No Action on LNG

By Michael R. Brown 

The Downeast LNG sign on Route 1 in Robbinston has all but faded into a gray outline of the state of Maine on a dark blue background. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Down East LNG have stopped their bi-weekly conference calls. Robert Godfrey of Save Passamaquoddy Bay filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out why. Robert Wyatt, DELNG’s Environment and Permitting officer, said he expects the communication to pick up again in one to three months, but financing is different problem.

We all know that world-wide demand for oil and gas has dropped significantly. After spending $7 billion, Shell has stopped its Arctic exploration. The Alaskan government is near financial collapse. Pipeline permitting is running into opposition all across North America. The Canadian dollar stands at 75 cents of the US dollar. Gas at the Strawberry Patch is selling for $2.25.

Wyatt says the current market has all the investors waiting for improvement. According to him, investors project the market will turn up by 2020. Since it will take four years to build the Mill Cove facility, Wyatt suggests that investors should “do the arithmetic.”

DELNG has contracted with a New York engineering firm to detail plans for construction in Mill Cove, but DELNG has not filed any of the applications promised for fall. This past summer Wyatt said he wanted to be “settled with homeowners by the start of construction.” Despite the rumor that one homeowner has been paid $10,000, no confirmation is available.

All plans for the Mill Cove facility could go on hold. Even after final permitting any stoppage of construction would have to be, as the LNG people say, “deconstructed” to some extent, and that would created great cost overruns for the project.

 

As an added local concern, Wyatt’s response to a rumor that the Robbinston school closing is somehow tied to the LNG project has no bearing in reality. The agreement with the town stays in effect, and that includes DELNG’s willingness to build another school and other public buildings. If it is necessary, Wyatt says that he would gladly put an addendum to the agreement that all parts previously agreed to will stay in force. More important, he has raised the question about what the town will do with “all the money five years out,” when income from the LNG facility will continue to flow into Robbinston.