Friday Night’s Hearing covered by Ben Holbrook in The Republican Journal

Strong opposition to Searsport LPG tank voiced during public hearing

Opponents outnumber proponents during hearing

By Ben Holbrook | Dec 03, 2012

Photo by: Ben HolbrookProponents and opponents to a proposed LPG tank in  Searsport were given the opportunity to speak during a public hearing  Friday, Nov. 30.

Searsport — Residents took DCP Midstream to task over their business practices and the  potential impact to the community of a proposed 22.7-million-gallon  liquid propane gas tank on Friday, Nov. 30, at the Searsport Planning  Board’s fifth day of public hearings.

The three-and-one-half hour public comment section marked the first  time residents were able to speak about the project. Planning Board  Chairman Bruce Probert thanked attendees for their good behavior during  the Thursday, Nov. 29, meeting and asked that all comments be kept to  three to five minutes to accommodate as many speakers as possible.

“This is your night,” Probert told the crowd, which filled nearly every seat in the cafeteria.

Representatives from DCP Midstream were allowed 30 minutes to give a  brief presentation about the tank and how it operates. The presentation  focused mainly on the storage tank itself and how LPG is off-loaded from tankers and then loaded onto trucks and rail cars.

As long as there is power, any vapors that build up in the tank are  routed to refrigeration units where they are compressed and routed back  to the tank as a liquid. However, in the case of a prolonged power  outage, those refrigeration units are not available and the vapors would instead be burned off using an emergency flare that stands 75-feet  tall.

In addition, representatives said, a containment wall capable of  holding the entire contents of the tank must be constructed to meet  industry standards. Any fuel leaks would flow away from the tank,  representatives said.

At the conclusion of the presentation, residents were invited to  speak and many quickly jumped on the opportunity to challenge DCP’s  track record.

‘DCP’s track record says a lot’

Residents cast doubt on how good of a neighbor DCP Midstream will be  by highlighting several incidents in recent years where the company was  fined for air quality violations. Stockton Springs resident Tara  Hollander compiled several reports regarding the violations that  occurred. In 2008, DCP Midstream reached a $60.8 million settlement with the New Mexico Environmental Department for “numerous” violations at  three separate natural gas plants in the state.

In addition, DCP Midstream was fined in July 2012 for 11 air quality  violations by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. That fine  amounted to $631,628 and represented more than 50 percent of the total  fines assessed against 36 entities by the commission.

Searsport resident Don Garrold refuted claims the tank would pose a  danger to the community based on his experience working for various  chemical companies over the years. Garrold said companies take safety  regulations very seriously and he did not feel DCP Midstream would  endanger the community.

“We have never feared there might be an apocalyptic event,” Garrold  said referring to concerns from some opponents the entire tank would  explode.

Employment opportunities

The economic impact on Searsport if the tank application is approved  is a divisive issue for some, as opponents say more jobs will be lost  than gained and proponents see the project as a means to increase  industry in the area.

One resident who lives close to the site of the proposed tank, noted  Mack Point is zoned for industrial use. She also said tax values in town would be impacted more by the quality of the school system than the  addition of an LPG tank. As a closing remark, she said the town voted to support the tank.

That statement quickly drew a chorus of no’s from the crowd until  Probert called for order and asked attendees to respect each speaker  even if they didn’t agree with the statements.

The only public vote directly related to the tank occurred after the  opposition requested a six month moratorium be imposed on DCP  Midstream’s application in order to give the group more time to learn  about the project. That moratorium was soundly defeated by Searsport  residents during their March town meeting.

Searsport resident Harlan McLaughlin questioned if the jobs created  by the tank, which are estimated to be 10-12 full-time positions, is  worth the jobs that would be lost if local businesses close.

“I think the saying goes, “forty to 50 jobs in the hand are worth 12  jobs in the bush,” McLaughlin said to laughter from the crowd.

Carrie Slocum of Belfast raised similar concerns saying the new jobs  would be outnumbered by the potential loss of jobs at restaurants, such  as Angler’s if the tank moves into town.

Community support

District 43 Rep. Erin Herbig attended Friday’s public hearing to  encourage the Planning Board to weigh carefully any applications  regarding potential economic development projects. Herbig, who  acknowledged she does not support the tank, said pushing economic policy through too quickly can often backfire on municipalities.

“When looking at economic development, people know they won’t always  get what they want,” Herbig said. She later added, “Community support is a huge part of economic development policy.”

Public hearings to continue

As the clock approached 9:30 p.m., Probert said the meeting would  conclude, despite people still waiting in line to speak. One resident  questioned why the hearing couldn’t be extended to accommodate a few more speakers. That prompted a vote by the board to extend the hearing until 10 p.m. to allow six more speakers.

After the last speaker, Probert said the public hearings will be  recessed until January 16 when they resume for an additional three days.

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