Republican Journal, March 7
Jobs won’t go to locals
If DCP is successful in obtaining the permit from the Searsport Planning Board and is successful in building the tank they will bring 12 to 15 well-paid jobs to Searsport.
What DCP hasn’t told the residents of Searsport and beyond is that they will also bring most of the people who will get those jobs.
During the Public Hearings conducted by the Searsport Planning Board, DCP was asked multiple times to provide the job descriptions for the proposed plant. They finally did on the last night of the hearings and that delay guaranteed they would not be questioned about their previous “promises” to the residents of Searsport. A review of the 7 job descriptions submitted reveals that it is highly unlikely that any current Searsport resident will qualify for more than two of those jobs. That is because the other positions require previous experience working for DCP or similar companies.
The five other jobs include the following requirements — one from each of the 5 positions — “Minimum 3 years experience as a Propane Operator II,” “Completed DCP Midstream Process Fundamentals,” ”Minimum of 2 years’ experience with maintenance associated with gas gathering and compression,” “3 years’ experience leading and coordinating PSM and RMP activities,” and “Minimum 2 years’ experience working in a gas gathering system or processing plant.”
The promise of jobs is the reason that some residents are in favor of the tank.
If a company promises 12 to 15 jobs without information about the job requirements, do they care about the community? If a company stages a Job Fair to reinforce unrealistic expectations of multiple jobs, do they care about the community?
I believe the answer to both these question is “no.”
The promise of jobs enthusiastically accepted and welcomed by a portion of the population and with skepticism on the part of others about the reality of those claims is one of the causes of the deep rift within our town today. Do we really want to do business with a company that is the cause of this appalling situation? I believe the answer to that question is also “no.”
Don’t spoil Searsport’s coast
My concern over the proposed construction of a mega LP gas tank on the Penobscot Bay is rooted in my family history.
I was born in Bangor to a family who for generations had made a living by cutting ice from Maine’s once pristine waters. I attended Bowdoin College at a time when the threat to human health of planetary pollution was beginning to be widely recognized.
I raised a family in a state polluted by acid rain, mercury in the water, and even smog as air pollution cause by coal burning in states to our west reached Maine. Now I am horrified to hear of plans to permanently ruin Penobscot Bay by building a large, dangerous storage facility for LPG — one that will spoil forever the scenic beauty of the Searsport coast.
If we let a few wealthy individuals decide that Maine is no longer Vacationland, we are fools, and our grandchildren will disrespect our memory. The Searsport Planning Board holds the future of Maine in its trust. I sincerely hope that it proves equal to the occasion.
Small business owners against tank
This letter was sent to the Searsport Planning Board and copied to The Republican Journal.
We are residents of the town of Searsport and operate a small business from our home. We are writing to express our great concern with the safety and security impacts of the proposed DCP Midstream LPG Tank and Terminal development.
As many other residents of this pristine and tranquil coastal town and the beautiful Penobscot Bay region, we are opposed to this project. We urge you to save the mid coast region by promoting environmentally safe and sustainable projects and thereby denying the LPG mega tank project.
As you are well aware, the tourism industry is the primary economic engine of coastal Maine. This development can have an immensely negative impact on tourism, greatly damage our clean air and environment, destroy our precious coastline and further lower our property values. In addition, it is no longer viable economically. LPG/LNG import structures are no longer being utilized due to over abundance of existing LPG/LNG in our country.
Please stand on the right side of history and consider the potential for irreparable harm and devastation associated with the approval of this project. Say no to ConocoPhillips, DCP and their lobbyists. Refuse their application. It is not worth your consideration or the safety and security of our region.
Kent and Farinaz Osborn
Concerned with Frangesh testimony
This letter was sent to the Searsport Planning Board and copied to The Republican Journal.
My name is Carol Yee and I live in Swanville. In 2009 I realized my life-time dream of moving myself and my small plant nursery to Maine. A big part of why many of us make this move is to escape the ugly and dangerous clutter of Urban America. It is with the utmost incredulity that I realize that this beautiful, safe space I have found is now threatened to become infinitely worse than where I came from. My home is ten miles from the proposed site, well within the catastrophic Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE) blast zone and exposed on all sides to the frequent high winds that will carry vapor pollution for many miles in all directions.
I have a huge concern with your choice of Neal Frangesh as your “independent” technical consultant. I was there when Mr. Franesh referred to the mile long pipeline from tanker to tank as “our” pipeline. I must say I turned to my neighbor and whispered in amazement “Did he just say OUR pipeline?” I’m glad I was sitting down and didn’t get hauled away as poor Ben Crimaudo did for the same reaction.
Mr. Frangesh sat at the DCP table giving testimony as to the safety of the tank, clearly with the assistance and support from the DCP attorneys. Was it really that hard to find someone not connected in any way with DCP? I find it unbelievable that he sits on your board!
Though I feel that you did an overall fair and balanced job of keeping the many hearings on track, your refusal to keep the final public comments allotment open leaves a bitter taste and unfortunately taints the whole process. Some folks traveled for hours to voice their opposition. The dire consequences that loom over us made it imperative that we speak directly to you. Letters just don’t do it. In retrospect another forty five minutes would have made moot the huge uproar now flooding the Internet, Facebook pages, blogs and news media.
As you saw and heard many times over, your decision will not just affect the town of Searsport. It is a life and death issue for thousands who live in, and love Maine the way it is. I beg you to deny this application.
Deny the tank for all Penobscot Bay
This letter was sent to the Searsport Planning Board and copied to The Republican Journal.
I am a Bayside resident, and have lived in Waldo County for more than ten years. I work in Belfast, on Route 3 at the top of Hayford Hill, at my own practice where I offer therapeutic massage, Reiki and oncology massage.
Any increase in commercial traffic would directly impact the profitability of my office, which depends on an overall feeling of tranquility and safety to assure client relaxation and healing. Hundreds of propane tanker trucks barreling past my office — which is less than 500 yards from Route 3 — would ruin the ambiance I have worked hard to create.
I am grateful the Searsport hearings happened and that you are willing to take input from the surrounding community. I understand making this choice is terribly difficult.
That said, the breathtaking lack of regard that DCP has for the Midcoast — its community, environment, economy, safety and, dare I say, happiness — is apparent from the fact that DCP even approached your town. This is not a good match. It is like watching a close friend be courted by a womanizing tycoon, who truly doesn’t care about your friend, but makes it seem like she’s just what he’s always wanted.
The idea that somehow a DCP LPG tank is not a regional issue — that it’s nobody else’s business — is wholly ludicrous. If this was a tank that only sat within Searsport borders, relied only on the town residents in emergency, affected the roads and waters of Searsport alone, and impacted Searsport business exclusive to the rest of the area, I would say go ahead and god bless it. It would be yours to enjoy and yours to mourn should anything go wrong, much like any questionable marriage.
But it’s not. It’s Penobscot Bay, and everything surrounding it, that will be adversely impacted. Hardly any aspect of this tank is Searsport exclusive — except the money behind it.
Speaking of god, here’s a little food for thought from St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 12: 14-16, and 26: “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
We are all members of the same body, those of us who live on the earth that hugs Penobscot Bay; those of us who travel Route 1 and 3; those of us who breathe the fine sea salt air of Midcoast Maine. Searsport makes a choice now and all will either suffer or rejoice.
Please deny the application from DCP.
Say ‘no’ to DCP
This letter was sent to the Searsport Planning Board and copied to The Republican Journal.
My name is Diana Newman. As a longtime former resident of Belfast and a current resident of Southwest Harbor, I am writing to express strong opposition to the Searsport LPG application. Searsport not only stands as a vibrant, attractive community and premiere tourist destination in its own right, it serves the broader region as a splendid gateway to Acadia National Park and multiple destinations Downeast.
Clearly the overwhelming majority of people attending the public hearings provided articulate, relevant testimony against the project. The decision before you will reveal how much respect you are willing to extend to the clear will of the many engaged citizens who call this place home. It is entirely appropriate in a democracy that so many engaged citizens of Searsport have taken their responsibility to help safeguard their community seriously.
Saying “no” to this ill-conceived leviathan of a project is not radical. Saying “no” is a position of dignity and strength. Saying “no” keeps the door wide open to exploring safer and more sustainable choices for the future of both you and your neighboring communities. Saying “no” in the face of pressure, including subtle and covert intimidation from corporations, may be uncomfortable and frightening in the short term but will be essential if the integrity of the region and the will of its concerned citizens is to be upheld and not compromised.
Your citizens will thank you for putting their diligent fact-finding and heart-felt interests before the interests of a strident corporation with a checkered safety record. We do not want “business at any cost.” In return for your exercise of prudence and courage in saying “no,” the opponents of this tank will surely be willing to stand with you, if need be, as good neighbors in defense of the safety and spiritual integrity of the community and region. Saying “no” allows us all to say “yes” to a more equitable and sustainable future. Saying “no” allows us good standing in a world that has to courageously meet the challenge of transitioning into low impact, highly sustainable economies.
When all is said and done the earth will move in alignment with natural law. There is a poignant, cautionary Cree Proverb that speaks its wisdom across all time to all relations.
“Only when the last tree has died
and the last river been poisoned
and the last fish been caught
will we realize we cannot eat money.”
Hearings stopped too soon
We have now witnessed eleven days of public hearing testimony regarding the proposed DCP Midstream Liquefied Petroleum Gas Tank and Terminal in Searsport. The last day, Monday, Feb. 25, brought up some concerns.
We have recently discovered that DCP Midstream’s Chesapeake, Va., facility — after years of importing — has exported propane, described by a DCP executive in their fourth quarter earnings teleconference as follows:
“I’m excited to report that we’ve successfully exported 6 million gallons of propane out of our Chesapeake terminal on January. Further work is required to export purity products on an ongoing basis. However, we are encouraged by the commercial results and will continue to explore this opportunity.”
This is no secret. There is a shift to exports and we have good reason to believe that DCP plans to export America’s abundance of propane to other parts of the world. Interested party questioning of the planning board’s technical consultant, Neal Frangesh, was cut short after about ten minutes by the Planning Board. Mr. Frangesh has for his entire career been hired by industry for his services. This appears to be the first and only time he has consulted for a town regarding a pending application. We would have liked the opportunity to hear what Mr. Frangesh thought of that activity, especially after being told that exporting could be done, but it would be too expensive to convert Searsport.
Later during the hearing, we learned in 2007, then-Governor John Baldacci did not ask DCP Midstream to bring this project to Searsport. He has written a letter clarifying his role and has been interviewed on Maine Public Broadcasting to set the record straight. Baldacci asked for help from suppliers to deal with a propane distribution problem due to a very cold winter and set of unusual circumstances which interfered with delivery to the state and nothing more. That his role has been portrayed by DCP Midstream as more than that is fabrication.
