Mar 31, 2013

Penobscot Bay Report Podcast 3/30/13. Leaded loons, windpower reform

Click here for the 35 minute podcast of the March 30, 2013 Penobscot Bay Report on WRFR Community Radio, Rockland Maine. 
* Latest prices from Portland Fish Exchange auctions
* 43 second audio of a NOAA ship plowing through the Bay.
* Two public hearings of the Maine legislature: 
(1) LD 730 An Act to ban lead sinkers to protect Maine loons.
(2) LD 247 "An Act To Amend the Law Governing Appeals of Final Agency Action on Applications Concerning Wind Energy Development"
Details  on these hearings below the picture
(1) LD 730 An Act to ban lead sinkers to protect Maine loons. Recorded speakers include:
Senator Haskell sponsor of the bill 
Mark Pocras, veterinarian involved in loon /lead studies 
Ginger Jordan Hillyer, Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine coalition, 
formerly DEP's human toxics expert.

(2) LD 247 "An Act To Amend the Law Governing Appeals of Final Agency Action on Applications Concerning Wind Energy Development"  Recorded speakersSponsor:Senator Linda Valentino
Supporter: Mark Bergeron, MDEP director Land Resource Regulation 
Opponent: Jeremy Payne Maine Renewable Energy Association 
Opponent: Ben Gilman, Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

Mar 30, 2013

Searsport: DCP tank proposal unsafe, too noisy.

From: Waldo Village Soup, Belfast, Maine
Searsport tank deliberations of March 27 - 28  (More delibs  April 3rd and 4th)

Board finds tank proposal unsafe, too noisy

By Tanya Mitchell and Ben Holbrook | Mar 29, 2013ervices
SEARSPORT — In the first night of Planning Board deliberations aimed at deciding whether to deny or approve an application for a 22.7 million gallon liquefied petroleum gas storage tank at Mack Point, the proposed project hit a snag.
Just before the Searsport Planning Board wrapped up its deliberations Wednesday night, March 27, the board took two votes in relation to how the proposal from Colorado-based DCP Midstream fits the town Land Use Ordinance, the board made two unanimous decisions — one stating the buildings and structures proposed for the industrial zone were permitted uses under the ordinance, but that portions of the project proposed for the neighboring commercial district were not.
Thanks But No Tank attorney Steve Hinchman addresses the Searsport Planning Board Wednesday night, March 27. At right is Anglers Restaurant attorney Ed Bearor.
Members of the audience appeared stunned by the finding — Searsport resident David Italiaander was one of them.
"They just voted this down," he said.
But earlier in the deliberations, Searsport Planning Board attorney Kristin Collins said even if the board finds reason to deny the application at any point in the process, the board must still complete the entire deliberation process.
"It could be overturned," said Collins.
Planning Board Member Lee Ann Horowitz expressed concern that the board may not be qualified to make a decision on such an involved proposal that has included briefs and testimony from attorneys for the applicant and project opponents, all of which offer the board very different interpretations of the project as it relates to town ordinances.
"I think this is way out of our league," Horowitz said. Horowitz went on to be the one vote against the motion stating the board has jurisdiction to consider the project.
"This is going to get challenged further," said Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert.
"You've got to take a stab at it so someone else can tell us we're wrong," said Collins.
After the board votes on the rest of the standards set forth in the town’s land use ordinance, the board will move on to consider the merits of the project based on specifications in the site planning and shoreland zoning ordinances, Probert said. The final decision to either approve or deny the application will be made based on the consideration of those ordinances as well as the 18 performance standards the board must consider as they relate to the proposal, which address every aspect of the project from its impacts on air quality, and preserving and enhancing the landscape to lighting and visual buffering.
The first 90 minutes of the deliberations included oral arguments from interested parties, including James Kilbreth, attorney for DCP Midstream, Steve Hinchman, attorney for the opposition group Thanks But No Tank, Italiaander, who spoke about the market conditions for propane and suggested the project would likely be used as an export facility, and Ed Bearor, attorney for Anglers Restaurant.
March 28 deliberations
The meeting resumed Thursday, March 28, as planning board members resumed assessing whether the proposed LPG tank application meets the standards for the town’s land use ordinance.
Deliberations began with board members assessing whether DCP’s tank application met the standards for minimum lot size for commercial and industrial zones, property set back lines and road frontage. Board members voted 5-0 that those standards were met.
However, board members raised concerns with a number of the other standards including whether the project is in conformity with the town’s comprehensive plan.
Board member Mark Bradstreet questioned whether two votes could be taken on the issue: one vote for whether the project meets the standard for complying with the comprehensive plan in the commercial zone and a separate vote for whether it meets the standard in the industrial zone.
The motion to vote on each zone separately was approved before a motion was made that the application does not meet the standard for the commercial zone. Board members noted the fact that there are industrial uses — administrative office building, access road, fire water tank and pump— sited within the commercial zone.
A motion stating the application did not comply with the town’s comprehensive plan for the commercial zone was approved by a vote of 5-0.
The motion that the project does comply with the town’s comprehensive plan within the industrial zone was approved by a vote of 5-0.
Two issues were raised under performance standards regarding vibration and noise.
Under the land use ordinance, with the exception of vibration occurring during the construction or demolition of a building, the vibration will not be transmitted outside the lot where it originates.
As discussion began regarding whether there would be an issue of vibration being transmitted off of the property, board members questioned how to assess any potential impact. Without a study from the town, board members said they would have to rely on DCP’s application, which states there will be no vibration transmitted outside the lot, in order to rule on whether the application meets the standard.
The board eventually voted 5-0 that the standard was met before tackling the issue of “offensive noise.”
The land use ordinance states that no offensive noise will be transmitted beyond lot lines that would cause an unreasonable disturbance to neighboring residential properties.
That issue of “unreasonable” noise was questioned by board members who asked how to define what “unreasonable” would mean.
Collins explained that unreasonable noise could be considered noise that would result in complaints from neighbors; at which point Bradstreet pointed out that trucks waiting in the queue line at the facility could disturb neighbors.
Board member Brian Callahan made a motion that the application did not meet the noise standard, citing the fact he did not feel there was adequate buffering, especially where trucks would queue up, to mitigate noise.
He suggested the most effective barrier to mitigate noise would be to build a fence similar to the ones used on highways to reduce vehicle noise to nearby neighborhoods. However, Callahan was not in favor of such a fence saying they “look like hell.”
Board member George Kerper and Probert added that there were other noise issues to consider with the project in regards to use of the flare and whether the facility doors would be open in the summer, which could generate additional noise. It was also noted that weather conditions, like wind, could carry noise to nearby residences.
The board eventually passed a motion that the noise standard was not met based on concerns regarding truck noise, the flare, noise from the facility, weather conditions and the fact that a buffer cannot be put across the facility access road to mitigate any noise.
That motion passed by a vote of 5-0.
The final portion of the application the Board found objectionable Thursday was whether the project would result in unsafe or unhealthful conditions. Safety has consistently been an issue raised by board members and the general public throughout the course of the public hearings held in regards to the project.
While Bradstreet acknowledged the application meets the technical standards of the land use ordinance, he said the project is unsafe because it is too close to residences.
Probert agreed and said he was concerned with the blast zone radius if the tank were to ignite and that while the risk was low of a catastrophic event occurring the “consequence is tremendously high.”
Board members approved a motion that the application does not meet the standard for not creating unsafe and unhealthful conditions by a vote of 5-0.
Following the meeting, DCP spokeswoman Roz Elliott said in an email to The Republican Journal said that the company is “disappointed” by the board’s initial rulings, but will wait for the deliberations to conclude.
“We will await the remainder of the deliberations and then evaluate our options,” Elliott said in the email.
Members of the opposition group “Thanks, But No Tank,” were pleased with the outcome of Thursday night’s deliberations stating in a press release “unlike questions of zoning, nothing can be done at any town meeting (or anywhere else) that can change these findings on noise and safe and unhealthful standards. This is all good news, in fact virtually unthinkable at the beginning of the week.”
The planning board deliberations will continue Wednesday, April 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Union Hall in Searsport.

