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Maine LNG Project Developers Hope to Find Strength in Numbers

Four planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) import projects in Maine may seem like a crowd, but at least one of the developers believes it's nice to have a little company. Having four projects on the table reinforces the message that LNG is definitely here to stay, said Dennis Bailey, of Saavy Inc., the public relations firm behind the Quoddy Bay LNG project.

Quoddy Bay has taken a lot of heat from a vocal and mobilized opposition, but "we're not taking all the barbs any more," Bailey said, regarding two new LNG proposals that have surfaced recently. Two of Maine's state representatives, state tribal Rep. Fred Moore Jr. and state Rep. Ian Emery (R-Cutler), have formed BP Consulting LLC and plant to work with the town of Calais and with the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township to build a $500 million terminal in Calais' Red Beach section on the St Croix River. The site is about 60 miles north of the proposed Quoddy Bay project on Passamaquoddy Bay.

Meanwhile, an unknown developer is looking into a site in North Lubec about two miles east of Eastport, ME, which on Cobscook Bay just south of the Quoddy Bay project. There has been no public announcement about the North Lubec project.

The opposition already has targeted the Calais project in part because of its sponsors, two public figures who can influence the approval process, and its close proximity to St. Croix Island, the site of one of the first European settlements in North America. The project also is under fire from New Brunswick Premiere Bernard Lord, who recently wrote a letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin opposing LNG shipping in Canadian waters near the border. Plans call for a pier to be built in the St. Croix River, across from the Canadian shipping port at Bayside, NB.

The other proposed LNG project, Downeast LNG, is sponsored by Kestrel Energy Partners LLC and Dean Girdis and would be built near the mouth of the St Croix river on Passamaquoddy Bay. Downeast would be located in Robbinston at a place called Mill Cove (see NGI, July 18 and May 23).

"I actually think that [four projects increase the chances that at least one project will be built]," said Bailey. "I've seen and heard from people up there who are pretty much now convinced that, hey, LNG is coming. Now they can have some options here and decide which is the best project and which one makes the most sense.

"People can focus on what is the best company, which is the best proposal, which is safest, etc.," he said. "We feel confident that we will compare very favorably with the other projects but that's a decision that the residents in the area will have to make."

Bailey noted that Quoddy Bay is the only project that has already received a favorable tribal vote. None of the other communities have voted on LNG. Quoddy Bay's project has been approved by the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, ME, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs has approved a contract agreement between the developer and the tribe.

Representatives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission traveled to Maine on Thursday to give a presentation on the LNG regulatory process to residents in Washington County. The Bangor Daily News said more than 100 people from Robbinston and surrounding communities filled the Robbinston Grade School gymnasium to listen to Richard Hoffmann, an engineer with FERC's Office of Energy Projects, explain the process for siting and approving LNG import terminals. Hoffmann said if the developers submit stellar, flawless applications to FERC, then "probably, yes," all three facilities could be constructed.

Linda Godfrey of opposition group Save Passamaquoddy Bay attended the presentation and said Hoffmann basically confirmed all her suspicions about FERC. "My impression is that FERC is primarily interested in representing the developers and the industry, and the role that citizens have in this process in unconscionable in a democracy. There needs to be a group of people at the highest level at FERC that from 'day one' is asking what [these projects] mean to local people. We need a consumer advocate at the federal level. It is just not a level playing field."

Godfrey said she believes that FERC works too closely with project developers to "manage the risks" of projects so that they eventually will be developed. Instead, what the Commission should be doing is determining whether projects of this magnitude are even necessary to begin with, she said, given the number proposed, including two LNG terminals that already are under construction in Canada, and several more proposed near Boston.

Godfrey said the Canadians represent Maine's best chance of block LNG terminal construction. FERC's Hoffmann even admitted that if Canadian politicians choose to block Maine-bound LNG tankers from passing through Canadian waters as they round Passamaquoddy Bay, then none of the proposed LNG terminals would be built, the Bangor Daily News reported.

"In our view the fact that there are four LNG projects now planned strengthens our opposition," said Godfrey, noting that the threat of four LNG projects with tankers entering through Canadian waters could further mobilize the Canadians against LNG.

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