On Feb. 25, 26 speakers were on record against the project. No one spoke in support. The hearing was shut down at 9:30 p.m. with many still in line and many more wanting to speak presumably against the tank. We had heard Planning Board assurances on many occasions that “everyone who wants to speak will have the opportunity to do so.” This did not happen Monday night. Further, since the hearings began last November, 67 public speakers opposed the tank, seven spoke in favor of it — of which 4 were from the same family. This figure does not include the 65 small business owners, retirees, real estate professionals and other professionals who spoke against the project on panels delivering testimony.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to read through all letters sent to the Searsport Planning Board through Feb. 13, 2013. Out of 190 letters submitted, only 3 were in support. What has become abundantly clear is the overwhelming majority of people in the community are now firmly opposed to this unwanted, unneeded, dangerous project.
Approving tank would be ‘folly’
To put the proposed LPG tank in Searsport, a well-populated area, an area already containing many storage tanks holding millions of gallons of gas, would be the utmost folly. We have been told not to worry. A mechanism will vent excessive gas from the LPG tank and a flame will burn that excess off harmlessly. There will be no build-up of gas, no possibility of an explosion.
I lived through the ice storm of 1998. No power for days. I live in Belfast, just down the road from Searsport. If that LPG tank is installed, I certainly would not live through the next ice storm, nor would anyone else within many miles of the epicenter of the explosion.
A Future You Can Predict
I was particularly interested in some comments by made by Neal Frangesh, consultant to the Searsport Planning Board, at the hearings on Feb. 25. He used that tired old “state of the art” technology argument that is inherently false. Technology is constantly moving forward. We all know that. What was ”state of the art” 5, 10, 15 years ago is already outdated. What was “state of the art” 25, 50, 100 years ago is obsolete. Everything that can be described today as “state of the art” will one day in the future be obsolete. The “state of the art” defense of the safety of a project is a fallacy.
Mr. Frangesh also said — I believe that this is a direct quote — that it is “very difficult to predict the future.” Now there is a true statement. It is very hard to predict the future in many ways, especially when one is talking fuel, transportation, commerce and the economy in general.
One part of the future that one can predict with absolute certainty, however, is the human need for nourishment in open spaces, for recreation, which literally means to re-create a part of oneself. Why do people go on vacation? Why do they drive hours to sail on Penobscot Bay? Why do people build simple camps in the woods? Why do they drive hours to hunt and fish in the wilderness of northern Maine? Why do they seek out places to ski or hike and go snowmobiling? Why do families drive from Bangor and Augusta for a day at Sandy Point Beach? Why do people simply take a ride after dinner to watch the sunset from a particular hill in Prospect or drive down to Sandy Point Beach to watch the moon rise over the river?
For eons, for the entire history of humankind, people have had a need for recreation and spiritual nourishment. They did in the past. Literature bears that out. They do now. Testimony at Monday’s hearing bears that out. They will in the future. The hard wiring of human beings guarantees that. That is a future you can predict, one that the Searsport Planning Board disregards at everyone’s peril.
Protect us all, stop the tank
This letter was sent to the Searsport Planning Board and copied to The Republican Journal.
because it is totally beyond my ability to believe that you intelligent and educated people would still want the tank — especially after all that has been learned through the recent process of discovery — I can only imagine that you must feel there is no way to save face if you were to now change your minds and agree that yes, the tank is a very bad idea for the entire Penobscot Bay Region, and especially for Searsport.
To that end, I offer that if you do not accept the overwhelming evidence that the tank would have a devastating effect on the whole area, that if you continue to hold your position in favor of this development, one can guarantee that you will have lost the faith of all whose welfare you have been entrusted to protect.
Resume your dutiful positions to protect the health, safety and welfare of all of us and stop the tank!
Republican Journal, Feb. 28
Practice the Precautionary Principle
It’s hard for me to imagine a decision by the Searsport Planning Board that would approve a permit for the proposed DCP gas tank. It would be neither good for Searsport nor the region.
I believe in what is called the “Precautionary Principle.” What it means is that, unless you are sure something is safe and beneficial, you don’t do it. I don’t cross the road unless I’m sure there’s no traffic coming that might hit me. Better safe than sorry.
With all the problems of health and safety, traffic and economic uncertainty, can this proposal really be safe and beneficial to Searsport?
There’s also economic viability, logistics and aesthetics. Propane gas might be needed for a while, but it’s not a carbon-free and long-term solution to our energy needs that cleaner renewables like solar and wind are.
I hope the Searsport Planning Board will practice the Precautionary Principle and decide not to approve this permit. Better safe than sorry.
Opening credits to the HBO series The Sopranos shows us the following:
Each morning Tony (of the Sopranos) returns home via the New Jersey Turnpike after a long night of “doing who knows what,” drives past the ugly fuel storage tanks, the ones we all recognize from similar trips south. One or two of the tanks have been painted to try to erode some of the ugliness. The tanks are in an industrial area and still stand out as the ugliest part of that ugly, stinky environment.
And now, here in Searsport, we want to start the morphing process and become more like the ugliest part of New Jersey? For a few bucks? A few jobs? For what?
I live on a precious island, Swans Island, 6 miles out from Bass Harbor, Maine. The town fathers here would not hesitate to say “no” to the money and jobs and “For what?” Like Searsport, Swans Island offers impeccable beauty, extraordinary days of shifting color and light on the treed shore, on the ocean and the horizon filtered through meandering cloud formations. Sweet salty ocean smells come and go with the change of the wind. Seabirds fly in and out of the vista feeding, teasing and playing. Its a sensory blast.
Have the town fathers of Searsport really thought this through? Do they really want to put a stake in the ground and say to everyone, “We want to be more like New Jersey and less like Maine?”
In the middle of the extraordinary beauty Searsport offers every minute of everyday must it now bend to the industrial will and introduce into our daily lives, hour by hour, minute by minute.
1) seeing the huge metal ugly structure
2) smelling stinky exhaust from the tanker trucks feeding the ugly monster
3) hear the gear shifting tankers pound their way to and from ugly
4) waste time in never ending tanker traffic
Can’t replace what is lost
I am writing to express my concern over the fact that DCP would like to place gas tanks in and around Penobscot Bay.
I am worried this will pass and the beauty of this region will be forever ruined. This part of the state depends heavily upon tourists. If these tanks are built it will take away the beauty and tranquility that this region has to offer. Thus, the tourists that spend their money, help promote this area, and stimulate the local economy will stop coming. Let’s face it, who wants to look out on a bay that is full of gas tanks?
Belfast and the surrounding towns are not equipped to handle the kind of disaster that will come if there is an explosion or major gas leak. Do we really want what the Gulf Coast had to deal with when BP had their disaster? I realize that in this case it was oil, but gas can pollute Penobscot Bay just as badly, and ruin the clamming, fishing and lobstering in the area.
I hope the residents of Penobscot Bay think long and hard before voting on the tank issue. It is my hope that they vote this down. We will not be able to replace what is lost if the tank is allowed to come to town.
Our future is uncertain
All my life I have loved being on Islesboro. The exceptional beauty of Penobscot Bay is a rare and wonderful treasure. We built our home there with our four sons and our own hands, and now bring our grandchildren there, the sixth generation of our family to spend summers on the island.
We had planned to hire workers this fall to strengthen the foundation and put on a new roof. However, when we learned about the liquid propane tank proposed for nearby Searsport, we postponed those jobs. For the first time, our future in Maine is uncertain.
If the propane tank is built, I would not want my children or grandchildren to be there. The risk is unacceptable. To reside beside a tank that must be cooled to -42 degrees to avoid an explosion equivalent to multiple Hiroshima bombs, in a location where I’ve watched increasingly violent electrical storms and experienced frequent electrical outages, would be absurd.
While waiting for incineration or asphyxiation, we’d live with intermittent ferry service, no access to a hospital whenever tankers were taking over the Bay, limitations on when we’d be allowed to sail and a life restricted by the gas company. With Route 1 congested with tanker trucks, travel on the mainland would be something to avoid. I’m sure we would not be alone in leaving the state.
For more than one hundred years, Maine has offered our family, residents and tourists the beauty of her land and Bay. We are waiting to see if Maine chooses to offer her land and Bay to Big Oil’s millions of gallons of Mideast propane instead.
If not, we’ll hire those workers and return with happiness to one of the most beautiful places on this earth.
Judith W. Gardner
Circus and clowns
After 11 days of public hearings the DCP circus and its legal Ringmaster are finally leaving town, now the clowns will deliberate on whether or not to permit a 22.7 million gallon LPG tank. I have never seen a circus work so hard at deception and recruit local clowns, nor have I ever seen so many clowns shamelessly drink the Cool Aid to join the circus.
The Ringmaster for DCP has brought deception: promises of transparency while secretly writing town ordinances, floating balloons instead of providing a scale model, promises of safety for a tank on a piece of land too small, with no comprehensive safety plan. Discovery has shown the less honorable side of clowns who support social media hate, do the bidding of the circus’ public relations team and exhibit blatant bias in public hearings.
The truly scary part of this circus is the side-show — acceptable risk. The public has heard countless statistics about the unlikelihood or minimal risk of any accident. One of the circus performers went so far to say the Good Harbor study was really “far out there” for noting potential terror risks associated with the tank.
No one dreamed 9/11 would happen or closer to home the February 2011 propane leak in Brewer. DCP pushed the Cool Aid of acceptable risk ad nauseam while the clowns bobbed their heads. Acceptable risk is akin to Russian roulette. There is always a loser in Russian roulette. Most of us refuse to drink the DCP Cool Aid, nor be conned by its circus freaks. Let us pray the clowns wake up.
Trust is central
Trust is central. After hearing much of what’s been said about the tank, it seems DCP is not too trustworthy. If their proposal was for a gravel pit, you might say that’s just the business of business, but this project is no gravel pit.
Republican Journal, Feb. 21
Bad behavior not evenly balanced
Your paper has done the most accurate reporting on the MegaTank story to date, however, I must object to some of the conclusions in your most recent editorial on the issue. First, approximately half of the 10 days you attribute to public hearings have been devoted to DCP’s case and the Planning Board’s own witnesses. There has been time provided for the public to comment; trouble is, since this is such a regional issue, folks from all over want to come here and tell the Planning Board that they don’t want the tank permitted and they shouldn’t have to pay the emergency-related costs. The number of opponents to the tank vastly outnumbers its supporters. Believe it or not, there are still people waiting to speak, and they should be heard. And they will be heard. To its credit, the Planning Board has not restricted input from the public. And the public thanks them for that.
