LPG Storage Tank Update: Economics, Safety and Security, Moratorium

By Christopher Hyk
Photo by: Ron Huber There's no question what the creative spirit behind this anonymous piece of folk art on Sears Island thinks of DCP Midstream's proposed 22.7-million-gallon liquefied propane tank. If that person is a citizen of Searsport you can be sure there will be another vote at Saturday's annual town meeting calling for a moratorium.

LPG Storage Tank Update: Economics, Safety and Security, Moratorium

SEARSPORT — A presentation and last-minute update from Thanks But No Tank Wednesday, March 7 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Union Hall in Searsport.  Everyone is welcome.

Yes Vote for the Moratorium on You Tube

LPG Tank Storage Moratorium: We ask the Lawyers

Is the Moratorium unusual?

Yes, it is.

It is unusual because it is tailored to meet the specific circumstances and needs of Searsport and the issue facing our town.

Most moratoria halt development without any guidance of how to proceed after adoption.

This moratorium creates an ad hoc Town of Searsport committee charged with reviewing the existing comprehensive plans, ordinances and emergency management plans recommending changes to address the issue.

The Town can then decide whether to adopt these changes by vote at Town Meeting.

Does the Moratorium usurp local control?

No, it does not- it preserves it.

The committee will be composed of local people appointed by the Selectmen, Thanks but No Tank, and a random drawing of volunteers.

As a committee of the Town, all meetings will be public meetings.

Again, the point is to give the voters the opportunity to decide whether to adopt the committee’s recommendations at Town Meeting.

Local control is only lost if the moratorium is not adopted and the developer begins construction without the Town having the opportunity to ensure that our ordinances are adequate.

Recommends made by the committee do not delay any projects from beginning construction or hiring workers as they are held for a town vote like any other ordinance change or improvement.

Is the Moratorium illegal?

No, it is not.

Moratoria are good for 180 days.

30-A M.R.S.A. § 4356 allows a moratorium to be extended for up to 180 days at a time.

The statute states that the selectmen may extend the moratorium in compliance with subsection 2 after notice and hearing.

Subsection 2 states that to extend the moratorium, the municipality must make a finding that the problem giving rise to the need for the moratorium still exists and reasonable progress is being made to alleviate the problem.

The statute does not state that the Selectmen are the only ones who can make the necessary finding- it says the municipality must make the finding.

The committee will be an ad hoc committee of the Town of Searsport, so it is part of the municipality.

Nothing in the statute prohibits a moratorium from delegating the fact-finding task to the town committee conducting the actual work.

The Selectmen may also extend the moratorium.

Why does the moratorium delegate the fact-finding to the commission?

The Selectmen did not see the need to have a moratorium in the first place, so this one had to be brought to the voters by petition.

The petition was submitted in mid-November yet the Selectmen decided to wait until March to bring it to the Town for a vote, leaving two months left to work.

The committee cannot be formed or begin its work until the Town adopts the moratorium.

Given the Selectmen’s inaction, to this important issue, the moratorium delegates the fact-finding to the committee so the people of the Town will have the opportunity to decide whether to adopt changes to ensure that the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Town of Searsport are protected before construction begins and the people lose the opportunity to assert local control.

The DCP permit has been in the town office for all citizens to read for more than six months.

 

Once construction begins people lose the opportunity to assert local control and all bargaining power.  Vote Yes for the LPG Tank Moratorium and bring more transparency to the process.