The Canadian government formally announced Wednesday its opposition and intent to take legal action against the proposed liquefied natural gas terminals in Washington County.
In a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher dated Feb. 14, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Wilson said the Canadian government “will not permit LNG tankers to pass through Head Harbour Passage.”
FERC is in the midst of reviewing the two proposed terminals on Passamaquoddy Bay: Downeast LNG in Robbinston and Quoddy Bay LNG in Perry. The letter was sent in advance of FERC’s formal consideration of the projects so that developers could withdraw or amend their applications, Wilson said.
In his letter, Wilson said the Canadian government commissioned a study of the environmental and safety risks of LNG tankers passing through the marine and coastal areas of Head Harbor Passage. The study concluded the tankers “present risks to the region of southwest New Brunswick and its inhabitants that the Government of Canada cannot accept,” Wilson said.
“We are therefore prepared to use domestic legal means to address our concerns and prevent such passage from occurring,” Wilson wrote.
Downeast LNG President Dean Girdis said the study Wilson cited has not been made available to project developers or U.S. government officials. He said he intends to move forward with his project.
“We expect the elected officials in Maine, the U.S. State Department and FERC to support us in the review process of our proposal and we respect that they will uphold the rights of transit passage to U.S. ports,” Girdis said. Girdis said he is “100 percent certain” that international ships have right of passage in the harbor.
“We had the leading Canadian legal maritime expert, Ted McDorman, review the rights of passage and he concluded Head Harbor Passage is, in fact, a territorial sea, which means it falls within the U.N. law of the seas,” Girdis said.
Quoddy Bay LNG developers could not be reached for comment.
Linda Godfrey, coordinator of Save Passamaquoddy Bay, a local LNG opposition group, said Ambassador Wilson is echoing past statements made by the prime minister of Canada, federal Cabinet members, the premier of New Brunswick, and local leaders and citizens of Canadian communities around Passamaquoddy Bay.
“It’s firm and it’s final. There will be no LNG in Passamaquoddy Bay,” Godfrey asserted.
While FERC reviews the LNG terminal applications, the state Board of Environmental Protection is planning public hearings on the proposals, possibly as early as March.
Meanwhile, the province of New Brunswick has been granted intervener status at upcoming FERC hearings. The province is concerned about environmental, safety and security issues, as well as potential impacts on the economy. Premier Shawn Graham says the province opposes the terminals because of environmental, safety and security concerns, as well as potential impacts on the economy.
As an intervener at the U.S. regulatory hearings, to be held by the FERC, the New Brunswick government would have an opportunity to present its case against the proposals. Graham says while the federal government has voiced its opposition to the terminals, it has not applied for intervener status.
The review of the proposals could last up to 18 months.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.