And second, the idea that both sides have behaved “in ways that were discouraging and gave us pause” is troubling. It is far too easy to say both sides are behaving badly and not point out any specifics in order to maintain your objectivity. Well, this isn’t objective, but it is misleading. At the last hearing, a large number of DCP’s bad behaviors were identified and documented [without objection from DCP], but no mention of the “questionable material” brought forth by the anti-tank side has ever been made. Even DCP hasn’t mentioned it. I can’t help but wonder which “questionable material” you are referring to. It would have to be pretty egregious to be on par with DCP’s documented nasty dealings.
You are right about the “condescending and sarcastic” part in describing DCP’s behaviors, but that is the least of it. It would also be correct to use the terms “lying,” “cheating” and “arrogant.” You forgot to mention the fact that DCP lawyers conspired to change our land use [height] ordinances to accommodate their MegaTank, long before any application appeared. This was all done behind our backs. But they got their article on our warrant by telling someone the change was necessary to get a “free ” crane for Sprague. Later, at town meeting, town officials withheld pertinent information from the voters about the height ordinance we were asked to vote on [the one to raise the limit from 50 feet to 150 feet to allow for the 138-foot MegaTank]. There was no disclosure about DCP’s involvement leading to the vote, instead, discussion was stifled and limited to the crane.
DCP interfered with the ordinance vote, along with future town elections and votes, by hiring local folks to vote their way and to encourage others to do the same. They also encouraged town officials to lobby local press for positive coverage while pitting one element of the town against another, drove a wedge between citizens and they encouraged/persuaded our town officials to betray our public trust. Finally, DCP set up a Facebook page and allowed town employees to use it to harass people in town. And these are just a few of their failed attempts at being a good neighbor.
The opposing side is asking questions that won’t be addressed until after the permit is granted. Is that really on par with the misdeeds of DCP? Is that enough to say that both sides have acted “in ways that were discouraging and gave us pause”? These guys have been trying to hoodwink us right from the get-go and they have used every dirty trick in their bag and it’s all been under the table. Can you say “corporate bullying”? I wish you the courage in the future to stand and point out how one-sided this bad behavior really is.
Coverage minimizes dangers
Last week’s Republican Journal ran a rather bland article about Richard C Clarke and the current status of the Searsport LPG tank proposal. Your headline read “Clarke a no-show, staff fields safety questions.” Anyone just perusing headlines might have thought he had brushed off the opportunity to appear; in fact, a snowstorm had made his arrival impossible. A more fitting headline would have been “Clarke’s appearance at tank hearings prevented due to storm.” My comment here may seem to split hairs, but to the casual reader who may have little interest in the issue, the style of coverage is important. I feel that the content of the article, in addition, understated the profound problems associated with tank approval. A “chain of events … could cause an accident,” the article states. A mere “accident”? In this context, an “accident” could be little more than a fender-bender.
Less than a week ago a propane malfunction in Brewer caused a woman’s home to explode, burning her to death. Ten years ago, when I lived and taught in New Hampshire, I returned from school, started driving up my long, steep and icy driveway, and noticed a huge gouge in the snow. I asked my neighbor about it — she seemed agitated, and told me that the entire neighborhood within more than a mile’s radius almost had to be evacuated because a propane truck had overturned there. If that truck had not gotten righted quickly, an explosion could have destroyed my home and damaged many others. That incident made the evening TV news. The amount of propane needed to heat a small home? Infinitesimal compared to the amount that would be stored at Mack Point. This project, if approved, could be profoundly dangerous.
Evacuation routes from Mack Point are woefully inadequate and compete with the enormous need there would be to enter the area and attempt to contain the damage. An explosion could easily impact Belfast and Stockton Springs. An adequate environmental impact assessment, if it happens at all, may in fact not be completed until approval is granted.
The Searsport tank proposal is anything but ho-hum, and Richard C Clarke, whose former job was national coordinator for infrastructure protection and counterterrorism, once had access to two U.S. presidents; he has tried twice to get to the hearings and make his voice heard. That he has devoted so much time to investigate this project is news in itself.
Republican Journal, Feb. 7
Don’t drink the Kool-Aid
You may remember that years ago the entire world was shocked and horrified by the the deaths of an entire community of people who chose to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. We asked, “Why ever would a community choose to poison itself? How did one man convince them that this was a good idea?”
The answer to that seems to be that they were promised a greater reward. For the promise of the greater reward, the people followed the call and killed themselves.
What does this have to do with our current situation? It is simply this. We have the choice in our lives, in our communities and in our environment, to choose or not choose life. We have a similar choice being offered us, here in mid-coast Maine. Certainly this Kool-Aid is not the immediate killer that the Jonestown Kool-Aid was. But it is a killer nonetheless. It will kill the economic viability, it will kill the environment with pollution and it will kill the chances for a good, sustainable future for Searsport and surrounding areas. It will just do it a little more slowly. Why, then, would any community chose to “kill” the viability, the livelihood, and the environment on which it depends? Apparently for the same reason as the Jonestown people chose to drink the Kool-Aid. They believe the promise of something better.
This community has also been given promises — but not in writing. The tax base will skyrocket. There will be jobs for everyone at high salaries. The bay won’t be negatively affected. Fishing and boating will go on as usual. There is no air pollution. There is no light pollution. There is no sound pollution. There is no danger.
In other words, even though there is plenty of information right before your eyes which might lead you to make a different decision, there is too much Kool-Aid, too many mind games, and too much desire to believe false promises, to see it. As in Obi Wan Kenobi’s memorable quote from Star Wars, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
I won’t enumerate all the very real, very proven possible scenarios involving this situation, that put Searsport and the surrounding towns in danger, both in the long and short term. I believe we all know exactly what they are. I am glad we have the Good Harbor study, but frankly, I don’t think we need it to tell us what is in front of our faces. We just need willingness to open our eyes and then use some common sense to know that this is a death knell to our beautiful bay and its current ecosystem on which we all, in one way or another, depend.
It is time to realize that we are all part of a larger human “ecosystem,” and it is through the understanding and cooperation with this ecosystem that we can find the solutions we need.
There is not one town here that is a single unit, sitting alone in the middle of thousands of acres of wasteland, dependent on no one and answerable to no one. Like it or not, we are an interdependent community. Are there not mutual emergency response contracts with our neighbors? Yes, there are. Do we not all use the hospital, the doctors, lumber yards, supermarkets and shops that reside across town borders? Yes, we do. And do not these same facilities employ Searsport residents alongside residents of the other neighboring towns? Yes, they do. Will one town be able to cordon off just one section of the bay, or contain the air so it doesn’t impact its neighbors, or will they make sure that water and air and environment cannot impact or be impacted by others? Could any of us promise to insulate our neighbors from the risks we might incur?
Obviously the answer is no. Not even the Great Wall of China would offer protection from the dangers that this giant oil conglomerate suggests we blithely embrace.
Of course there are tensions and territorial struggles in these situations between towns that share the same resources. That’s life. Work through them. Find better solutions. Partner better ideas. But do not take lightly the sacred trust that has been passed to you from generation to generation, to protect our beautiful bay and the livelihoods of the people who live and work here.
I implore you to put an end to this project and instead, put all the possible resources you can muster, in conjunction with your neighbors, to bring in viable, sustainable livelihood and economic growth for our Midcoast. It has happened. It continues to happen. And if there is something positive that has come from this whole tank exercise, I would point to the coalition of people who have come together from the sheer love of this beautiful place. Put these people to work! Give them the mandate of finding sustainable businesses that can support the desire of local people to have good jobs while at the same time supporting the health and beauty of the community. You now have a passionate task force. Set them to it.
Turn Searsport into the poster child of economic recovery and viability and get listed on the top best places to live in the country. Look back on this grueling period of your lives as having been the sacrifice that led to a miracle taking place in bringing this town together, neighbor pulling for neighbor, retired people and working families all, sharing in a successful, vital community. Holding the lives of your people and environment sacred, you could reject the Kool-Aid being offered you by those who, believe it or not, have absolutely no goal other than to increase their wealth and control of our resources.
You do have a choice. A wiser person than I gave this advice, “Choose life.”
Portland Press Herald, February 3, 2013
Propane tank project raises ecological, safety concerns
I am firmly in opposition to the proposed DCP Midstream 23 million-gallon propane storage tank in Searsport. My concerns are as follows:
• The public good: This project is not in the best interest of the people of Maine. It appears to primarily benefit the fossil fuel industrialists who are proposing it.
• Environmental sustainability: Given the overwhelming scientific evidence that hydrocarbons from burning of fossil fuels are disrupting the Earth’s climate, such an aggressive expansion of the burning of propane is the wrong direction for Maine, as it is for the rest of the world.
Climate change should be a grave concern for all thinking and moral persons. The supply-side energy paradigm (i.e., the more that’s available, the more we use) has failed us. It is time to redirect our efforts toward sustainable energy solutions.
• Public safety: Routes 1 and 3 are notoriously congested and unsuitable for such an industrialized enterprise, both for trucking the product as well as for the evacuation of men, women and children in the event of an emergency.
• Tourism and aesthetics: The unspoiled beauty of coastal Maine is a priceless and irreplaceable state treasure. The tank will tower far above the natural horizon of Penobscot Bay and be an aesthetic blight on Maine for generations into the future.
• Statewide significance: The project has been deemed to be only of “local” significance. But I strenuously disagree that it is simply a local issue. This represents a wrong-headed direction, of statewide significance.
It is an affront that jeopardizes Maine’s worldwide image as an environmentally wise and thoughtful steward of world-class natural resources. If allowed to go forward at all, it must be subject to the highest level of statewide oversight of safety, energy and environmental issues.
Susan P. Davies
Republican Journal Letters, January 31, 2013
Stop the insanity
Please do not allow DCP to construct the Liquid Propane Gas tank at Mack Point. Maine’s environmental future is too much to gamble for a very short term and small financial gain. The risks are too great.
Surely the negatives against having this tank far outweigh the positives. There are other solutions to strengthening the area economically. This rusting tank will be a monumental reminder to our grandchildren that corporate greed and short term gain at the expense of our posterity is short sighted, rash, ill conceived and ludicrous. Stop the insanity.
This proposal benefits the elitist few who don’t live here, at the expense of the people who do. This is our heritage, our home, our life and our nest. Let us not befoul our nest for someone else’s benefit.
