Quietly, and without the notice or knowledge of most people who live in or just love Midcoast Maine, DCP Midstream LLC, a Colorado-based limited liability corporation, currently affiliated with ConocoPhillips (the third largest oil company in the world), has been gathering the permits needed to construct a liquefied petroleum gas storage tank at Mack Point in Searsport.

The tank would stand 138 feet tall (the height of a 14-story building) and 200 feet wide (two-thirds the length of a football field) and would store 22.7 million gallons of highly volatile liquefied petroleum gas at –44 degrees Fahrenheit. The tank would be just one part of a terminal facility for importing liquefied petroleum gas from foreign sources.

The only identified benefit DCP has offered the people of Searsport for this project is the possibility of 12 new “permanent” jobs — jobs that, because of their specialized technical nature, would likely go to people from outside Searsport and even outside Maine. Significantly, none of the promised jobs are dedicated to safeguarding this facility as a likely target for terrorism. Further, no assessment has been made regarding the number of jobs in other industries (tourism, real estate and fishing) that could or will be lost if this facility is built.

Former Petroleum Institute lobbyist and now commissioner of the LePage Department of Environmental Protection, Patricia Aho, has already approved this project for construction, despite her failure to consider the significant public safety and security threats posed by this facility to the entire population of Midcoast Maine.

The rush to approve such a sketchy plan is puzzling, given the fact that no state or federal agency has done a specific assessment of the public safety and security resources required to safeguard an LPG terminal of the size proposed at Mack Point for importing LPG from foreign sources.

Indeed, the very purpose of the Mack Point facility — to import more liquefied petroleum gas from foreign countries, for use as a fuel to heat Maine homes and businesses — is contrary to the security interests of Maine and the United States in two ways.

First, it creates an attractive target for a terrorist attack without any discernible security plan provided by DCP Midstream — meaning they either are not providing adequate security or they are imposing the burden of that security on taxpayers without advising them of that hidden cost.

Second, this facility proposes to make Mainers more dependent on foreign sources for our heating needs. DCP’s goal is contrary to our interests as a state and as a nation to become more secure through energy independence.

Since less than 6 percent of Maine homes and businesses currently rely on propane for heat, why do we need a facility the purpose of which is to import foreign propane (liquefied petroleum gas) and make more Mainers dependent on foreign sources to heat their homes and businesses?

On March 10, Searsport residents will have an opportunity to approve a moratorium and slow this process down. If approved, the moratorium will allow Searsport the time to ask the proper questions about the costs and benefits of this facility — questions that should have been asked by state regulators before permits were issued to allow such a fundamental change for Searsport and all of Penobscot Bay.

The first question that should be asked: Is the possibility of 12 new “permanent” jobs (likely filled by people from outside of Maine due to the specialized nature of the work) worth the price the people and environment of Searsport and all of Midcoast Maine will bear?

The 9/11 tragedy should have taught us that the risk of terrorist attacks must be a consideration when any facility, like the one proposed for Mack Point, is proposed. A recent Congressional report on siting liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals, similar to the LPG facility DCP proposes in Searsport, detailed the significant terrorist risk posed to public safety and security by such facilities and highlighted terrorism as a necessary consideration in siting decisions about where to place such facilities.

Incomprehensibly, Congress has not vested the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (which has jurisdiction over LNG import terminal siting), or any other federal agency, with jurisdiction over evaluating the security implications in siting LPG import terminals of the sort DCP is proposing to put in Searsport. Such determinations have been left to state regulators.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Aho did not see fit to include any consideration of the public safety and security threats posed by this facility when she did her cursory evaluation of this project and rubber stamped it for approval. Now, it is up to Searsport residents to demand the time to make a proper assessment of the real costs of the limited benefits DCP is offering.

Why should we jeopardize our safety, our security, our environment, our quality of life, every existing job and the marketability and value of every property in Midcoast Maine, so that we can possibly add 12 “permanent” jobs in Searsport? Twelve jobs that will likely go to people from out of state, no less.

Please, speak up and tell Searsport residents that we need them to pass the moratorium and take the time to do a proper study of the real costs and benefits of this proposal and tell Augusta that we do not want to be the next man-made disaster in this country.

 

Kim Ervin Tucker is a resident of Islesboro, where she has owned a home since 1990. Her family roots to Penobscot Bay can be traced to the early 1700s. She is a lawyer who has spent much of her career in public service, although she has been in private practice since 2001.