Belfast to Send Searsport Letter

This account by Ben Holbrook of the Republican Journal.

Belfast sends letter to Searsport requesting delay on tank ruling

Residents fill Council chambers to voice concerns

By Ben Holbrook | Oct 11, 2012

Belfast — City councilors voted in favor of sending a letter to the Searsport Planning Board requesting the town to delay a ruling on the application to build a 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas storage tank at the request of residents who are concerned about the project’s impact on the Midcoast.

Residents packed the Council chambers Tuesday evening, Oct. 2, to ask that the letter request the Searsport Planning Board delay any further action regarding the DCP Midstream project application until an All Hazards Risk Assessment is concluded by consulting firm Good Harbor Techmark.

Good Harbor was founded by Richard Clarke, the former senior White House adviser and special adviser to the president for cyber-security and national coordinator for security and counterterrorism.

The study addresses potential scenarios –– both minor and major –– if an accident involving the tank were to occur, Attorney Steve Hinchman, who represents “Thanks But No Tank” and the Islesboro Islands Trust, said. Hinchman said the firm will conduct interviews with emergency personnel throughout the region and develop a risk management strategy.

“We’re just here to ask that Belfast cooperate in that assessment,” Hinchman said.

Hinchman noted that the study looks at three potential scenarios — accident, natural disaster and terrorist attack — as part of the process of developing the risk assessment. The study also outlines scenarios that could occur on land and on the water, Hinchman said.

The study, which costs about $100,000, is being paid for through private fund-raising efforts, and is expected to conclude within the next four to six weeks, opponents of the LPG tank said after the meeting concluded.

Belfast resident Maryjean Crowe read a letter written to City Manager Joseph Slocum from Patricia Dirlam, who also resides in Belfast, that outlined her concerns, and those of her husband, if the tank is built.

“My husband, John, and I both wanted to express to you how dire we consider this situation, and we encourage you to please write to the Searsport Planning Board requesting that they delay a ruling until the risk assessment study is complete,” Dirlam writes.

In her letter, Dirlam highlights three possible ways the tank could impact the region, which include the impact LPG tankers will have on fishing and boating activities, the risk of an explosion and the impact from increased traffic on the highways.

“As you have proven, there are many ways to bring business to our area, and I believe that we are at a point where we could see this multiply, creating a very viable community for families of all ages. It will be a tragedy of huge proportions… in the form of a huge propane storage and shipping business,” Dirlam writes.

After public comment concluded, councilors discussed the merits of sending a letter to Searsport, as some councilors voiced concern about weighing in on an issue in another municipality.

“I’m very sensitive to throwing my word into other towns’ issues,” Councilor Mike Hurley said. “Are we opening the door to Searsport coming back here and telling us what we should and shouldn’t do?”

Councilor Nancy Hamilton seconded Hurley’s remarks and noted that the city of Rockland sent a letter to the Coast Guard asking to be included in their Bay Transit Management Plan meetings.

“That’s a way to express concern without stepping on toes,” Hamilton said.

Councilor Marina Delune said she didn’t feel sending a letter “would be any benefit,” but she did say she would like to see Belfast contribute money towards the cost of the risk assessment study.

Delune said she felt Searsport had made it clear it wouldn’t consider other towns’ viewpoints regarding the LPG project.

“I do not support sending a letter. I do support sending money to fund the study,” Delune said.

Councilors Eric Sanders and Roger Lee said they supported sending a letter to the Searsport Planning Board with Sanders noting that the number of people who attended the meeting to express their concerns warranted a response.

“What scares me is the rubber stamping of this project. Clearly, that’s concerning to a large majority of people,” Sanders said.

A vote to send a letter to the Searsport Planning Board passed 3-2, with Hamilton and Delune opposing the request.

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