Bangor Daily News January 17, 2013
An Explosive Combination for Maine
By Ridgely Fuller
Despite industry claims, liquid propane gas is dangerous: In the last two months alone seven explosions of tanks, pipelines and trucks have merited widespread media attention.
As is characteristic of these horrific accidents involving LPG, transportation routes were blocked for hours, many residents were evacuated, homes and family businesses were destroyed, and people were injured and killed in communities much like ours. These recent disasters happened in Maine — in York on Dec. 27 — Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Russia and twice in Georgia. The Russian tanker accident was dramatically captured on video.
Read More here.
Republican Journal Letters, Jan. 10, 2013
An explosive combination
Despite industry claims, liquid propane gas is dangerous. In the last six weeks alone, seven explosions of tanks, pipelines and trucks have merited media attention.
Major transportation routes were blocked for hours, many residents evacuated, much property destroyed and people injured and killed in communities much like ours scattered through Maine, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia (two), New York and Russia. The latter tanker accident was dramatically captured on YouTube.
DCP Midstream, the Colorado-based company, which seeks to build the largest LPG storage tank on the East Coast in Searsport, has a terrible compliance record. Cursory research reveals that this company paid millions to settle 4,777 air quality permit violations in three plants over five years in New Mexico alone. Texas and the federal Environmental Protection Agency cite similar infractions, principally due to leaks of methane and propane gas. In many instances, rather than respond to notices of violation, DCP simply paid the fine.
Despite repeated promises at the Searsport Planning Board hearings of a safe product handled safely, DCP Midstream’s 2011 Annual Report writes that its business involves considerable risk: “personal injury and/or loss of life, severe damage to and destruction of property and equipment and pollution or other environmental damage…” DCP Midstream takes no responsibility for these kinds of hazards and instead seeks to rely on our small, taxpayer-funded fire departments providing mutual aid in the event of a tragedy. Add insult to injury: its Annual Report openly admits, “In some instances, certain insurance could become unavailable or available only for reduced amounts of coverage, or may become prohibitively expensive, and we may elect not to carry policy.”
Given these facts of LPG safety and DCP Midstream, it is inconceivable to me that the people of Searsport and the surrounding region would consider permitting such an explosive combination in our beautiful Midcoast Maine. Hopefully, all our town officials will attend the final Searsport Planning Board hearings beginning Jan. 16 to ensure the protection of the health and welfare of our communities and our Bay.
A letter to the Searsport Planning Board
I hope you all had a good holiday and were able to spend some time with family and friends after the busy and grueling past few months.
I know that the contents of the Site Plan Review Ordinance are probably as familiar to you by now as the backs of your hands, but I think a few parts of the ordinance are worth emphasizing.
Firstly, the very well-written Purpose in Section 1 is the authorization for you to control negative impacts on our community. If the evidence suggests that a development might threaten the “health, safety and welfare of the community,” this section of the ordinance instructs you to turn down the application. It does not bind you to only the 18 performance standards. Site Plan Review states that the performance standards shall only “serve as minimum requirements for approval of the site plan.”
In addition to the Site Plan Review, Searsport’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Ordinance are clear about the need to “preserve and protect the integrity of the Town and to continue to make Searsport a great place to live, work and vacation.” (Comprehensive Plan Section K, Land Use)
The comprehensive plan also charges the town with protecting the state’s critical natural resources, which include scenic vistas. (Comprehensive Plan Section A, Introduction.) Section E of the plan further says that, “water pollution, high cost and maintenance of public services, and the destruction of existing wildlife and scenic values are just a few of the existing ways that a community ends up paying for improper land use.” (Comprehensive Plan Section E, Natural Resources). Permitted land use in the Industrial District includes light industry. The tank farm at Mack Point was in existence for many years prior to the adoption of our Comprehensive Plan and land use ordinance and was “grandfathered.”
The Land Use Ordinance allows uses of similar impact. A 22.7-million-gallon tank certainly does not have an equivalent impact, nor can it be considered “light” industry.
The proposed LPG facility, even if it met the description of light industry, which it most emphatically does not, also violates Searsport’s Land Use Ordinance, as it would extend beyond the boundaries of the Industrial District into a Commercial District, where it is clearly not a permitted use. Imagine if an applicant came before you for a permit for an auto repair shop. The shop itself will be in a commercial district, but part of the parking lot and a small storage building would go beyond the boundary of the commercial district into a residential district.
Under the ordinance, you would treat the proposed development as one entity. The fact that a parking lot and a small shed might be allowed in a residential district is immaterial and would not factor into your decision, as the development would be evaluated as a whole. The same standard should be applied to the LPG facility. Here, DCP is proposing to put critical portions of the essential industrial infrastructure needed to operate this facility into a commercial zone. The fact that DCP does not have sufficient space within the industrial zone to place these components only highlights the fact that this site is simply too small for an LPG facility of this size to safely operate. As a result, granting a permit to DCP would violate the Searsport ordinances named above.
Thank you for considering these points and thank you for your service.
Don’t put road safety at risk
I have been going over the Performance Standards of the Site Plan Review again, just as you have been doing, exhaustively. Standards 3, 10 and 11 are particularly relevant to the issue of keeping roads safe, structurally sound and, critically important, clear for the easy access of emergency vehicles to any site. Given the potential for human error leading to either a contained or catastrophic accident at the proposed mega-tank site or one on the road itself, Route 1 would become jammed and/or impassable.
P.S, 3 relates to safe vehicle access or egress from public or private roads, which is significant in the event of any evacuation. Number 10 is the emergency vehicle access standard, which must be guaranteed for the protection of Searsport’s citizens, but it cannot be guaranteed when no sufficient or relevant emergency plan is in place. We don’t have the equipment or trained manpower to cope with an accident of this potential magnitude, and no reasonable person can claim with scientific accuracy that it will “never” happen. Look at the records of accidents involving LPG over the years, and the startling recent news articles about the ESPN reporter and her serious burns as a result the of fire and explosion using a basic backyard barbecue.
P.S. 11 relates to municipal services which, considering the above paragraph, demonstrates an even greater disparity between what we have for fire department equipment, police department equipment, the mutual aid agreements from surrounding communities, which also lack the sophisticated equipment, and what would actually be needed to ensure the safety of our town and the region.
In addition, all three of these performance standards will be affected by whatever the number of trucks will be that line up to load the LPG, and where that lineup will occur. There does not appear to be much space for trucks along Station Avenue, and we cannot make that determination without a specific, detailed layout of the entire facility, which would obviously include where the trucks will park or line up. DCP Searsport LLC or DCP Midstream, and whatever its parent companies are, have promised scale models and details that are still missing 18 months later. No matter how many permits they have been given by state agencies, they still have to meet the requirements for ours.
Phyllis W. Sommer
Urges attendance at public hearings
There are many things I learned attending the public hearings held in November on the proposed 22.7-milllion-gallon LPG tank in Searsport. If approved by the Planning Board in Searsport, this LPG tank will be the largest of this magnitude on the East Coast of the U.S.
I will share a few things with you:
* Most of the DCP Midstream officials making their case to build the tank live in Colorado — two live in Maine, one in Bremen, the other in Portland.
* DCP Midstream claimed their LPG plants were safe and would pose no threat to the area. One presenter found DCP Midstream had thousands of air quality violations, failures to comply with required safety inspections of pipelines, fires, gas clouds, explosions, injuries, and deaths.
* It was reported that property values will drastically decline the closer the property is to the tank. Angler’s Restaurant and Bait’s Motel — about 400 feet from the proposed tank, would have practically no value and could not be sold. Many Searsport residents would experience similar losses to their homes and businesses. The tourist industry in Searsport would also decline.
* DCP Midstream indicated that possibly 12 post-construction jobs might be created. However, more than 60 people would lose their jobs when Angler’s Restaurant and Bait’s Motel were forced to close and other Searsport businesses downsized or closed. The owner of the restaurant and motel indicated that he already has experienced a decline in customers, due to the publicity about the proposed tank.
I strongly urge all residents and business owners in the Midcoast area to attend the public hearings beginning Wednesday, Jan. 16, at the Searsport High School cafeteria, 24 Mortland Rd. The public hearings begin at 6 p.m., but it’s best to arrive a half-hour early. The meetings usually end at 9:30 p.m. They will continue through January 18. Should more days be needed they will continue on January 28 and 29.
On Wednesday, Jan. 16, the Good Harbor/Richard A. Clarke analysis will be presented. This study was requested by many individuals and Islesboro Islands Trust to give an all hazard and risk assessment of the proposed LPG installation and operation. This critical and independent analysis of the situation will review natural, accidental, intentional events that could damage the LPG tank and system. The effects this damage would have on the surrounding areas and towns from Castine, Stockton Springs to Rockland and all towns and communities in between will also be explained. The Penobscot Bay and the islands of Islesboro, North Haven, Vinalhaven, Matinicus and possibly others could also experience problems from these events.
The LPG tank is a regional issue, and will affect all of us — in one way or another — not just the town and people of Searsport. Please join us and learn how it could affect you.
Republican Journal Letters, January 3, 2013
On DCP involvement in height ordinance
As many of you already know, the Planning Board process in Searsport is flawed. We thought we had the industrialization of Searsport under control because we had a height ordinance that limited the size of any structures and would prevent things like this monster tank. Somehow, long before the appearance of DCP in town, someone got the bright idea that we should change our ordinances to a new limit that would allow the largest tank in the world to just sneak in. Of course this was done in concert with DCP lawyers who actually drew up our new ordinance. And somehow, the article got on the ballot. Sponsored by whom is unclear but for whom is without question. This was done without our knowledge and we were hoodwinked. This letter is to request an explanation and to shed light on a very disappointing situation:
Chairman, and Members, Searsport Planning Board,
On behalf of the Searsport Good Governance Group, and many concerned Searsport citizens, I request you conduct a complete investigation into the events leading up to and including the changing of our height ordinance at Town Meeting. Whose idea was it and how did DCP lawyers get involved? Which individuals were aware of the plan to get this on the ballot and how did it get there? Why were we not allowed to discuss the issue completely before we voted to raise the height requirement by 250-percent? Why were the citizens not appraised of DCP’s involvement and future plans for Searsport as soon as they became known to members of the board? Weren’t town officials ethically required to reveal relevant information to the voters before the vote?
We are requesting you conduct a thorough investigation into this matter and take appropriate steps to remove any PB members who had involvement in or prior knowledge of DCP’s role in the height ordinance issue. Any knowledge of DCP’s role on the part of Town Officials that did not lead to full disclosure is bad behavior and must be dealt with.
