DCP conduct raises concerns
A month ago The Journal wrote an editorial urging the Searsport Planning Board to take its time while reviewing the application by Colorado-based DCP Midstream for a 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas tank at Mack Point.
So far the Planning Board has done an excellent job wading through the 700-page application document and thoroughly vetting its contents. When it found the company lacked a permit from the state fuel board they voted that the application was incomplete.
The Board also allowed for public comment on the project at its last meeting, though it was limited to half an hour. It will also hold a public hearing on the application before voting on whether to approve the project.
The Planning Board's conduct, thus far, has been as professional and considerate of all opposing views as we could ask. The conduct from DCP Midstream has not.
Two things the company said at the Monday, June 11, meeting raised serious questions. The first was a statement by a DCP attorney during the public comment portion of the meeting.
After a different DCP lawyer was denied a request to respond to public comment, DCP attorney James Kilbreth, approached planning board chairman Bruce Probert and planning board attorney Kristin Collins and whispered, "You better shut this down." His words were caught on video during the meeting.
The their credit neither Collins nor Probert stopped the public comment period. Though the Board will have tighter restrictions on comments at future meetings.
DCP does not deny that exchange took place. A representative of DCP said the attorneys objected because they felt the statements made were not factual and some speakers did not have standing. However, the speakers had waited three and a half hours to say their piece, while DCP presented evidence to the board.
Though DCP felt what was being said was not true, its attempt to interrupt and "shut down" public comment is not conduct a respectful community partner displays. Everyone deserves an opportunity to have their concerns aired.
The other statement that DCP made that must be looked at more closely is its apparent unwillingness to fund the development of a 3D model of the project. In order for the community to really grasp the size and scale of the tank proposal a good model of what it would look once built is necessary.
To date, we've seen two representations, both of which carried biases in favor of the group that produced them.
A photo illustration created by DCP last year showed the tank as it might appear from the water downplaying its size.
A model produced by local opposition group Thanks But No Tank portrayed the tank in correct scale, but it left out the topography and surrounding foliage. The omission made the tank seem larger than it probably would if built.
Both DCP and Thanks but No Tank have an inherently desired outcome, which makes their respective photo illustrations and models suspect. A third-party presentation would be beneficial to everyone, particularly those who have not yet decided how they feel about the proposed tank.
This week DCP will float balloons over the project site to demonstrate the height and width of the tank; however, a 3-Dimensional model would better demonstrate the mass.
The 3-D model would likely cost an amount that equates to a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated total project cost of $40 million. However, DCP's representatives have labeled it cost prohibitive, even though they pledged on several occasions to eventually fund the model, a promise that came more recently after TBNT produced its own scale model last winter.
This raises questions about the company's future plans. A 3-D model would help all those involved understand the project better and the company is on record promising to provide it.
If they are willing to renege on that promise, what other promise could they go back on in the future?
DCP has said it wants to be a part of this community, to provide much needed jobs and increased economic activity. In order to do so it must live up to its promises by funding a 3-D model of the tank and fully accept and encourage engagement with the people it hopes become neighbors with by allowing unfettered public comment.