The fight against LNG is over and now a book is in the works
The 12-year-fight to prevent liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in Passamaquoddy Bay finally came to an end in August and plans are in the works for a book chronicling that battle.
Bob and Linda Godfrey of Eastport are two of the founding members of Save Passamaquoddy Bay (SPB) Three Nation Alliance who led the fight against any proposed LNG projects in the bay which, at one time, numbered three – Quoddy Bay LNG, Downeast LNG and Calais LNG.
The grassroots organization was made up of people surrounding Passamaquoddy Bay – U.S. citizens, members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Canadians.
Now the couple plans to work through SPB’s extensive archives and write a book about those experiences potentially titled “Being David: – s small grassroots group fought Goliath developers and won.”
The application for the final remaining proposal, from Downeast to build an LNG import/export terminal in Robbinston, Maine, was dismissed by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in August.
In June, Downeast had asked FERC to hold the pre-filing process in abeyance until Sept. 30 but SPB petitioned the commission to dismiss the company from permitting, pointing out it had been lingering in prefiling and formal filing for 10.5 years while achieving no permits.
A notice issued by FERC Aug. 17 said because of lack of progress, the commission was terminating the pre-filing review process for the import/export facility and dismissing the pending import project applications.
Finally, all three projects which SPB had fought against were no longer a threat but it was a long, hard fight – particularly for the Godfreys.
Bob, researcher and webmaster for SPB, was awarded the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s People’s Choice Award in 2014 “for his perseverance in protecting from LNG projects the beauty and heritage of Downeast Maine by leading the grassroots organization Save Passamaquoddy Bay”.
He created and regularly updated SPB’s website which included links to all relevant documents. Each day he researched the latest development in LNG technology worldwide and locally.
Earlier this year, in October, the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club, also presented him with an award for “leadership from a local grassroots group.”
During the battle to prevent LNG in the bay, he submitted hundreds of filings to FERC. From 2012 alone, 128 filings were submitted – roughly 2.25 a month – including the June 12 motion that resulted in FERC dismissing Downeast LNG from permitting.
“Over the 12 years, we have burned three computers, two printers and one fax machine. We need to replace a computer now,” he said.
Over lunch this week, the Godfreys recounted how this all began. Linda said she was driving home in 2004 when she heard on the radio that the citizens of Harpswell, Maine had voted against an LNG terminal in their community.
“The reporter interviewed a spokesperson from then Governor John Baldacci’s office and asked what will you do next? He said ‘There is always Washington County’”, recalled Linda.
“I thought, oh God, what is this thing and that was our first alert. We didn’t really know what it was but, later on, I happened to be staying in a motel in Belfast when they were holding their meeting, which was televised, and the whole thing was explained.”
The next step, she said, was a front page story in the Bangor Daily News announcing Quoddy Bay LNG was planning an LNG terminal at sacred Split Rock, at Sipayik/Pleasant Point.
“That was the first time 99 per cent of the tribal people had heard about this and they had no concept of what the initials LNG stood for,” said Linda.
In June 2004, a plane load of state officials and Quoddy Bay LNG arrived at a Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy (Sipayik) community meeting and proposed building a terminal on tribal land at Gleason Cove.
In July 2004 SPB was formed while tribal members formed Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon (We Take Care of the Land) opposing any LNG development in the bay.
Meetings were held in Eastport and at Pleasant Point but, as more information was gathered, it became clear such a development would affect everyone around Passamaquoddy Bay.
Opposition to LNG development continued to grow on both sides of the border and more than 1,000 people attended an LNG forum in Saint Andrews in August 2005.
A big part of the story, said Linda, was Vera Francis, now tribal chief and governor of Pleasant Point tribal government, a group of women leaders and David Moses Bridges who fought against Quoddy Bay LNG’s development.
Nulankeyutomonen Khihtahkomikumon brought lawsuits again the Bureau of Indian Affairs over the lack of a valid lease to the proposed site on tribal land and eventually won, establishing a precedent and, as a result, individual tribal members now have standing to sue the U.S. government.
