Strong opposition to Searsport LPG tank voiced during public hearing

Opponents outnumber proponents during hearing
By Ben Holbrook | Dec 03, 2012
Photo by: Ben Holbrook Proponents and opponents to a proposed LPG tank in Searsport were given the opportunity to speak during a public hearing Friday, Nov. 30.

Searsport — Residents took DCP Midstream to task over their business practices and the potential impact to the community of a proposed 22.7-million-gallon liquid propane gas tank on Friday, Nov. 30, at the Searsport Planning Board's fifth day of public hearings.

The three-and-one-half hour public comment section marked the first time residents were able to speak about the project. Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert thanked attendees for their good behavior during the Thursday, Nov. 29, meeting and asked that all comments be kept to three to five minutes to accommodate as many speakers as possible.

“This is your night,” Probert told the crowd, which filled nearly every seat in the cafeteria.

Representatives from DCP Midstream were allowed 30 minutes to give a brief presentation about the tank and how it operates. The presentation focused mainly on the storage tank itself and how LPG is off-loaded from tankers and then loaded onto trucks and rail cars.

As long as there is power, any vapors that build up in the tank are routed to refrigeration units where they are compressed and routed back to the tank as a liquid. However, in the case of a prolonged power outage, those refrigeration units are not available and the vapors would instead be burned off using an emergency flare that stands 75-feet tall.

In addition, representatives said, a containment wall capable of holding the entire contents of the tank must be constructed to meet industry standards. Any fuel leaks would flow away from the tank, representatives said.

At the conclusion of the presentation, residents were invited to speak and many quickly jumped on the opportunity to challenge DCP’s track record.

'DCP’s track record says a lot'

Residents cast doubt on how good of a neighbor DCP Midstream will be by highlighting several incidents in recent years where the company was fined for air quality violations. Stockton Springs resident Tara Hollander compiled several reports regarding the violations that occurred. In 2008, DCP Midstream reached a $60.8 million settlement with the New Mexico Environmental Department for “numerous” violations at three separate natural gas plants in the state.

In addition, DCP Midstream was fined in July 2012 for 11 air quality violations by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. That fine amounted to $631,628 and represented more than 50 percent of the total fines assessed against 36 entities by the commission.

Searsport resident Don Garrold refuted claims the tank would pose a danger to the community based on his experience working for various chemical companies over the years. Garrold said companies take safety regulations very seriously and he did not feel DCP Midstream would endanger the community.

“We have never feared there might be an apocalyptic event,” Garrold said referring to concerns from some opponents the entire tank would explode.

Employment opportunities

The economic impact on Searsport if the tank application is approved is a divisive issue for some, as opponents say more jobs will be lost than gained and proponents see the project as a means to increase industry in the area.

One resident who lives close to the site of the proposed tank, noted Mack Point is zoned for industrial use. She also said tax values in town would be impacted more by the quality of the school system than the addition of an LPG tank. As a closing remark, she said the town voted to support the tank.

That statement quickly drew a chorus of no’s from the crowd until Probert called for order and asked attendees to respect each speaker even if they didn’t agree with the statements.

The only public vote directly related to the tank occurred after the opposition requested a six month moratorium be imposed on DCP Midstream’s application in order to give the group more time to learn about the project. That moratorium was soundly defeated by Searsport residents during their March town meeting.

Searsport resident Harlan McLaughlin questioned if the jobs created by the tank, which are estimated to be 10-12 full-time positions, is worth the jobs that would be lost if local businesses close.

“I think the saying goes, “forty to 50 jobs in the hand are worth 12 jobs in the bush,” McLaughlin said to laughter from the crowd.

Carrie Slocum of Belfast raised similar concerns saying the new jobs would be outnumbered by the potential loss of jobs at restaurants, such as Angler’s if the tank moves into town.

Community support

District 43 Rep. Erin Herbig attended Friday’s public hearing to encourage the Planning Board to weigh carefully any applications regarding potential economic development projects. Herbig, who acknowledged she does not support the tank, said pushing economic policy through too quickly can often backfire on municipalities.

“When looking at economic development, people know they won’t always get what they want,” Herbig said. She later added, “Community support is a huge part of economic development policy.”

Public hearings to continue

As the clock approached 9:30 p.m., Probert said the meeting would conclude, despite people still waiting in line to speak. One resident questioned why the hearing couldn’t be extended to accomodate a few more speakers. That prompted a vote by the board to extend the hearing until 10 p.m. to allow six more speakers.

After the last speaker, Probert said the public hearings will be recessed until January 16 when they resume for an additional three days.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Avery Grace | Dec 04, 2012 09:32

Ms. Herbig went on to say that a town needs to find the right business to fit into their economic plans moving forward and the quality of life the town is committed to and this project just isn't it.  Is it aggressive because the opponents were able to articulate their point of view with factual documentation while only four (out of 48 testimonies) of the public testimonies given during the hearings spoke in support of the tank, avoiding any factual data in their remarks (just hate for people from out of town)? The entire hearing is available online....links below.

1) DCP does all of its procurements for construction, operations and purchases through a third party vetting company.IS Net World. The vendors and contractors have to pay the costs of their own vetting and the ongoing membership in IS Net World.At the moment there are no vetted and approved Maine companies.

Text from DCP's standard letter that it send to all contractors and vendors:

"Dear DCP Midstream Contractor,
DCP Midstream is committed to upholding the highest standards in operational reliability, safety, and execution of projects. To ensure we are maintaining these standards for our customers, investors, public, and employees, we are implementing a more rigorous contractor information system to guide us in evaluating risk and assist with our auditing of
practices.

We have established a business relationship with ISNetworld www.isnetworld.com who will begin serving as DCP Midstream’s primary contractor information management system. As a result of this action, contractors and their subcontractors performing services for DCP Midstream are required to become subscribers to ISNetworld. If your company is a current subscriber to ISNetworld, there is no additional fee; however, please ensure your company has completed the items below.
There is a nominal fee for this service. DCP Midstream believes the benefits to both parties will far exceed any
associated costs. A more comprehensive list of contractor benefits and subscription quick start guide are attached from ISN. etc/"

So when DCP says it prefers to hire local it means..with qualified and vetted companies. The vetting process involved very stringent background checks, osha history and requires insurance and bonding that most Maine contractors wouldn't have..

Also at a hearing earlier this week DCP admitted that only one ship had called at their LPG terminal in Chesapeake.

2) Very little is known about the bedrock on which the DCP tank would be built, questioning whether it contains a fault that has undergone recent movement like the one found on adjacent Sears Island that ruled out the construction of a nuclear power plant by Central Maine Power in the late '70s and the siting of a considerably less explosive (than LPG) liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage tank in the last decade.

3) The Sea of Florida, Inc. Tampa - LPG Refrigerated Terminal Project is the only comparative sized refrigerated LPG tank in the eastern US. In compliance with the EPA Risk Management Plan (RMP) regulation, 40 CFR Part 68 the following impact area was determined:


The hazard distance to an overpressure of 1 psi (breaking windows)is calculated to be 8,918 feet (1.69 miles). That includes most of the downtown and our entire Searsport school system.

 

 



Posted by: Melvin J. Box | Dec 03, 2012 16:10

“When looking at economic development, people know they won’t always get what they want,” Herbig said. She later added, “Community support is a huge part of economic development policy.” This is very true and should be decided by ALL the people of Searsport and not just a very aggressive vocal group of people.



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