Please provide us with a written report of your findings and actions. If this is not possible, we request the Board of Selectmen send this issue on to MMA for their opinion and involvement. To avoid a conflict of interest and the appearance of wrongdoing, please take appropriate actions before the hearings proceed any further.
Republican Journal Letters, Dec. 27, 2012
Join the circle of resistance!
Many mid-coast citizens have grave concerns about the ethics and integrity of DCP Midstream. As revealed at the public hearings in November, DCP has misled the public in their claims of an unblemished safety record; their modus operandi appears to be to pollute and simply pay the fines. How can the Searsport Planning Board overlook the research presented at the hearings, and published recently in the BDN opinion piece, “Will DCP Midstream endanger public for corporate profit?”
In addition, are Searsport residents aware of the poor air quality that already threatens the health of all of Searsport’s school children? As noted in the USA Today study, “The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools,” Searsport’s air quality receives a very poor rating among the 127,800 districts that were designated “toxic hot spots” due to industrial pollution. Specifically identified in the report are likely lung irritants and carcinogenic contaminants from GAC and the Searsport Terminal.
If you are concerned about this project, get involved now. Join the circle of resistance II at Mosman Park in Searsport on Saturday, Jan. 5 at 1 p.m., on the eve of the final round of public hearings on this controversial project. Everyone, especially Searsport citizens, are invited to participate in this dramatic, one-hour event to witness or be a part of the “human chain” to map the 202-ft diameter, representing the actual size footprint of DCP’s proposed 23 million gallon LPG tank. See just how big the proposed tank’s footprint would be.
I write to you on the eve of the winter solstice to express the urgent need for intelligent decision making about environmental stewardship in Maine. A mammoth liquid propane gas tank at the edge of Searsport harbor is the very essence of folly at this point in history. The risks involved for the many are wildly out of proportion to the benefits that might be enjoyed, in the form of profits, by a very few.
The world’s people are experiencing unprecedented weather events and temperature extremes, and these trends appear to be accelerating. Now is the time to pull back from ruinous policies involving the extraction, transport, storage and combustion of fossil fuels. Developments of the first decade of the 21st century have shown the dangers of continuing on the path of non-renewable fuels, the use of which involves great costs. Also, largely as the result of fossil fuel burning, coastal areas such as Searsport are already subject to sea levels rising, and this trend is expected to continue unless sustainable energy sources are rapidly substituted for antiquated petroleum products.
Maine was Vacationland when I was born here in 1956. Its fish and wildlife flourished, and both the sea and bodies of fresh water were famously beautiful. Decades of pollution have resulted in acid rain, unhealthy rivers and ponds, and even poor air quality. Visitors are now advised to eat no fish from Maine waters if they are pregnant; nor are small children advised to eat what I remember as the spectacularly delicious rainbow trout from my own childhood. What have we come to?
This area cannot take the risk of a gas tank that, in the best scenario, will cause pollution from trucks and more fossil fuel burning, and in the worst case could cause a disaster the likes of towering inferno. We both know that is no exaggeration. Examine one of the many gas explosions like the one in West Virginia this month and you will know why the majority of people in Searsport, the surrounding communities, and the rest of Maine are strongly opposed to the tank proposal.
Consider carefully what your legacy will be to future generations in Maine.
Republican Journal Letters, Dec. 20, 2012
Connect the dots
I was privileged to speak on Thursday, Nov. 29, at the public hearings in Searsport regarding DCP’s proposal for an LPG mega-tank. I am a member of Thanks But No Tank, but spoke as part of the business panel to address specific concerns about the risks to the local economy and my particular business, Pumpkin Patch Antiques, if this proposal went forward.
I am not repeating those concerns here, but am restating and emphasizing the points I made as the former chair of the Comprehensive Planning Committee from 2000-2006, during which time we wrote the plan, defined the districts and, after approval by the residents at an annual town meeting, we wrote the land use ordinances that are in effect today.
The Industrial District, section K, page 8, describes the location of the district and gives a general definition of what an industrial district is intended for, i.e. “to accommodate industrial and large commercial development.” Uses are to be permitted or prohibited “because of their potential impact on the community.” It continues by stating that “the permitted use will include light industry, manufacturing, warehousing, storage, wholesaling, and similar uses of equivalent impact.” It’s my emphasis applied to the words.
It’s very important to hold the permitted uses in mind as you read DCP’s Application For Site Plan Approval, page 13, under “Land Use Standards,” where they state that they conform with Searsport’s Comprehensive Plan because the Industrial District is intended for “industrial and large commercial development,” and they do not mention the actual permitted uses which are specified by language we chose carefully in order to protect the community and to promote appropriate development. They simply chose the sentence that fit their purposes and ignored the rest.
It was also very revealing to hear one of their lawyers, Kelly Boden, say that DCP immediately saw a need for changes to be made to the ordinances (read our ordinances) to accommodate their plans for a mega-tank. At an earlier meeting, she claimed authorship of the proposed ordinance height change that was voted on at the March 2011 town meeting, a proposal that was introduced by a current Planning Board member as his own “suggestion.” And then any discussion of whether or not this change would open the door to a large tank facility was banned by the moderator, without the public being made aware of the method by which to protest this decision.
Let’s sum up: DCP comes to town two years ago. Their application “mistakenly” claims compliance with our comp plan. Ordinance changes are written by their attorney, introduced by a Planning Board member. Discussion of the tank banned at town meeting.
Can we connect the dots?
Phyllis W. Sommer
Resents outsider comment
The last thing we need here in Searsport/Stockton is an irrational letter to the editor from some obviously hypocritical NIMBY from Freedom.
No doubt Ms. Brugger rails against climate change, clamors to see an end to our addiction to fossil fuels, yet is also dead-set against alternative energies… especially if that energy source bothers someone, even in a smallest way. (They are, indeed, large, and they do go “thrum-thrum” occasionally.) I have visited the Freedom site(and others) several times, and have never heard a sound.
The cure for climate change will adversely affect us all, such as rational oil and gas or paying a carbon tax. So, how about a little less whining?
One would have to question the sanity of someone who compares a quiet, clean electric generator that burns only free wind to a dangerous, hazardous fossil fuel storage tank that, in the event of the worst case accident, could blow up 6,000 people and two or three towns.
The similarity is a delusion, and so is any comparison between the companies behind the projects.
My opinion is that this letter writer is just a drama queen strutting her stuff.
TBNT WEBSITE NOTE: PLEASE READ HEIDI BRUGGER’S LETTER OF DEC. 6 POSTED BELOW. YOU MAY COME TO A DIFFERENT CONCLUSION.
Following the printing of a letter to the editor in your newspaper last week that referred to my testimony at the recent Searsport Planning board public hearings on DCP Midstream’s application, i have been asked to share my comments with the general public.
My name is Charlene Knox Farris. I am a native of Searsport, a longtime teacher at the Searsport Elementary School and Searsport’s town historian.
“To endanger a large city population is too great a risk. Searsport has the necessary shipping facilities. It is far away from any large city. If the worst happens, it would happen to a comparative few in this small town.”
No, those are not the words of Conoco Philips, Spectra Energy or DCP Midstream. Instead, they are words that appeared in a news article published in the Boston Globe in 1945, at the end of World War II. The article continues:
“Partly, it may be said, through good luck, and largely through the care and skill of the men of the chemical Warfare Service, Searsport successfully faced destruction to serve as a port of embarkation, shipping a vast supply of chemical ammunition and toxic gas during World War II. Here this highly dangerous material was assembled and packed for overseas shipment without serious injury or accident. With such a large quantity being handled, almost anything could have happened.”
The ammunition which was to be shipped across the Atlantic to U.S. forces and [our] allies was shipped to the Searsport docks by train. My grandfather, Alvin Knox, was the stationmaster then — a very nerve-wracking job.
The town of Searsport has already been asked to sacrifice its safety due to our small population and deep harbor. We did it during World War II, and we did it well. In my opinion, Searsport should not be asked to put its safety at risk again unless the reason is equally compelling.
And if you asked my grandfather Knox, he wold agree, only he would not be nearly as polite about it!
Charlene Knox Farris
Bangor Daily News, Dec. 18, 2012
Keep Searsport safe
I recently was asked to share my testimony at the Searsport Planning Board’s public hearings concerning DCP Midstream’s application with the general public. I am a native of Searsport, a longtime teacher at the Searsport Elementary School and Searsport’s town historian.
“To endanger a large city population is too great a risk. Searsport has the necessary shipping facilities. It is far away from any large city. If the worst happens, it would happen to a comparative few in this small town.”
No, those are not the words of Conoco Philips, Spectra Energy, or DCP Midstream. Instead, they are words that appeared in a news article published in the Boston Globe in 1945, at the end of World War II. The article continues: “Largely through the care and skill of the men of the Chemical Warfare Service, Searsport successfully faced destruction to serve as a port of embarkation, shipping a vast supply of chemical ammunition and toxic gas during World War II. … With such a large quantity being handled, almost anything could have happened.”
The ammunition was shipped to the Searsport docks by train. My grandfather, Alvin Knox, was the station master then — a very nerve-wracking job.
The town of Searsport was asked to sacrifice its safety during WWII due to its small population and deep harbor. In my opinion, Searsport should not be asked to risk its safety at risk again unless the reason is equally compelling.
Charlene Knox Farris
Bangor Daily News, Dec. 15, 2012
LNG export terminal
DCP Midstream, a Denver-based limited liability company, is proposing to build a 22.7 million gallon, 14-story liquefied natural gas tank in Searsport, said to be for temporary storage of imported natural gas. But the U.S. is awash in natural gas, by 2017 the U.S. could be the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world.
So what’s really going on here? Is this phase one of an LNG export terminal? All this requires, in addition to the megatank, is a liquefaction plant to convert domestic natural gas into a liquid to load on the tankers. As soon as the permitting for the tank is completed expect an application for a gigantic refrigerator.
Don’t worry about increased truck traffic since the natural gas will arrive in a pipeline but if you are worried about the looks of the tank, wait until you hear one of these refrigeration units running 24/7.
Republican Journal Letters, Dec. 13, 2012
Thanks tank speakers
Thanks to all who listened to all the testimony and spoke at the recent Searsport Planning Board public hearings on the DCP Midstream application. Thanks also to Chairman Probert for overseeing the many interested time to speak on the last night.
The final tally of people who spoke at the public hearing was 39 total. Thirty-four spoke out against the tank many with very convincing data, arguments, questions and opinions. Four statements could be classified as pro-tank. One gentlemen’s statement could not be classified as pro or con. Thirty-four members of the community — more than 85 percent of speakers — spoke out against the mega-tank in Searsport.