This victory was celebrated at the 2008 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Natural Resources Council of Maine presented Francis with the 2010 People’s Choice Award.
During the fight against Quoddy Bay LNG, Linda said they learned about “zones of concern” which, said Bob, were a euphemism for “hazard zones” where something might happen if there was an accident, which was a real eye opener.
Among the list of things that would likely be required were siren systems, spotlights, gun boats, helicopters and citizens’ shelters.
“That was how we began to take this very seriously and realized we had to have some legal representation. We couldn’t find a lawyer in Maine who didn’t have a conflict or was willing to take this on. We finally found an environmental law firm in Vermont,” said Linda.
“Our goal, right from the beginning, was to be as professional as possible and to cause as few scars as possible because, when it ended, we would all still be here and the developers would be gone.”
It wasn’t easy opposing the developers as some people were keen to see the promised jobs and economic benefits. The Godfreys were threatened, had their tires slashed, had items vandalized and people would shout at them when they were downtown while others who opposed LNG suffered property damage.
The second developer was Downeast LNG, who entered the FERC pre-filing process in January 2006 with an application for an LNG import terminal and associated pipeline in Mill Cove, Robbinston, a state-defined scenic area sitting on a large, significant Passamaquoddy Tribe cultural and religious site.
The third developer was Calais LNG, who entered FERC pre-filing in 2008, proposing an LNG import terminal adjacent to the Devil’s Head conservation area near the village of Red Beach to be wholly owned by Indian Township Passamaquoddy tribal government.
“Everyone thought there was going to be 2000 jobs and some people bought plots of land where they were going to build houses for all these workers. A lot of people speculated on what was going to be their part of this thing,” said Linda.
On this side of the border, said Linda, former Saint Andrews mayor John Craig was a great supporter and the town donated money as well as presenting SPB with its Volunteer Group of the Year Award in January 2006.
In March 2006, Craig announced that all mayors of Canadian communities surrounding the bay had joined then Premier Bernard Lord, then NB Southwest MP Greg Thompson and then Prime Minister Stephen Harper to confirm that LNG ships were prohibited from Head Harbour Passage and Passamaquoddy Bay.
SPB released a study on the potential economic and fiscal impacts of LNG terminals in the whole of Passamaquoddy Bay (the “Whole Bay Study) in October 2006.
In October 2008 FERC dismissed Quoddy Bay LNG permitting from the federal process for failure to respond to technical questions which terminated the project.
The Calais LNG project met its downfall in April 2012 when FERC dismissed the company from federal permitting for failing to have financial capacity and for lacking a project site.
There have been a number of people and organizations who have supported SPB’s efforts including the Vermont Law School law clinic, who handled the NN lawsuit and provided pro bono legal services valued at about $900,000, as well as Kathy and Richard Berry of Robbinston who have led the effort to raise funds from the sale of 800 vintage herring scale baskets.
SPB sold 600 baskets and has partnered with the Natural Resources Council of Maine to sell the remaining 200. There are now only 81 left but, even if these are all sold, SPB still has a considerable debt.
Now Sarah and Paul Strickland of Robbinston have set up a Go Fund Me account (gofundme.com/save-passamaquoddy-bay) with the goal of raising $20,000 before Dec. 31 to pay off legal and other loan obligations and the Charles G. Wright Endowment for Humanity Inc. has announced it will match the first $10,000 raised.
Bob said they anticipate there will still be about $24,000 (Can) outstanding so they are sending information out to people asking for donations and are also hoping to receive some funds from SPB/Canada.
“We have never asked anybody for money. We have talked about having a Mission Impossible to Mission Accomplished tour visiting places like Campobello, Deer Island, Grand Manan and Saint Andrews,” said Linda.
“We would go to these places, have a little celebration and say it is over and there is a Go Fund Me website. We are only going to serve lemonade – because we have turned lemons into lemonade – and whoopee pies.”