Letters, 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.
On VDay 2013
Just wanted to celebrate the community we have here, and than everyone for coming out on VDay, a celebration of our determination to end violence against women. The City Council and city manager were totally supportive of our gathering, the Belfast police graciously blocked off a city block downtown for our dancing in the streets, and the Belfast Free Library gifted us the Abbott Room to use for a community speak-out. There were at least 150 people involved in this powerful action, poets and dancers, drummers and other humans saying dance through the pain, end the violence, break the chain.
If you can, go to One Billion Rising on YouTube and see the amazing videos from 193 countries around the world, and all over the United States. I am proud and happy to live in such a vibrant, responsive community. Thank you, everyone! We will continue together our commitment to end violence against women and girls.