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Gouldsboro Fishermen Sink LNG

by Catherine Brunton

   On Tuesday, September 7th, in the community of Gouldsboro, Maine, a meeting of local fishermen became an all-out opposition to liquid natural gas (LNG). Pete Vigue, president and CEO of Maine’s largest construction company, Cianbro, spoke to some 300 fishermen about the possible construction of an LNG facility on the Corea Naval Base in Corea, Maine. Cianbro was interested in building on approximately 50 of 450 acres on this shoreline property previously used by the U.S. Navy.
   Accompanying Vigue at the fishermen’s meeting were Waterville attorneys and brothers Mark and John Nale, who had first discovered a potential for LNG in Corea. “It has the appropriate deep water, easy access,” says Mark Nale.
   “It has a buffer zone around it that we felt was appropriate for that type of a facility. We could build it in such a way that most likely it wouldn’t be seen or heard or affect the environment.”

A definitive message was sent by the fishing community of Gouldsboro to the Cianbro Corporation that the proposed LNG facility was not welcome. Approximately 250 people attended the meeting at the Gouldsboro Community Center on September 7, 2004.

   The Nales contacted Cianbro with the interest of creating a partnership to develop the site for LNG. Before the team had a chance to meet with the Gouldsboro community, their preliminary discussions on LNG leaked to the press. Vigue apologized to the fishermen for this and repeatedly stressed the fact that he and the Nale brothers are sensitive to Maine communities: “I want no part in any project or any activity here that does not have the support of the community.”
   In a matter-of-fact argument, Vigue focused on the condition of Maine’s economy. “We know that we’re under tremendous pressure with economy here in Maine. We know that our sons and daughters are leaving the state and that there’s an immigration of people over the age of 55 moving into our state and it’s having a dramatic impact.
   “It will continue to get worse unless someone has a vision or foresight to create a solution to some of these problems.”
While Cianbro-Nale may have seen LNG in Gouldsboro as a reasonable step in building Maine’s economy, the fishermen did not. Lobsterman and Gouldsboro selectman Dana Rice told Cianbro’s Vigue that there are just too many unknowns surrounding LNG. It was clear that the Gouldsboro fishermen opposed the Cianbro-Nale approach to business. One fisherman in the audience said, “If Cianbro could come up with an option that wasn’t gonna hurt the environment, wasn’t gonna be a threat to the community, people would embrace it, ‘cause God knows we need the business. But LNG is just too risky.”
   At the door to the Gouldsboro Community Center, where the meeting was held, a stack of papers enumerated the risks of LNG in Gouldsboro. These included a drop in property values, threat to the environment, a new cross-country pipeline, and dangers of LNG, including explosion. At the top of each paper was a list of threats to lobstering, fishing, and recreational boating.
   Also addressed at the meeting was an LNG tanker exclusion zone, designed to limit damage, both to other vessels and to lobstering gear.

Post 9-11 Days Require Caution, Study
According to the chairman of the British natural gas port insurer, Lloyd’s, a terrorist attack involving an LNG tanker could have the potential power to cause serious damage. It “would have the force of a small nuclear explosion,” said Peter Levene, in a recent speech in Houston. The chairman of the second-largest commercial insurer also noted that gas carriers could become terrorist targets.
   Not all experts, however, agree with Levene’s threat assessment. Such dire warnings are uncommon in reports issued by government regulators.
   “We stand by all of our analysis on this matter,” said Bryan Lee, spokesman for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
A wide range of opinions regarding proposed LNG facilities have been expressed throughout New England, from Gouldsboro, Maine to Fields Point, in Providence, Rhode Island.
   In academia, Professor James A. Fay of MIT has reported on the dangers of LNG. However, Vigue of Cianbro says, “Dr. Fay’s research and his development is not based on fact. It is simply based on his personal opinion. Where are the specific facts, where’s the evidence that supports his contentions about LNG?
   “There are multiple liquification and gasification facilities throughout the entire world and there hasn’t been one incident.”
But what about the LNG facility explosion in January, 2004, in Algeria? Vigue responds that it had nothing to do with the nearby LNG facility, but was, in fact, a steam boiler explosion. He also adds that the boiler was not involved in any processing of LNG in Algeria. However, according to a spokesperson from Sonatrach, owner of the Algerian LNG facility, such reports are false, and the explosion was caused by a flammable cloud of escaped gas upon contact with a flame (Mobile Register, April 14, 2004).
   While some pursue scientific and political analysis, the gravity of concern surrounding LNG danger on the sea became more apparent September 20, 2004, when a fully-loaded LNG tanker went adrift off the coast of Norway. Fearing a potential explosion might impact 800 people residing on the island of Fedje, two tugboats were dispatched to tow the tanker to safety.
   While LNG is reported to be a safe fuel, it still requires safety zones for its transport on 900-1,000-foot tankers, and the exclusion of seafloor could hurt the livelihood of fishermen. At the Gouldsboro fishermen’s meeting Vigue said, “I believe that there’s a significant potential impact on [the] fishing community.” The fishermen felt that way, too, and, with LNG opposition signs waving and hands clapping, they let the Cianbro-Nale team know they did not approve of an LNG project in their community. And, Vigue responded, “We’re not gonna pursue it.” Mark Nale also said, “As far as Gouldsboro, we wouldn’t consider it again, unless the town citizens wanted us to.”