development committee to build up other businesses in Washington County."
Local fire response, emergency plans, and safety and security of LNG vessels were all discussed. Bob Merrill, Robbinston fire chief, wanted Smith to know that if the project was approved, the local fire department would have "to start training now for crisis response. It takes about two years for all the training that is involved. The added costs to the fire department should not be a burden to the taxpayers of Robbinston." Smith agreed with Merrill and stated that once federal permitting has started and the financing of construction has begun that Quoddy Bay LLC "would support the fire departments of Robbinston, Perry, possibly Calais and Eastport with finances to build up equipment and for training, and we are willing to reimburse any expenses incurred to the town as far as planning board expenses, etc. It is too early in the process to upfront money."
Some questions arose concerning the protection of ships coming into the area. Quoddy Bay said there would be two ships a week coming into the bay. "There will be sweeps of the pier before and after, community education programs, and small boats [Quoddy Bay security] will be armed." This brought a flurry of questions about Canadian laws regarding armed boats and ship passage through international waters. "There are no regulations for any LNG vessel to pass through into the U.S.," said Smith. "The Coast Guard would be responsible for the safety of the ships outside of the site. We will be required to provide for the safety and security inside the site." Smith said that some security documents are classified concerning LNG transport.
Jobs were also discussed. One woman in the audience asked, "What jobs would be available to people in our area?" Smith said several hundred people would be hired for the construction phase and a minimum of about 80 jobs would be available during daily operation. The woman questioned the capability of those people in the immediate area that would be qualified for the engineering, electrical and construction jobs. "Would they be trained?" Smith said, "We plan to work with WCCC and UMM to provide on-site training. The best people to train for these jobs are those who live in this area. The construction jobs are general construction and there are people who want these jobs." This prompted a man at the meeting to respond by saying, "People who moved away would like to move back here and work. People that got laid off from the mill would be happy to have a job here. There is no other opportunity here. There are a lot of people who are qualified that just don't have any place to work." Smith said that the jobs offered would be full-time and provide benefits. Other jobs available would be in security, nursing and groundskeeping. Smith said a job fair date would be announced in the next few months.
Other questions asked concerned the gas pipeline and storage specifics. The proposal stated that in Robbinston three 160,000-cubic-meter full containment LNG storage tanks would be constructed. LNG would be piped through an eight-mile cryogenic LNG pipeline through Passamaquoddy Bay.
Smith said that in the next few weeks Quoddy Bay LLC will be conducting information sessions in St. Andrews and Grand Manan regarding the storage project.
August 12, 2005