Last Tuesday night, the Searsport Planning Board voted to approve the “DCP Searsport LLC” mega-tank application as complete and set a public hearing date. The problem is that “DCP Searsport LLC” does not have any right to use Mack Point –which is required before an application can go to a hearing.
The right to use Mack Point is held by DCP Midstream Partners, LP, a completely separate and distinct limited liability partnership, formed in Delaware in 2005. Based on documents TBNT has obtained from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP”), DCP Searsport LLC is a fourth-tier entity within the DCP Midstream family of companies – meaning that, if an accident occurred, injured parties would have to pierce the corporate veil of FOUR different LLCs before they could get to the real money behind the project.
Last year, DCP Midstream Partners, LP, asked Maine DEP to issue the tank permits to DCP Searsport LLC. DEP refused because, as it acknowledged, under longstanding Maine law, only entities that have title or an irrevocable right or interest in the property to be developed can apply for or obtain a permit.
The Searsport Planning Board, however, ignored the law and ruled DCP Searsport LLC’s application complete – even though it has no right to use the property and even though the application’s proof of financial capacity is in the name of a different company, DCP Midstream Partners, LP.
In a similar vein, the rules for the public hearing were also approved 5-0 without public comment. TBNT attorneys addressed the Board after the vote (during the “open to the public” session) arguing – using hypotheticals to avoid the gag order – that the application is incomplete and illegal.
As noted by TBNT attorney Kim Tucker, it has become routine for corporations to employ an army of lawyers to create subsidiaries and limited liability companies to insulate a parent company and its shareholders from legal liability (e.g. W.R. Grace Co. spun off $4 billion in assets to separate companies before the full scope of the asbestos injuries it had caused were discovered). The practice is called “ring fencing”
As it stands now, if the LPG terminal were built and an accident occurred, it is questionable that there would be any recourse for the victims (or for the Town of Searsport to defray its damages or emergency response costs). DCP Searsport LLC has produced no evidence that it has the financial capacity to safely operate a facility of this size and hazardous nature, or to compensate injured parties.
This should be of great concern to all area residents. Because of the Searsport Planning Board’s refusal to follow the requirements of Searsport’s own ordinances and Maine law, they are placing the people, property and businesses of Searsport and the surrounding communities at significant risk and jeopardizing the safety and financial well-being of the entire region.
GETTING READY FOR THE PUBLIC HEARING
The public hearing is scheduled for the week of November 26, right after Thanksgiving. TBNT is preparing presentations for the public hearings and are looking for people and business owners form the region to come forward with their experiences and concerns — specifically explaining how this project will adversely impact their lives, livelihoods and property. For example, if you are a realtor or seller who has lost a sale because of buyers’ concerns about this tank, we are especially interested in hearing your stories. This is being reported as an increasing problem all over our region. Please contact us if you are able to assist in any way.
LAST WEEK’S WABI-TV POLL QUESTION ON THE MEGA-TANK.
OK SOME GOOD NEWS…. We crushed the WABI question of the day on Wednesday: Should the LPG Tank be built in Searsport? With more than 550 “NO” votes we got 73% of the vote. Thanks for all those who voted and especially to those who sent around early morning word of the poll. GREAT JOB EVERYBODY!!