Save Passamaquoddy Bay Files Two New Objections to Downeast LNG

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By Marla Hoffman

 Save Passamaquoddy Bay this week filed two new objections with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission against a 30-foot vapor fence and a 4,000-foot-long jetty that Downeast LNG wants to construct in Robbinston. 

The vapor fences, according to the objection that was filed, would consist of a 30-foot fence along the entire land-side property line, a 25-foot fence inside the outer fence, and two 20-foot inner fences. Save Passamaquoddy Bay included a photo simulation of what the fence would look like from the road, indicating the road side of the fence to be more than one-half mile long. 

The 4,000-foot jetty, across the mouth of Mill Cove, would stretch to a pier out in Passamaquoddy Bay. The objection claims that Downeast LNG vapor dispersion modeling indicates in some scenarios that liquefied natural gas could spill over the cliff and down onto the intertidal zone in Mill Cove and to the south. 

The aim of the two objections, according to Save Passamaquoddy Bay researcher Robert Godfrey, is to ask FERC to dismiss Downeast LNG’s permit applications. 

Godfrey says that the vapor fences and the jetty would be disruptive to the natural aesthetics of the bay. The photo illustration provided in the objection, Godfrey said, is evidence of the negative impact to that portion of Route 1 and the bay. He added that there is a scenic turnout located right next to where the vapor fences would be located, which would block the view of the bay. 

“The photo points out that this is an inappropriate location,” he said “The view is part of the consideration FERC makes. It’s pretty obvious this vapor fence is a blight on the view.”

Godfrey said that Save Passamaquoddy Bay has not taken a position against Downeast LNG, but instead urges them to move to a more acceptable location.

As a part of the permitting process, Downeast LNG was required to submit an environmental impact statement to FERC. But the fencing and jetty were added to the plan this year, and were not included in that original report.

“It wasn’t previously considered in the environmental impact statement and they need to include it,” Godfrey said.

Save Passamaquoddy Bay has filed several other objections over the years, including two in September against Downeast LNG’s plan to construct two storage tanks, a regasification plant and the deep-water pier. 

In those objections, Godfrey claimed that the bed of the bay would be disturbed, reintroducing long-settled mercury into the water, which in turn would disturb wildlife and negatively impact fishing.

Among Save Passamaquoddy Bay’s arguments against the LNG terminal is the feasibility — or rather, the lack thereof.

Godfrey said that the Canadian government has indicated that it would not allow transport of liquefied natural gas through its waters — which would impede vessels coming to dock at the Robbinston terminal. The reason for Canada’s ojections, said Godfrey, is because the vessels would come too close to numerous communities, including Campobello Island. He said the shipping aspect of Downeast LNG’s plan “violates best practice models.”

Project assistant for Downeast LNG Cathy Footer told the Advertiser that they have no pending permit applications with the state. The FERC application is the only one still open.

Footer says they hope to get final FERC approval by springtime, at which point they will reapply for their state permits. If Downeast LNG receives all its permits, Footer said they don’t have a set time frame on when they could start construction on the terminal.

“Once we get the federal permits it’s our plan to reapply for the state permits,” Footer said. “After that process, I don’t know how long it will take. We will have to confirm with the state at that point about when we can start construction.

When asked about Save Passamaquoddy Bay’s recent objections and concerns about the terminal’s environmental impact, Footer said that Downeast LNG is looking into all the claims.

“We’ve always been very mindful of any environmental impacts,” said Footer. “Anything we do, we’re going to do the best we can to have the least environmental impact. Federal regulations are strict and we are doing our best to adhere to them.”

Footer said one example of how Downeast LNG has addressed residents’ concerns is how they adjusted the lighting. Footer said that people across the bay were worried the lighting at night. “It’s something that has been included in the FERC application to have low-level lights down on the inlet dock section,” she said. “It’s something we specifically adjusted to address the residents’ concerns.”

In a corporate responsibility statement available on its website, Downeast LNG identifies its approach to identifying potential environmental impacts: “Downeast LNG’s environmental approach is geared towards identifying potential impacts and developing appropriate mitigation measures and responses. Our goal is always to reduce negative effects and maximize the benefits our project can create. Our environmental philosophy is to operate ‘beyond compliance’ in seeking to meet internationally accepted best practices in environmental management and performance. Our business approach seeks to minimize climate change, support reduced biodiversity impact during energy extraction, and improve local air and water quality.”