The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2006 September 1

Time to act on LNG, meeting told


ST. ANDREWS — All three levels of government have voiced their opposition to liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in Passamaquoddy Bay, but now it's time to act, says Janice Harvey, co-chair of Save Passamaquoddy Bay/Canada (SPB).

Speaking at a packed public meeting attended by about 400 people at the Anglican Church Wednesday night, she said two of the three LNG proposals for the bay are now on paper — Down East LNG's at Mill Cove in Robbinston, Me., almost directly opposite the Biological Station,and Quoddy Bay LNG's at Split Rock on the Pleasant Point reservation near Eastport.

"One year ago there was a rally in St. Andrews — 1,300 people showed up and said clearly we don't want LNG terminals in Passamaquoddy Bay and the message was heard by all levels of government. They have all responded positively."

Quoddy Bay and Downeast LNG are now in the pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said Harvey, and formal applications are expected to be filed in the fall, which will trigger an extensive review process by FERC.

"Our three levels of government have said they oppose these, yet the process still continues in the U.S."

Harvey said they have asked the federal government to enact a regulation under the Canadian Shipping Act to ban LNG tankers from transiting Head Harbour Passage. Such a regulation would not have to come before parliament, she said, and it could be done by order in council.

"The important thing is that we want the government to act sooner rather than later and this needs to be the message in your letters. Personal letters need to be sent to the prime minister's office — not form letters, not postcards and not petitions."

Harvey said they invited New Brunswick Southwest MP Greg Thompson to attend the meeting, but he was unable to come.

A letter from him that arrived an hour before the meeting was read by one of SPB's Campobello representatives, Joyce Morrell, in which the MP said this was not just a local issue but an international one and they would continue to work together to resolve it.

"For the public record I restate my long standing and unchanged opposition to any proposal for any LNG terminal or development in Passamaquoddy Bay. This has been my position since this proposal was first advanced and it continues to be my position and that of the government of Canada and our prime minister, Stephen Harper."

Thompson went on to say that an LNG terminal on the Maine coast ofthe bay with the resulting tanker traffic through such environmentally sensitive waterways as Head Harbour Passage ignores obvious risks, navigational hazards and public safety.

"The Government of Canada, as long ago as 1976, determined that the area was the least acceptable for tanker operations because of the value of fisheries, the aquatic bird resources andthe navigational risk. Other factors against this idea include the risk of pollution, strong tidal currents, no safe anchorages and danger from high winds."

The MP said in April of this year Harper gave a speech in which he reiterated protecting Head Harbour Passage from LNG tanker passage as an issue of sovereignty, comparable to Canada's defence of its Arctic waters.

"As a member of the current government of Canada and your Member of Parliament, I state categorically that our position remains the same.We will use all diplomatic and legal options to defend our position and our position isno to the passage of LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage."

Harvey said the important thing for the federal government to know is that people in this area are waiting for their action on this and their urgency on this is connected to the FERC process.

She said they expect one or both of the proponents will be filing a formal application with FERC within a month.

She noted that a FERC representative did say at a Robbinston meeting last year that if Canada says no to tankers and there is a regulation on the books banning the tankers, then these projects are dead in the water.

There is also a provincial component, said Harvey, so provincial politicians need to be calling Ottawa as well asking them to do this. She urged people to talk to their candidates and makesure they understand that Fredericton needs to talk to Ottawa and also to make a commitment to be a formal intervener in the FERC process if it gets to that point.

Robert Tinker, Liberal candidate for Charlotte-Campobello, said he understands the issue very well. He said he was the first councillor in St. Stephen to raise the issue and successfully passed a resolution opposing LNG.

"I just want you to know that you have an ally in me and I would be very pleased if I could be of assistance in advocating your position to the leader."

NDP candidate Andrew Graham said his party is firmly against LNG development in Passamaquoddy Bay.He said he was at one of the first meetings in Eastport and it scared him from the very start.

Incumbent MLA and PC candidate for the riding Tony Huntjens said that at the first public meeting held in St. Andrews he was the first person to stand up and speak against this LNG project.

