Jan 7, 2013

Activists Form Circle to Create Monster DCP Tank Footprint in Snow

Activists Form Circle to Create 
                    Monster DCP Tank Footprint in Snow

Peter Taber*
Wild Maine Times 1/6/13

SEARSPORT -- Nearly 200 people from as far away as Gorham and Mount Desert Island showed up at Searsport's Mosman Park Saturday afternoon to take part in a regional educational exercise calculated to demonstrate the vast footprint that would be covered by a mammoth refrigerated tank for liquefied propane the Denver firm of DCP Midstream LLC has been openly fighting to build at nearby Mack Point for more than two years.

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Speakers at the open air forum  that followed included  two of Belfast's former poet laureates, Elizabeth Garber and Karin Spitfire, who spoke their verse created for this occasion.  

TV News Coverage
Penobscot Bay Watch Ron Huber announced the  recent fall from grace of DCP Midstream's combined CEO, President and Chairman Tom O'Connor and his replacement from within the company ranks as a hopeful sign. He spoke on the rise of  sympathetic opposition to the Megatank plan in DCP's Denver hometown by activists fighting Big Gas 's frack attack on Colorado, and expressed hope the change in DCP leadership would bring a reconsideration of its Searsport Megatank proposal.

Fifth generation Searsporter Harlan McLaughlin held forth on the need to resist, to prevent blots on the landscape and rips in the social fabric.

Singer-songwriters  Emilia Dahlen of Gorham  and George Skala of Stockton Springs and led the gathering in renditions of their creations, respectively, "Circle Round, Circle Round"  and "Stand and Deliver".
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Reflecting the regional nature of concern the proposed mega-tank project has aroused,  participants at Saturday's Searsport event came from Belfast, Castine, Freedom, Penobscott, Eddington, Frankfort, Morrill, Lincolnville, Northporth, Stockton Springs, Fryeburg, Swanville, Surrey, Orland, MDI, Deer Isle, Bucksport, Liberty, Searsmont, Camden, Monroe, Brooks, Knox and Waldoboro.

Standing under cold but sunny skies, participants from throughout the Penobscot Bay region and beyond joined hands and spread out evenly for more than 635 feet along the circumference of a circular depression cut the previous day in the snow at the shoreside public park. Their effort was to mark with their combined bodies the full extent of the outer walls of the tank DCP is striving against mounting opposition to erect just to the east at Mack Point near Route 1 homes and businesses and GAC, Inc., the largest chemical plant in Maine.
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Were it to be built, the mega-tank would be more than 200 feet in diameter, rise the height of a 14-story building and contain nearly 23 million gallons of propane maintained in its liquefied state only through a large and sophisticated refrigeration plant entirely dependent upon the power grid. It would be part of a terminal complex that would involve clearcutting some 25 acres of woodland and the construction of a mile-long cryogenic pipeline. The mega-tank itself would be the largest such structure in North America and possibly in the world.

"This is not 'just another tank' as the folks at DCP want us to believe," Harlan McLaughlin of Searsport, one of the speakers at Saturday's event, asserted. He pointed out that it would be almost three times higher than the largest conventional petroleum products tank in the tank farm complex at Mack Point and would have more than seven times the capacity. 
He and other participants also expressed fear that if built the mega-tank would be an unsightly blot on the landscape with the potential for catastrophic accident as well as being a particularly vulnerable and tempting target for terrorists. These negative factors combined, they said, would not only threaten the security of area residents but also drive down property values and deal a devastating blow to tourism, which is the economic lifeblood of the region.    

Critics of the project also reject DCP's claim the mammoth tank and associated marine terminal is necessary for Maine's energy independence. They cite the fact that less than one household in 20 uses propane as a primary heating fuel and that number has long been dwindling. Further, they doubt it would be an import facility, as the Denver company fronting for fossil fuel giants Duke Energy and Phillips 66 claims. Rather, they see the $50 million project as much more likely intended for export of the glut of domestic propane that has been realized in the past half dozen years as a result of new fracking and horizontal boring technology. They note that propane is currently selling in Europe for a dollar more a gallon than domestically.

McLaughlin remarked on the reason for the exercise, namely to demonstrate viscerally to all those looking on just how large the mega-tank would be. "There's no other real way to conceive of the hugeness of this monster," he said.

"I'm a hands-on kind of guy," McLaughlin added, gazing across the expanse of snow to distant participants on the other side. "I can read all these figures about this thing being 138 feet high and 202 feet wide but it doesn't really make sense how damn big it is until I can see it all marked out in the real world. That's no doubt why DCP keeps refusing to honor its promise to at least provide us with a 3D scale model. They say that's beyond their capability -- if you can believe that."

"I can't believe that at all," an obviously disgusted Peter Wilkinson of Belfast, one of the event organizers, rejoined. "They gave us a couple of dots on a four-foot projector screen to show us what this behemoth would look like and they said something about needing a lot of computer memory to adequately represent it on a computer. They've consistently under-represented this. Of course they could have done what we did -- anyone could have -- and it cost almost nothing. A pail of wooden stakes, a can of spray paint and a surveyor's tape -- well, I already had that last one. Of course, marking it out in Mosman Park like we did and letting people look at that was the last thing in the world they wanted to do."

Saturday's event was a reprise for Wilkinson and partner Maryjean Crowe, who organized a similar event on 48 hours short notice in Belfas
t on
Nov. 18th that drew some 250 people to form a massive tank-sized circle.

Members of Searsport's board of selectmen, its town manager and state representative and other municipal officials, as well as its planning board, which will resume permit hearings on DCP's application Wednesday, Jan. 16, were provided with written invitations to attend Saturday's educational event. There were no reports that any of them in fact did so

* Ron Huber edited this release by Peter Taber, post publication.

Wild Maine Times
Peter Taber, publisher
Searsport, Maine 04974

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