DCP Midstream: 'Safety is our core value'
Denver — A spokesperson for the Colorado company that hopes to build a 137-foot-tall liquefied petroleum gas storage tank at Mack Point suggested locals who are worried about safety should consider the company's reputation throughout the industry.
In response to concerns that were discussed at two recent meetings hosted by a local coalition known as "Thanks but no Tank", Lisa Newkirk with DCP Midstream said the company has a "solid reputation" for maintaining safe operations.
"I can tell you we have highly trained personnel and that we partner with local [emergency] responders," said Newkirk.
Newkirk denied claims made by some at the meetings, who questioned if the company chose Searsport because it has a relatively low population and would result in fewer deaths in the event of an accident. If the company were to obtain all the permits it needs to move forward with its plans in Searsport, Newkirk said the company's own employees would then become members of the same community.
"It's not just an operation to us, it would also be the home of our future employees; we would live and work there, too," she said. "Safety is our core value."
Newkirk echoed earlier comments made by fellow DCP Midstream spokeswoman Roz Elliott, who said the benefits of the company building a terminal in Searsport are many.
"Because it has an existing dock," said Elliott. "And the community is aware of what it's like to have ship traffic."
Elliott also stated that while bringing in an LPG terminal would provide a boost to Searsport's tax base and provide jobs, it is an equally important development for the entire state in terms of having a steady propane supply available.
"We've had some cold winters, and it's been challenging at times," she said. "There have been times when the supply in Canada has been constrained."
Mack Point, Elliott said, is a desirable location because it has access to rail, marine and truck transportation as well as a nearby pipeline. Elliott estimated that the DCP terminal would bring between five and six ships a year to Mack Point, a place that she said routinely accommodates between 130 and 150 ships annually.
All DCP Midstream employees would be subjected to a complete training program that Newkirk said holds to the company's high standards of operation. Employees are required to undergo training each year in order to earn annual certifications in their respective fields.
In addition, Newkirk said all of the company's facilities are equipped with emergency shut-down systems and emergency shut-down valves that are located in several key locations around the sites. Newkirk said the shut-down systems are designed to work manually or automatically, in the event that an employee is unable to activate it.
Each facility is also outfitted with backup generators that kick on in the event of a power outage, as well as what Newkirk described as a fixed fire water system, which provides water at access points throughout the plant.
"We can secure a plant in less than 30 seconds, and often in less than 10 seconds," said Newkirk.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration also regulates the industry, said Newkirk, and has strict procedures for safety management including rules dictating the maintenance of equipment, storage tanks and other areas of the facilities.
"We will spend the resources necessary to make sure that our facility is in nothing less than good working order," she said.
Newkirk added that those efforts to keep all of their facilities in safe working order and its employees well-trained has not gone unnoticed. In 2010 DCP Midstream was the recipient of the Canadian National Railway Safe Handling Award for the third straight year.
Looking back on the history of the propane industry in the United States, Newkirk said propane terminals have been operating without incident for the last 40 years.
The likelihood that DCP Midstream will be able to build at Mack Point remains unclear, but Newkirk confirmed that the company has received final approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The project has also gained approval from the Maine Department of Transportation earlier this fall. Approval from other state and federal agencies, said Newkirk, is still pending.
"We're still working through the permitting process," she said.
When asked if the company had specific data on what the worst-case scenario might be in the event of a fire or explosion at one of their facilities, Newkirk reiterated the company's commitment to safety and declined to answer the question directly.
"We don't like to speculate," she said.