We heard from the town historian, who told us that Searsport had already done its part during World War II to store and ship large quantities of explosives and the planning board should not put the town at risk without a similar reason.
A Stockton resident who worked for 30 years as a licensed officer on deep sea vessels transporting gasoline, crude oils, diesel and jet fuels spoke. He emphasized that none of the ships he worked on had exclusion zones, which speaks to the question brought up earlier in the hearings: if the liquid propane gas on these tankers is so dangerous and volatile, then why are there no federal siting specifications? And why isn’t there a zone of exclusion around the mega-tank?
These were just two among the many questions raised at the hearings. The night wrapped up with two young Belfast residents, students at Unity College reading a letter by Unity’s President, Stephen Mulkey, writing as a scientist, urging the planning board to think carefully about siting a tank of this size on the coast given what we have seen with recent storms.
The speakers came from all over the mid Coast, often emphasizing this project is a regional concern. The hearings resume from Jan. 16 to Jan. 18 with more interested party panels, conclusions from Good Harbor Consulting and one would presume more public comment after all new information is released.
Problem solving DCP style
Problem: Two years ago, tank proponents knew Searsport would never allow an export terminal in an area zoned for light industry. Then DCP says, “I know, lets disguise it as an import facility and tell the people the gas is for them.”
Problem: The tank exceeded existing height ordinances. DCP’s Portland lawyer, drew up a height change article and Searsport passed it on the ballot. A sympathetic moderator rushed it through town meeting without revealing details. We didn’t see it coming. The crane turned out to be a trojan horse.
Problem: The harbor is not deep enough to service giant or super tankers. “I know, lets get those hicks in Maine to borrow the money to dredge the harbor for us. If they can afford to buy a new crane for Mack Point, why not a dredging project?” DCP has the pull it needs to get things done in Augusta.
Problem: How to sell this to the public? [Sometimes a problem when the project doesn’t actually benefit the public.] Lets divide the residents into groups, those from away [them] and those from here [us]. They told us people from away were against the tank and against jobs. Things got ugly according to plan. People were organizing lists of businesses to boycott and more. DCP spent a ton of money and they told a ton of lies, but they seem to have an unlimited supply of both.
Problem: Permits are required from government oversight agencies. They called on their supporters in the government and got the environmental permit without having a public hearing, and Army Corp’s without an Environmental Impact Study.
Problem: Convince the Planning Board this would be a good thing. They lied from the beginning. They told us the tank would store LPG for local consumption and we would all become “energy independent.” They never mentioned it would be impossible to make money importing expensive foreign LPG and selling it locally. News articles indicate this situation will not change well into the foreseeable future.
Problem: Searsport ordinances state only light industry will be allowed in the industrial district. They know the largest tank known to mankind and the giant ships used to fill it can’t be considered light industry. They have to lie again. This time they conveniently leave the word light off their application when they quote our ordinances, oversight surely.
ProblHem: ow to get away with this? They need the Planning Board to say they meet our requirements for an import facility, then they are free to adjust their business plan to cope with market fluctuations. If it proves to be more difficult than they thought to make money selling expensive imported LPG for local prices, then, just to make a profit, they will be forced to start exporting cheap domestic LPG. And they won’t need our permission. And we can’t stop them.
But the news may not be all bad. An economic impact study requested by the Planning Board says maybe the tank will be good for tourism because some of those hundreds of giant tanker trucks are bound to stop at the Pumpkin Patch to buy antiques. The silver lining at last. And don’t forget the 12 jobs.
Republican Journal Letters, Dec. 6
Learned the hard way
Several years ago, my town of Freedom faced a “disamenity” intrusion, not unlike Searsport does today. We were asked to permit installation of three industrial wind turbines atop Beaver Hill. What did we learn?
1. That the applicant can and will sell the facility, so any assurances based on the applicant’s word or record are built on sand.
2. That the applicant’s promises are only as good as the enforcement of ordinances and that performance standards must be constantly monitored by someone other than the applicant. Freedom avoided this expense by repealing the commercial site review ordinance and the protection it would have supplied.
3. That computer models are incapable of representing the actual circumstances and are a worthless expense. Freedom residents experience noise levels and incidence of flicker beyond all computer study projections.
4. That the tax revenue boost lasts only until county and school commitments catch up.
Beaver Ridge Wind divided Freedom and generated one permanent part-time job. The applicant and subsequent owners have had to purchase properties close to the site. Our neighbors have moved. Our home lost value and, like our neighbors, we probably have only one possible buyer — the turbine company — so we will remain too close for comfort.
I now repeatedly hear state officials, representatives of the wind industry and townspeople say that Beaver Ridge Wind is a mistake, should never have gone forward, and that too many homes are too close to the turbines. This hindsight is useless to me and my neighbors, but I hope it informs the Searsport Planning Board. I urge the Planning Board to err on the side of its responsibility to guard the health, safety and welfare of the people of Searsport — and the surrounding region.
Heidi N. Brugger
No town is an island
DCP: “This is not a regional issue.” Really?
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; […] any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” These lines from the famous meditation by John Donne come to mind as I contemplate the possible effects on the surrounding communities of the proposed 22.7-million-gallon LPG tank in Searsport.
No town is an island; every town is a piece of the larger picture; any town’s decision has the potential to have a negative impact on another town, because when it comes to a development of this magnitude, we are involved with each other. We are all in this together. Town lines are meaningless.
Large trucks carrying potentially dangerous cargo on roads that can barely handle the present industrial, tourist and local traffic … how can that not negatively affect both the lives of the citizens and the economy of this stretch of the Maine coast? This “Searsport” tank would have an enormous impact on Stockton Springs (especially on Cape Jellison), which is closer to the proposed site than a good part of Searsport. And think of the negative impact of the tankers on the fabled sailing waters of Penobscot Bay.
I witnessed an LNG tanker (yes “N,” not “P,” but no matter) coming up the Mystic to Everett, Mass. Accompanying that boat were not only several tugs but at least five cutters (Coast Guard and Boston Police). There was a helicopter overhead, there were no pleasure boats in the water, there were no planes taking off from Logan, and when I looked to my left I saw an armed policeman at the end of the pier, the pier where we were trying to enjoy a summer wedding reception.
There’s a sign on Interstate 295 that says “Penobscot Narrows Bridge: Exit 113 via Belfast or Exit 182 via Ellsworth.” As I recall, this area fought to get that sign to mention the Augusta exit off 95 in addition to the Bangor exit off 95, to encourage tourists heading to Bar Harbor to come via Route 3, rather than through Bangor. Searsport, Belfast, Stockton Springs, and Bucksport are working hard to recreate a vibrant economy. They don’t need to have tourists and their dollars bypass them, should Searsport become another Wiscasset summer traffic nightmare. The entire area, from outside of Augusta to the outskirts of Ellsworth, cannot afford to have tourists choose to stay on the Interstate all the way to Bangor because Searsport is impossible and potentially dangerous to negotiate. That’s over 80 miles of Route 3 and Route 1 where travelers will not be buying gas, eating, shopping, etc. Those dollars will bypass the Midcoast and end up being spent at establishments on Route 1A between Brewer and Ellsworth.
What’s really good for the economy of the entire region? No tank.
Police action ‘inexcusable’
I was sitting two feet form Ben Crimaudo last Wednesday evening during the Searsport Planning Board meeting. He was whispering to Ken Agabian so softly that I could not hear a word they exchanged. It came as a great shock when Ben was brutally set upon by Officer Nickerson, it was inexcusable. Ben was viciously manhandled, his arms twisted and his body thrown against an iron railing with great force. Mr. Crimaudo is 75 years old, and has a heart condition as well.
This is not Syria or Egypt; we live in Maine and suppression of free speech is not acceptable. Officer Nickerson should be suspended for his brutal and unprovoked behavior. Also, Chief LaHaye put on quite a show out in the hallway, interfering with the press, ordering Amy Browne of WERU to turn off her camera and leave the building.
The crowd assembled in the hall had been exceedingly well behaved all evening. No warnings had been issued by Chairman [Bruce] Probert all night. The large police presence was intimidating, provoking and unnecessary. The issue of censorship in Searsport has taen a very violent turn for the worse.
Heidi Brugger’s letter to the editor Bangor Daily News 12/5/2012
Planning board responsibility
Several years ago, Freedom faced a “disamenity” intrusion, not unlike Searsport does today. We were asked to permit installation of three industrial wind turbines atop Beaver Hill. We learned:
The applicant can and will sell the facility, so assurances based on word or record are built on sand.
The applicant’s promises are only as good as ordinance enforcement. Performance standards must be monitored constantly but not by the applicant. Freedom avoided this expense by repealing the commercial site review ordinance and its proffered protections.
Computer models are incapable of representing actual circumstances.
Freedom residents experience noise levels and incidence of flicker beyond all computer study projections.
The tax-revenue boost lasts only until county and school commitments catch up.
Beaver Ridge Wind divided Freedom and generated one permanent part-time job. The applicant and subsequent owners have had to purchase properties close to the site. Our neighbors have moved. Our home lost value, and, like our neighbors, we probably have only one possible buyer, the turbine company, so we will remain too close for comfort.
State officials, representatives of the wind industry and townspeople say that Beaver Ridge Wind is a mistake, should never have gone forward and that too many homes are too close to the turbines. This hindsight is useless to me and my neighbors. I hope it informs the Searsport Planning Board. I urge the planning board to err on the side of its responsibility to guard the health, safety and welfare of the people of Searsport and the surrounding region.
Bangor Daily News 11/28/2012
Don’t ‘tank’ Maine way of life
I was born in Damariscotta, lived in Kennebunk and West Bowdoin, moved away and returned to Belfast in 2003. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The attraction of our Penobscot region continues to bring in lovers of Maine who long to retire here and spend their money here; they support our towns, marketplaces, university. Their ranks are swelled by the now-twice-weekly visits from a small cruise line through the summer and fall seasons.
Why should we consider bringing in a liquid petroleum gas tank of 22.7 million gallons, 14 stories tall, 500 feet from Route 1, stored at minus 44 degrees, with a 75-foot tower, which will flare off gas 365 days a year and a mile-long pipeline? “Security” lights will flood the Searsport area, where a potential explosion could incinerate everything within a one-mile radius.
Fellow citizens, friends, neighbors, I beg you not to be taken in by illusory promises of jobs and not to be taken in by false advertising paid for by rich, out-of-state corporations who know nothing but the bottom line of profit. We can build our beloved state of Maine the way we always have: by community efforts and native Maine ingenuity and resourcefulness and (may I say it?) the love that binds us to each other and to this place.
An Op-Ed from the Bangor Daily News 11/23
OK, I’m “from away.” I’m a native of New Hampshire, but attitudes over there aren’t all that different. I’m not here on some extended vacation in paradise. I’m here because it’s a nice place to live, and I enjoy the decent people who are living here for the same reason.
I happen to be on the side opposing a proposed $40 million liquid propane gas terminal and storage tank, but not because I’d be offended to have to look at another tank in the Mack Point Industrial Zone. It is zoned commercial, after all, and I’m perfectly OK with Searsport’s long history as a commercial port.
Industry has its place. I see no good reason why folks who object to having a new structure sited in an industrial development should want to deprive the local economy of opportunities for jobs and tax revenues on purely aesthetic grounds. To my mind, that’s going over the top.
I’m not even opposed to the tank because it might increase congestion and wear and tear on Routes 1 and 3, or because it might have a negative impact on the tourist trade, or even because it might reduce my property value or its resale potential. I’m not planning to go anywhere any time soon.
The real reason I am opposed to the tank is safety, pure and simple. If the folks at DCP Midstream wanted to build their big, new tank and store gasoline in it, I’d be fine with that. There’s a lot of gasoline stored at Mack Point already, and I don’t see that as an issue. Gasoline is a liquid, and it won’t even burn unless it’s vaporized and mixed with air, as it is in the injectors of my car.
If a gasoline tank springs a leak, it’s usually pretty obvious, and even if leaking gasoline catches fire, it can usually be easily extinguished by a small crew with fire-suppressant, or even water, before it gets out of hand. Furthermore, gasoline burns at only about 1,650 degrees, which is well below the 2,500-degree melting point of steel, and therefore wouldn’t pose any threat to the integrity of the tank from which it leaked.
Propane, on the other hand, is a whole different animal. Although it’s a liquid as long as it remains inside the refrigerated tank, as soon as it leaks out, it becomes a gas. Not only is it harder to see and smell a propane leak, but every ounce of gas that escapes through the leak mixes instantly with air to form an explosive mixture. An expanding cloud of that explosive gas spreads outward until it encounters any ignition source, of which there are plenty in the environment. It then explodes, all at once, at a temperature of close to 3,600 degrees, which is definitely hot enough to melt steel.
What that means is that once the leaked propane explodes, there’s no way to prevent the steel body of the tank from melting, rupturing and releasing its full contents to the atmosphere, thus generating a far greater explosion. Technically, the process is known as a BLEVE (rhymes with Chevy and stands for Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion). With the tank’s entire 22.7 million gallon contents exploding, that would be bad enough, releasing about as much energy as 33 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs, but it wouldn’t stop there. The super-hot BLEVE would also melt all the other tanks in the farm, releasing and vaporizing their 55 million additional gallons of fuels to create an 87 million gallon Super-BLEVE equivalent to some 150 Hiroshima bombs, or a small hydrogen bomb.
That is exactly what happened near Mexico City back in 1984, when the PEMEX LPG tank farm in San Juanico developed a leak in the long supply line leading to one of the tanks. The leak wasn’t detected until the explosive gas cloud spread to the flare pit, whereupon it ignited and exploded, blowing all the tanks in the farm. It was the worst industrial catastrophe in Mexico’s history, killing more than 500 people, injuring more than 5,000 and leveling the town.
How much LPG was involved in the San Juanico disaster? 11,000 cubic meters, or 2.9 million gallons. That’s a little less than 13 percent of the capacity of the Searsport LPG tank. Now if you add the 55 million gallons of other flammable fuels currently stored at Mack Point, what went bang at San Juanico was a little less than 4 percent of what could go bang at Searsport.
Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of bang.
How big? Think the world’s biggest industrial catastrophes. Think Chernobyl. Think Fukushima. Maybe worse.
Right here, in midcoast Maine. It would put us on the map — or take us off it, for good.
David Laing, of Stockton Springs, is a retired assistant professor of geology at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
Republican Journal Letters, Nov. 22
Turn away DCP, not retirees
A few years ago an initiative was put forth by town managers to attract retirees to Searsport. This turned out to be a good plan as it was easy to attract people to an area that has a beautiful, unspoiled coastline, clean air, lots of recreational opportunities and an inviting town with historic buildings and small businesses.
Many retirees including myself came and bought houses in the area. We invested a large part of our retirement savings renovating old houses and starting businesses. In addition to those who moved here, there are scores of people who have lived in Searsport for all or part of their lives and have chosen to stay here in retirement. We are a significant slice of the population.
We volunteer in the community, support the local economy, hire local carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, landscapers, etc. and make no demands on the schools. Retirees support the town of Searsport and strongly contribute to the economy.
The LPG import facility proposed by DCP does not fit the profile of life in Searsport. The scale of the project is too big; it will dominate the landscape, be visible up and down the coast for miles (especially all lit up at night), and have a very negative effect on life in our town. Many people moved to this area to escape heavy industry and the noise, congestion and pollution associated with industrial facilities. Some will be left with properties that will be unsalable and it will be almost impossible to attract new residents to Searsport. Given the choice, who would voluntarily invest in property that most likely will lose value and be subject to property tax increases?
In reviewing the Searsport site planning performance standards, it is obvious that DCP does not, and cannot, meet the standards and their application should be denied. For instance, there are provisions that state the landscape shall be preserved in its natural state and tree removal, disturbance of soil and existing vegetation should be minimized. This project clear-cuts nearly 24 acres of coastal forest and destroys more than three acres of wetlands.
There is a standard which states that any building or structure “shall be related harmoniously with the surround terrain and to existing buildings within the vicinity…” This mega-tank at 14 stories tall would have to be sited in Portland to be surrounded by a comparably tall structure. There are standards on exterior lighting which spell out any project should have “a minimal unreasonable effect on neighboring properties.” We know from the application this mega-tank will be brightly illuminated 365 nights a year. Two-thirds of the U.S. population no longer sees the night sky due to man-made light sources. Human-produced light pollution not only mars our view of the stars, it threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems and affects human circadian rhythms. These are just three of the standards; there are many others we could illustrate.
As Senator Susan Collins stated, “The environment is our economy,” and as DCP states in their application, “The no-action alternative would avoid all of the direct environmental impacts that would be associated with the proposed project.” Our town fathers decided wisely to promote Searsport’s unique beauty and history to attract retirees to Searsport. The result is a durable small business economy, where big business is welcome too, when it agrees to meet our town’s performance standards. Irving Oil does. Sprague Energy does. But DCP won’t. The Searsport Planning Board should have no difficulty turning away their wrongheaded proposal.
Tank proposal inspires ‘a great sadness’
After attending the TBNT [Thanks But No Tank] protest circle at Waterfall Arts in Belfast, to show a living footprint of the Conoco-Phillips liquid propane storage tank proposed for the Mack Point tank farm area in Searsport, I came away with many mixed feelings.
The first was the size of the proposed tank. I think to say “enormous” would be an understatement. Secondly, as I looked in vain to find a familiar face of the many people that I knew from the many years that I spent on the bay, from recreation to fishing for various species of shellfish. From this lack of interest, I felt a great sadness, because I cannot believe that this endeavor of Conoco-Phillips will not have a tremendous impact on everyone who uses the bay.
My greatest sadness was realized when recalling the days spent on Penobscot Bay that I cannot recall a single day that I did not stand in awe of the majestic beauty of the bay, and I surely hope that future generations will ahae the opportunity to marvel at all the bay has to offer.
Lastly, I recognition that our region needs much needed employment opportunities, not everything that comes along in an opportunity. What comes to mind is a grim warning from a demolition instructor of years ago, in the 262 Combat Engineers, and that was “when handling explosives, you only get one oops!”
Whatever the outcome of this endeavor, I sincerely hope it’s one that we call can live with.
Treasure what you have
My name is Billie Bakhshi. I am a mom of four great kids, and live in Abington, Pa. (a suburb of Philadelphia), approximately a 14-hour drive away from you.
So why am I writing to you fine folks, especially when I clearly don’t live in Maine?
Last summer, my husband and I packed up our kiddos and the family minivan to embark on a journey I think our kids will remember for a lifetime. Our destination: Searsport Shores Camp Ocean.
We loved biking around, fishing, checking out the harbor areas, downtown areas, shops, restaurants and co-ops. It tickled us immensely, while having a meal at Young’s Lobster Pound, to see staff going out, pulling traps and bringing in fresh catch.
That’s something we could never do at home. Here in the Philadelphia area, we have tanks and refineries. Our waterways are extremely polluted. You wouldn’t want to eat fish out of our waters. We make jokes about three-eyed fish monsters, only after seeing how folks live (and fish) in Maine, the joke is not so funny. It’s just sad.
Don’t get me started on the smell in the areas surrounding the refineries, and instead I’ll tell you about consequences in air quality for having tanks and refineries, plus the extra traffic (and exhaust) of tanker trucks. We have an extraordinarily high childhood asthma rate in Philadelphia. It’s awful to see a child wheezing, and know that it’s largely due to pollution.
It’s too late for Philadelphia. Our tanks, our refineries aren’t going anywhere. But you all still have a choice.
You all, who are gifted in that you get to live your lives in such pristine surroundings, should treasure it! Don’t be so quick to let it go. There are some things that money and jobs (which I am sure you all have been promised) cannot buy. Namely, your health and your environment… these are not things that are easy to restore, once compromised. And if you pay attention to history, oil companies are kind of slow to take responsibility, and actually do something following a catastrophe. Folks in the Gulf states could tell you a thing or two about that, I am sure… except they are probably kind of busy, still recovering from the aftermath of a spill.
Bottom line: there’s a reason why folks like me and my husband will endure a 14-hour drive in a minivan full of kids to visit a place like Searsport. You’re one of the last untouched destinations on the East Coast… we’ve actually considered moving to Searsport. Honestly, though, if the tanks do come, that’s a deal-breaker, and not just for moving there, but for vacationing there.
After all, we can do the pollution thing right here at home.
Republican Journal Letters, Nov. 8, 2012 (4)
Tank gives pause to potential new residents
After our recent trip to Searsport, Stockton Springs and Belfast to look at real estate, we felt compelled to write to you about our experience. We currently live right on Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vt., with scenery (aside from lake versus ocean) very much like that of the Penobscot Bay area — broad and pristine (10-15-mile) water views, islands, distant mountains and forests. We are both professionals, and our desire for retirement was to find a similar setting, but on the ocean. Some months ago we spent time in your area while returning home from Canada, and were taken by the landscape, way of life and feeling of the communities — so we decided to return, which we did last week, to look in more detail.
We spent three days in Belfast, and looked at a variety of waterfront and waterview properties in Searsport, Stockton Springs and Belfast and were charmed by all the area has to offer. On our second day, we became aware of the controversy surrounding the possible LPG tank and terminal project in Searsport. Although we are not experts in the economic or safety issues surrounding the project, we can certainly share the effect it had on our willingness to consider real estate and relocation in the area.
While in Belfast we stopped unannounced at the offices of one of the area’s larger real estate companies. After discussing the real estate market with the broker — a longtime resident of the area — we asked about the impact of the proposed tank project. To our surprise, it literally brought tears to her eyes. Needless to say, as we then investigated further ourselves, we realized that from an aesthetic point alone, we could no longer consider the area if the project proceeded. To us, the impact on the quality of life for someone looking for an unencumbered oceanfront or ocean view, would be severe and negative. In some ways we’re the lucky ones, since we do not currently own such a property.
Lake Champlain, being over 100 miles long, went through a similar progression. It was originally a primary transportation corridor, then in the past 100 years fostered significant waterfront industrial activities, including both lumber and huge waterfront oil tanks serviced by fleets of oil barges. Over the past decades, the lake and lake frontage are returning to primarily recreational uses, with all but one set of oil tanks now gone from the Burlington area waterfronts. This change was not by accident, but by choice and careful planning designed to support a current and maintain a future lifestyle for this region.
With Penobscot Bay communities already providing such a way of life, we are sorry to see the LPG project gaining traction, and hope that a final decision will site it elsewhere. If not, we — and probably many others in situations like ours — will also be looking elsewhere. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Dr. Lainie Andrew
Tank opponents think short-term, long-term
When President Jimmy Carter and President Omar Torrijos of Panama signed the Carter-Torrijos Treaty of 1977, Torrijos insisted on including language stipulating that anyone born in Panama is a Panamanian citizen. Suddenly John McCain became a citizen of Panama, as did I and some 28 of my cousins. It often felt to me that I had become two people, the one for whom Panama is home, and the other for whom Waldo County, Maine, is home. But recently this dual heritage has come together in one narrative: The consequences in Maine of the new Panama Canal capable of handling super-sized ships and the development in Maine of ports capable of receiving these super post-Panamax megaships.
It is projected that post-Panamax ships will account for 62 percent of the world’s total container capacity. These ships require deepwater ports, of which there are only five active on the East Coast of the U.S. Other ports, like Miami, are busy dredging and the Port Authority of New York is raising the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate post-Panamax traffic. Ironically, there are two such deepwater ports in a part of the United States that is rural and where the citizens want no part of such industrial development. One such port is Eastport and the other is Searsport.
The local resistance to accommodating post-Panamax tankers is called Thanks But No Tank (http://tbnt.org/). The reference is to the foot-in-the-door proposal by DCP Midstream, a Denver-based company that wants to build a 22.7-million-gallon, 14-story liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) mega-tank and terminal on Mack Point in Searsport. Resistance to this development is strong and growing among local people and adjacent towns and islands. I speculate that DCP Midstream has chosen Searsport because it will soon be bringing liquefied petroleum gas in post-Panamax tankers requiring that rarity, a deepwater port.
The bond issue on the November ballot (Question 4) includes money to dredge the ports of Eastport and Searsport. In the Bangor Daily (10/25), David Farmer noted that dredging in Searsport is important as it “should be understood as the port for Bangor and Millinocket, not only for the coastal area.”
A group of concerned citizens met recently in the library of Belfast, a town adjacent to Searsport, to become informed about the legal issues involved in their struggle. What we found out is that legally there is not a lot we can do to prevent this development.
In light of their better understanding of the legal basis on which they can contend against DCP Midstream, local resistance has begun to think about short-term strategy and long-term strategy. Short-term is to get people to understand how DCP Midstream post-Panamax super tankers filled with highly explosive LPG will forever alter the quality of life here on Penobscot Bay. Long-term will be to learn how to prevent the transformation of rural, scenic Waldo County into an industrialized wasteland that resembles Newark, N.J.
The stakes are high. Very high.
Don’t sabotage our economic foundation
As you know, I’ve been a member of this community for 37 years and hope to continue as a resident and small-business owner for the rest of my life. My late husband, Robert, and I started Pumpkin Patch Antiques with very little money and no prospects. But with an abundance of energy and love for the town, the coast of Maine and antiques, we faced the typical challenges of the self-employed and charged ahead. We wore many hats, took on a variety of other jobs to keep our business growing; had our children here, volunteered at the school, on school committees and town committees, too. A life story paralleled by so many others, it is the quintessential narrative of small town life, unexceptional… except for the very few businesses that have lasted this long and for the number and type of potential threats to this existence that have cropped up over this time frame, such as a nuclear power plant, coal and smelting operations, LNG and now DCP Midstream’s (or DCP Searsport LLC’s) LPG tank proposal.
The Planning Board frequently refers to the performance standards, with which I’m totally familiar, and which must be applied to every applicant. Yet we all agree that there are still ranges, subjective interpretations and approximations within these standards that require the Planning Board to exercise judgment about the suitability of a proposal for the town. The guiding principle is to protect the health, safety and welfare of Searsport’s residents. We focus a lot on health and safety, but “welfare” refers to the well-being of the economic life of the community, and for now the balance between the residential, commercial and industrial interests is stable. We need new compatible businesses as well as jobs, and for that to happen we must be able to attract and maintain the three parts of our economic foundation (residential, commercial and industrial) to keep revenues and municipal services flowing. If we fail to recognize that the environment of Midcoast Maine and tourism are the economic engines we need to build on, then we sabotage the very foundation we need for survival.
While the Planning Board has been weighing DCP against our performance standards, the fact that the permitting processes of state agencies are seriously flawed has not seemed to enter into the decision-making on the completeness of their application. If the permits are incomplete, it begs the question as to how the Planning Board could accept them and make a ruling; I don’t know if any liability can be ascribed to the board or the town for this error, but I’m concerned that the whole process is viewed as highly suspect.
We await the findings of the Fannon economic report and the Good Harbor risk assessment and even though the latter was not commissioned by the Planning Board, I hope they will give it equal weight in their deliberations and allow the public to comment freely, as this has been our tradition and our right. The potential scope and impact of this proposed development dictates that any further information and clarification is imperative. To base a decision on faulty data or opinions is unacceptable at best and totally irresponsible at worst.
I can only guess at how difficult a job this is for the Planning Board members and thank them for their efforts. I hope they will keep the door of communication open and their minds as well, for all our sakes.
Phyllis W. Sommer
Too many tanker trucks already — don’t add more
We oppose DCP’s LPG megatank proposed for Mack Point for numerous reasons, including a personal one.
Our narrow one-way street is already overburdened with a procession of heavily loaded 80,000-pound tanker trucks that cruise by 24/7 on their way to Route 137 and beyond. There is no sidewalk on our side of the street — Irving, GAC, Dead River and others pass dangerously close to our home as they rumble by, jeopardizing the safety of those of us who live within their shadow.
We oppose more tanker trucks on our street where the 25 mph speed limit is often violated; where drivers frequently pass one another on the right (wrong) side as they head uphill; where we fear a serious accident is only a matter of time, as motorists too often drive in the wrong direction down our one-way road.
Regarding the increased LPG tanker traffic, proponents use the argument that, “You’ll get used to it.” Frankly, we do not want to “get used to it”; we do not want increased tanker trucks from the industrial site in Searsport, and particularly from DCP’s hazardous cargo should their 23-million-gallon LPG tank project proceed.
We urge citizens of Belfast and neighboring towns that will also see increased, hazardous truck traffic to speak out now and oppose this project.
Republican Journal Letter, October 11
Tank photo is misleading
The photo of the proposed big tank you printed in the 27 Sept. edition, page A3, was extremely misleading. I shouldn’t really call it a photo because it is just DCP’s hallucination of what the monster tank might look like. It has no basis in reality. For starters, does that tank look like it is 14 stories high? Not to me. All settled snugly in the forest, it seems like it will hardly show.
The reality is starkly different. First, the entire area will be clear-cut. The giant tank will sit approximately 120 yards from Route one, right behind Angler’s Restaurant, and it will come with its own 75-foot-tall vent pipe that will belch nasty toxins and flames into our sky on a regular basis. Actually, Angler’s will sit in the tank’s shadow. Angler’s owner says he probably will have to close down if it is built. Only DCP enthusiasts will be willing to eat their meals in that type of industrial environment ,and there aren’t many DCP enthusiasts around. If you enjoy eating your supper with a killer view of industrial grandeur, there is always New Jersey, but people don’t usually come to Maine with that in mind.
Remember, Angler’s employs 50 or so locals and every year they provide the citizens of Searsport with chowder at our town meetings. They have always been good neighbors and responsible citizens. So now we tell them, thanks a lot, but we have a new girlfriend. Her name is DCP and is she hot. She promises to rock our world and provide jobs. Now there may be a few small problems, like noise pollution, light pollution, increased health and terrorism risks and more traffic congestion, but did we mention she might bring us as many as 12 new jobs? Sure, she will ruin our tourist industry, our views, our children’s health and our town, but hey, 12 new jobs, come on! Sure, other businesses in town, like Bluejacket [which also employs about 50 locals], have said they, too, will have to lay off folks if our new girlfriend comes visiting, but how can we turn her down, she’s so rich?
This is too good to pass up! Never mind that DCP has a history of ignoring environmental laws and prefers to just pay the fines. Never mind that they have been dishonest with us since they first got here from Denver. They promised us a scale model of the monster, but later said that was beyond their capabilities. If a scale model is beyond their capabilities, they are either incompetent or dishonest, or both. The picture you ran is just another example of their dishonesty. Makes me wonder if we want their 12 jobs.
They tell us they are a swell company and they are good neighbors and we will love them and they will love us. Now isn’t that what is important? Who really cares about giant gas trucks rolling through our narrow little streets 24/7? We can wait an extra few minutes to get across main street if it means 12 new jobs. So what if our property values sink as low as DCP’s corporate morals, we will have 12 new jobs. Why worry about our bay being clogged with tanker ships, along with their serious security zones? Who cares if we are saddled with higher taxes associated with unforeseen costs related to homeland security and fire and police protection, as long as we get those 12 new jobs?
Twelve new jobs? Is that the corporate discount price for a sleepy little Maine village these days? Is that all it takes to turn us into an industrial wasteland and forever alter our way of life? I guess so!
But did I mention the 12 new jobs?