Dean Girdis
Appeared on page A5


Many Canadian political leaders in New Brunswick, including Minister Greg Thompson and Premier Shawn Graham, are pushing for the province and Saint John to become an “energy hub.” This includes an LNG facility, a new oil refinery, a second nuclear power reactor, a new coal-fired power plant and a high voltage power transmission line to the United States.

All these projects are highly dependent upon exports to the United States, as is much of the economy of New Brunswick, and for that matter, Canada.

Within this context, the state of Maine has been a very good economic and energy partner for the province and for Canada. For more than 50 years, crude oil tankers have transited almost daily Casco Bay, the richest fishery along the coast of Maine, to unload their entire cargoes in Portland for shipment via pipeline to refineries in Canada. And this friendship was certainly evident during the recent and historic visit of Maine‘s Governor Baldacci to New Brunswick, during which he supported the efforts of Premier Graham to create an “energy hub.”

Given this support, the recent actions of both the provincial and federal governments against an open and transparent review of our proposed LNG project in Maine is surprisingly disingenuous. Concurrent, some Canadian politicians at the provincial and federal levels continue to spread inaccuracies regarding our proposed project with the intention of creating an atmosphere of fear. This includes blatantly false assertions that there will be U.S. gunboats in Canadian waters, or that LNG ships will somehow destroy tourism and fisheries in the province.

The latter statement is a surprising conclusion, since ships presently transiting Head Harbour to the Canadian port of Bayside do not appear to cause similar concerns. Are Canadian politicians willing do everything they can to stop economic development in Maine?

The Canadian position is not based on any documented concerns about safety, the environment, or the principles of international law governing rights of innocent passage through Head Harbour Passage, a waterway that is used consistently by ships traveling to U.S. and Canadian ports.

And this issue is not about LNG anymore. It is about the right of innocent passage and freedom of navigation. It is about Canada attempting to exert its authority on a U.S. state. More importantly, it is about Canada wanting a veto power over economic development in the state of Maine.

We are especially disappointed that the Canadian government is trying to stop our project before it has had its proper review in accordance with U.S. laws and regulatory practices. Downeast LNG has supported the very sincere efforts by FERC, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the State Maine to allow Canadian input in the review our project.

Interestingly, the provincial environmental review process for the Irving LNG facility drew a surprisingly simple conclusion from the New Brunswick government regarding its impact: “the Project will not result in likely significant adverse environmental effects.” That’s it. So much for a rigorous environmental review process – should one assume the same level of review for the new refinery, a project that could double the volume of crude oil tankers plying the Bay of Fundy?

And here is something else to think about. The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies of Halifax recently completed a study, Casting a Cold Eye on LNG: The Real Possibilities and Pitfalls for Atlantic Canada (January 2006), that reached some stark conclusions.

First, “without access to U.S. markets, none of the LNG projects proposed for Atlantic Canada would be feasible.” More to the point, “the presence of any LNG terminal in the U.S. side of the border seriously threatens the commercial viability of the Canadian terminal projects.” What should we draw from these conclusions?

The Downeast LNG project will provide a much needed source of clean-burning natural gas to U.S. energy markets in the Northeast. It is a safe and environmentally sound project that will create good paying jobs and provide sustainable economic development in Washington County.

Some Canadian politicians have suggested that we move the project to another part of Maine. But it is the communities here in Washington County that voted to support it and need it to address decades of chronic unemployment and job losses. Is it fair to deny them this opportunity?

Washington County, like many parts of Atlantic Canada, has high employment, far too few job opportunities to keep its young people at home. Our project is an opportunity for this part of the Atlantic coast to create a solid base for jobs and economic growth. And even though some may doubt it, there will be economic spinoffs for Charlotte County and other parts of New Brunswick. It is important to note that when the Estes Head pier in Eastport, Maine was built in 1999, it was a Charlotte County construction contractor that built it – beating out Maine companies in the process. Is this not what the concept of Atlantica embodies?

Canadians have a well-deserved reputation for fairness and for being good neighbours with the United States, particularly along the New Brunswick/Maine border. Hopefully, the regulatory body (FERC) will be given an opportunity for a fair and transparent view and to address all of the issues raised by all parties.

Dean Girdis is President of Downeast LNG.