The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2007 January 12

Questions about petition drive heat up selectmen's meeting

by Eileen Curry

The January 8 Perry selectmen's meeting began amicably between town officials but soon deteriorated as LNG issues sparked debate between selectmen and town residents over the proposed plans for storage tanks in Perry and a facility that Quoddy Bay LNG hopes to construct at Split Rock at Pleasant Point. In question were several issues surrounding a petition drive initiated by Selectwoman Jeanne Guisinger and the Perry Citizens for Responsible Growth. The petition asks the town to require selectmen "to conduct all future discussions and correspondence by them regarding the potential citing of any liquefied natural gas facilities in Perry, including discussions and correspondence with the town's attorneys and with representatives from Quoddy Bay LNG, only after notice to and participation with full voting rights by a special negotiating committee to be made up of members of the Perry community."

The group asked that one member each be selected from the planning board, school committee and Cobscook Bay Fishermen's Association, along with the Perry fire chief, the board of selectmen and three members of the Perry community to be chosen by each selectman. The purpose of the request, according to the citizens' group, "is to assure community involvement in determining the town's goals with respect to possible LNG development." The group collected 139 signatures to allow the request to go before town voters.

During the discussion, many comments and accusations erupted. In question was a letter sent to some Perry voters by the citizens' group prior to signature collection. Gerry Morrison said at the meeting, "I never got a letter. And you're hand picking a few people to represent townspeople." John Cook, a member of the citizens' group, denied that only a selected number of people received a letter. "That letter was only sent to inform people about signing the petition." The letter states that the petition being circulated aims to bring the Perry community together. "If Quoddy Bay LNG wins approval to operate their facility in Perry, the residents of our town will be facing a far-reaching transformation of every aspect of their daily lives," the letter states. "Since Mr. Turner is insisting on being the only person in Perry to discuss the town's future with Quoddy Bay, I am offering the citizens an opportunity to express themselves on this issue." The letter was not signed by the group, providing only a phone number to contact Jeanne Guisinger with any questions.

During the meeting, Selectwoman Guisinger read a statement to inform residents that "the committee would not be doing the negotiating but would act solely in an advisory capacity to direct the outline for establishing the town's goals. The board of selectmen would take those goals to the negotiating table." Guisinger also said that a document sent to selectmen from town lawyer Eric Stumpfel suggested "a compromise step to form a committee to be briefed by and advise the selectmen on the negotiations process, without conducting negotiations directly."

Board Chairman David Turner, in response to the results of the petition drive, said, "I don't have a problem with the request, but I would propose a vote at the polls during town meeting time to address this. I understand you want this done right away, but the scheduling of it would be a nightmare." Guisinger disagreed, saying, "That will give you plenty of time to get a package in place. There would be no objectives in March."

Turner read a response regarding the petition, noting, "Ms. Guisinger is aware of the executive session discussions, the approach needed to be taken in regards to Quoddy Bay LNG and the intent to have a plan prepared for voters to approve/disapprove at the March election. The committee their petition calls for could potentially have a fisherman from Lubec or some other community on it deciding what Perry needs." Turner also said, "The school board was unaware of this petition with their name on it. It has not been discussed at a planning board meeting. Has it been done outside of the meeting place? This group appears to be slanted to a majority of negative LNG voters. We need to have this agreement even if a few people are opposed to the project." Turner proposed to have the signatures on the petition checked and verified by Janice Scanlon and "then this will be on the ballot competing with the vote for or against the proposed impact package already being prepared for the election/town meeting."

The second LNG issue, which clouded over the other 40 town agenda items, was regarding a decision made on November 7 by Perry voters to accept funds from Quoddy Bay LNG as reimbursement for the town's legal expenses incurred in connection with Quoddy Bay's proposal to locate LNG storage tanks in Perry. At the January 8 meeting, Chairman Turner requested authorization to ask Quoddy Bay for an additional $6,000 in legal fees and services for the Eaton Peabody law firm. A motion was made but was halted immediately by Guisinger, who said she refused to cast a vote, stating, "We need to get this in writing, that Quoddy Bay will pay this fee." Turner said, "Jeannie, they've paid $18,000 to date, and there is no reason to think that they won't pay this amount."

The discussion was interrupted several times by local citizens insisting that Turner "get it in writing" that the LNG developer commit to payment. Charges were made that some of the invoice amounts were incurred by the citizens' group that asked lawyers legal questions by telephone and emails. This was denied. The arguing back and forth got so heated between audience members that Turner threatened to "stop this meeting and ask some of you to leave." After a few minutes, things settled down and Turner stated that he had "no reason to think that [Quoddy Bay] wouldn't pay" and he would request a letter of commitment from the developer.

The next selectmen's meeting is on Monday, January 22, at 4 p.m. at the town office.


© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Eastport, Maine
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.