For lack of permit, board continues DCP application reviewTBNT secures consultant for all hazards risk study
Searsport — It will be at least another 60 days before the Searsport Planning Board considers the completeness of the application from Colorado-based DCP Midstream, the company that hopes to construct a 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas storage tank at Mack Point.
That news came at the start of the two-hour meeting, which took place at Union Hall in Searsport Monday night, Aug. 13.
DCP attorney Kelly Boden of the Portland-based law firm Verrill Dana told the board that the company has yet to secure a permit from the state fuel board, the lack of which triggered the board's move to deem the application incomplete at its June meeting.
"We hoped we'd actually have the permit in hand by now," said Boden.
Boden said attorneys for DCP and the fuel board have gone back and forth over the past two months regarding what information in the permit application would be included as part of the public record. Boden said some of that information falls under the rubric of safety and security information that she said is protected under federal law.
July 30, Boden said, DCP heard back from staff attorneys for the fuel board, who indicated the board would release the more sensitive information to "the people who have a need to see it," but not to the general public.
On behalf of DCP, Boden asked the board to grant an additional two-month extension on the application review process.
"Do you have any idea when this will be complete?" asked Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert.
Boden said the company hopes to have the permit secured "well before the 60-day period," but she was unable to offer a definite answer on when it might be issued.
After some additional discussion, the board moved to grant the 60-day extension and take up the review process again at its October meeting.
Independently assessing the risk
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Islesboro Island Trust and TBNT attorney Steve Hinchman brought several requests to the board, including one to secure a spot on a future meeting agenda to unveil the findings of another consultant — Richard Clarke of Good Harbor Techmark.
In a release dated Aug. 13, IIT and Hinchman announced that IIT retained Good Harbor to perform an independent all hazards risk assessment of the proposed LPG development. As part of the study, Good Harbor would identify potential intentional, natural and accidental threats to a fuel storage facility of the proposed scale as well as vulnerabilities associated with the 24-acre project site.
"IIT turned to Richard A. Clarke, counter-terrorism adviser to three presidents of the United States, and his firm, Good Harbor Techmark, because they have the experience, qualifications and capacity to provide the people of Midcoast Maine with an objective, unbiased review of the critical safety questions associated with the proposed LPG terminal," stated the release.
Hinchman told the board DCP would not be expected to pay for the GHT study, and explained that he requested a slot on the agenda because of the ongoing "gag order" on public comment regarding active applications.
"I want you to be able to ask the experts questions directly," said Hinchman.
Board member George Kerper said he preferred to consult the board's attorney before agreeing to hear the findings of the study, but fellow board member LeeAnn Horowitz noted that it would be an independent study that would provide the board with more information.
Hinchman said that since Good Harbor would be interviewing town staff regarding existing emergency management assets in the town, his clients asked that municipal employees be cooperative when Good Harbor requests information needed to complete its work.
In terms of seeking the cooperation of town staff, Probert, Horowitz and Kerper agreed the board does not have the authority to issue that request.
"That should come from the selectmen and the town manager," said Kerper.
But Probert said as long as Good Harbor affords town staff enough lead time, getting the information the firm needs for the assessment should not be a problem.
"I can't imagine town staff not cooperating," said Probert.
Hinchman also requested that the board lift the gag order on public comment, but Probert said that would not happen.
"The position [on the gag order] has not changed," said Probert.
Speaking in generic terms about the danger earthquakes pose to industry — not specifically to the DCP application — retired geologist David Lang of Stockton Springs expressed concern that while there is a "significant" fault line at neighboring Sears Island, there is no information about whether one exists at Mack Point.
"There is virtually nothing known about it," Lang said.
Lang said there have been small clusters of earthquakes in Midcoast Maine in recent years, and that he felt the board should have more information on that topic.
"I think it needs to be investigated," said Lang.
Board chooses Fannon for economic impact study
There was also discussion regarding consultants to conduct an economic impact study of the DCP proposal. The study is intended to give the board some idea of how the installation of the project might benefit or adversely affect the local economy, particularly impacts on tourism and property values.
The board considered proposals from three firms that specialize in such assessments — Yellow Wood Associates of Vermont, Camoin Associates of New York and Fannon Evaluations Group of Portland.
Initially, board member Brian Callahan moved to accept the proposal from Camoin, but Probert said he preferred the proposal from Fannon because, he said, it appeared the firm would do more on-site work. Probert added that the company indicated it could finish the job in six to eight weeks.
Board members Horowitz and Mark Bradstreet, like Probert, also said they were leaning toward Fannon.
After Callahan agreed to withdraw his original motion, Horowitz moved to select Fannon to conduct the economic impact study and to offer a formal presentation to the board when the work is completed.
Because the study would cost an estimated $49,000, including the $4,000 cost for the presentation of the company's findings, Probert broached the topic of how DCP would cover those costs.
Boden said the existing escrow account the board has set aside for DCP to pay for consultants had a balance of $53,000, but Probert stated that some of that money is earmarked to cover other consulting costs. An additional $25,000 from DCP should be enough to serve as a deposit, Probert said.
The board voted 5-0 to choose Fannon to conduct the economic impact study, and in a second motion, voted 5-0 to require the $25,000 deposit from DCP.
Probert cautioned Boden that since there is no guarantee DCP will obtain the fuel board permit, DCP is assuming a risk by agreeing to pay the full cost of the study, but Boden said DCP was willing to move ahead with the process regardless of the risk.
Planning Board attorney Kristin Collins noted that the only contract that the board has signed off on is the one with Old Town-based James Sewall Co. The board selected Sewall to conduct a study on how the proposed development might affect traffic on Station Avenue, as well as the impact that increased truck traffic might have on the road surface.
The board approved a motion to sign contracts with Fannon as well as LGA Engineering, a company that the board had previously chosen to serve as a resource to assist the board in the overall application review process.