"I have always had a stand on this issue and been very firm on my stand that I am totally against LNG. The premier has made numerous statements that he is totally against the LNG projects so you don't have to keep the government accountable.

"He knows what his responsibilities are to this community. He has indicated that he will be an official intervener inthis process once the process starts.

"When the premier tells me something I place great stock in that and I believe him and I'll resign this post if Iget elected again if he didn't follow through on it. That's how firm I feel on his commitment to this."

Guest speaker for the evening was Clifford Goudey, a director of the fisheries and engineering research institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who became involved in the fight to prevent an LNG terminal being established in Harpswell,Me.

His topic was "Does LNG Belong in Passamaquoddy Bay?"

"What is being proposed across the bay will represent a life changing experience if it comes to fruition for everybody including on this side,"he said.

He spoke about the dangers of an explosion from LNG. Both the terminals and the tankers represent large amounts of LNG, said Goudey, and from a public safety standpoint, you need to think long and hard before you store that amount of concentrated energy near the public.

"When large clouds of LNG vapour ignite it creates a tremendous fire ball," he said, and spoke about the work done by one of his colleagues at MIT, Dr James Fay, who does not feel that the FERC requirements are sufficient to protect public safety.

The danger zone according to Fay extends almost four miles from the terminal site and a spill from a tanker could extend out to one-and-a-half miles and that could happen anywhere along the approach. Goudey said there would be lots of impact on Canadians if there was an accident.

LNG facilities are also a target for terrorists,he said, and just because it is a rural setting you cannot assume there is no reason to be concerned.

These LNG facilities, he said, have a tendency to expand and what is installed initially does not necessarily represent what will be there in a few years, plus they are visible for miles so there is a visual impact.

He noted that an LNG terminal has been approved for Fall River, Massachusetts and said it was a stunning example that FERC will approve anything since it is right within the city limits and there are about 1,200 homes within half a mile. The whole city is within the danger zone, said Goudey, but it was approved.

"So who's looking out for public safety? I don't think it's FERC.... Their record speaks for itself. They have approved all proposals that have come to them.... FERC standards do not protect public safety.... If you are near these facilities you are at risk. The FERC philosophy is simply to approve them all."

Goudey concluded his address by saying that the only way to prevent these LNG developments is through intense local opposition and in Canada they have an option because of this international issue.

"One can intervene all you want with FERC, and it doesn't matter whether you're a U.S. or a Canadian citizen, it will not have a major effect on the outcome. You need to look at a different approach on how to deal with these proposals. If you don't want this to happen, you need to spring into action."

Goudey questioned why LNG proponents have focused on Passamaquoddy Bay because it's farthest from the markets in southern New England, it's farthest from the supply terminal from the point of shipping it in, there is no local market, he could not think of a more treacherous approach for ships, it would have a negative effect on tourism and fishing in the area and, finally, it is an international issue.

"Wouldn't these be enough reasons for someone to say let's try elsewhere? This doesn't make any sense. Well, they're here and they're here because a couple of small communities have decided that we think we can get rich on this and we don't care what the impact is going to be to our neighbours."

He urged people to read the Whole Bay Study which was recently completed and can be accessed through the Save Passamaquoddy Bay website.

The impacts of LNG development cannot be confined to those communities which have approved them, said Goudey, and there would be increased costs for such things as emergency services, fire service and security foreveryone.

There will also be an unavoidable drop in property values, he said, because people don't want to live beside a large industrial facility.

As for the employment opportunities, said Goudey, these would be minuscule and, because of the impact such developments would have on industries such as tourism and fishing, there would actually be a net loss injobs.

Goudey also spoke about the offshore alternative and said it is possible to deliver LNG to an importing country without coming to a port which has been done for decades in the North Sea with petroleum.

During the evening, the SPB fundraising draw for a package that included whale watching, a meal, a night at a Bed and Breakfast and smoked salmon took place, and the winner was Cheryl Willis of Deer Island.


© 2006 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB