Downeast LNG adversary asks feds to dismiss Robbinston terminal permit request

By: Tim Cox

An organization opposed to the proposed Downeast LNG terminal in Robbinston filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week seeking dismissal of the company’s request for federal permitting.

Among other things, the Eastport-based Save Passamaquoddy Bay argues that ships loaded with liquefied natural gas that would use the terminal present a risk of “genocide” to the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point in the event of a spill or other accident or catastrophic event.

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, Canada, through Maine.

The motion was filed Tuesday with FERC by Eastport resident Robert Godfrey, a researcher for the organization.

Dean Girdis, president and CEO of Downeast LNG, said Thursday the company does not plan to file a response with FERC to Godfrey’s motion.

Godfrey has filed similar actions in the past requesting FERC to dismiss his company’s application, Girdis said via email. He declined further comment on the motion and an announcement about the filing that Godfrey issued late Wednesday.

Save Passamaquoddy Bay has never filed a motion asking the federal agency to dismiss the company’s request, Godfrey said Thursday, although it has filed numerous comments opposing the project in recent years.

The hazard zone of ships using the proposed terminal, a radius extending 2.2 miles from a vessel, would engulf Eastport, Campobello Island and the Passamaquoddy Reservation at Pleasant Point, said Godfrey. That presents a “genocide hazard” to the Passamaquoddy Tribe, he argued in his filing.

Genocide refers to the deliberate and systematic killing of a group of people because of their race or culture or for political reasons. His use of the word is meant to convey “a significant elimination or harm to a genetic group,” Godfrey said Wednesday, even though it may not be intentional.

“The Downeast LNG proposal presents an unnecessary genocide and human environmental hazard, violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), justifying application dismissal or permit denial,” Godfrey wrote in his motion.

A number of hazards could follow from the release of liquefied natural gas, Godfrey said Thursday. A resulting fire, for example, and its thermal radiation could cause second-degree burns within 30 seconds to someone a mile away, he said.

Among the other reasons Godfrey cited in his petition for dismissal of the Downeast LNG project are his contentions that the company’s request violates LNG industry best safe practices, violates the North American Free Trade Agreement and violates Native American rights. In addition, Canada has prohibited such LNG ship transits into the Passamaquoddy Bay.

Godfrey also argued that, due to changing market conditions, the company’s project is not needed.

“The Downeast LNG project was unneeded even when first introduced in 2005, and its prospects have gotten progressively worse,” Godfrey said in a news release issued late Wednesday. There were more than 40 proposed import terminal projects in 2005, according to Godfrey; the only land-based, import-only project remaining in North America is Downeast LNG.

“The rest of the industry has recognized the vast and growing abundance of domestic natural gas available in the U.S., including sitting virtually on New England’s doorstep, and have deserted plans to import expensive and unneeded LNG,” the release states. “Pipeline projects are under development to deliver that abundance to places like New England and Maine.”

“Hopefully, our motion will result in FERC recognizing its responsibility to the public interest by dismissing this misguided and outdated Downeast LNG project from permitting,” Godfrey concluded.

Federal regulators could vote on the project by spring or summer, Girdis said in February.

Safety modeling related to safeguards for the terminal has been approved by another federal agency, clearing the way to finish the environmental impact statement for the project. FERC is expected to release the environmental impact statement in April, according to Girdis, and the commission would vote on the project within two to four months afterward.