Mar 28, 2013

Searsport planning board votes against tank in first decision of long deliberation proces

Posted March 27, 2013, at 10:30 p.m. Bangor Daily News

SEARSPORT, Maine — An audience of about 100 people in Searsport’s Union Hall Wednesday evening listened closely as the town’s planning board began its deliberations on the controversial liquid propane gas project proposed for the Mack Point industrial zone.
DCP's lawyers,  glum for a change.
Flying knitting needles slowed and residents leaned closer to the board members as they voted at about 9 p.m. on the very first motion put forward in regard to the land use ordinance — that the buildings that would be erected in the town’s commercial district are not permitted in the zone for which they are proposed.
And in a unanimous show of hands, the five members of the Searsport Planning Board members voted in favor of that motion.
“They just voted this down,” a stunned David Italiaander, an opponent who has interested party status, whispered after the board made its vote. “They just denied the permit. I could dance, but [the board] said no demonstrations.”
Italiaander’s words, though likely very premature, were echoed by many of the project opponents in the room. Longtime Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert said after the meeting was adjourned that the board members will “revisit all of it.” After the board members go through and vote on the remainder of the town’s land use ordinances in relation to the propane tank and terminal proposal, they will then go through the site planning and shoreland zoning ordinances. The ultimate decision will be made based on the 18 performance standards laid out in the town ordinance. Those standards touch on air quality, soil erosion, water pollution,exterior lighting and preserving and enhancing the landscape, among other points.
Efforts after the meeting to speak with representatives from DCP Midstream, the company which has proposed building a $40-million, 14-story-tall propane gas terminal and storage tank, were unsuccessful. The project has received permits from agencies including the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It awaits only the decision from the all-volunteer Searsport planning board, whose members have heard hours and hours of testimony and been reading thousands of pages of briefs and written comments in preparation for the deliberations.
Probert said last weekend that the planning board will meet on several more occasions before making a final decision, with the next meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Union Hall. He expects the final decision to be made this spring.
“It’s all part of the process,” he said.
Planning Board alternate Lee-Ann Horowitz said at the very beginning of the board’s deliberations that she believes the board is not the right governing body to make a decision. She was the sole member to vote against Searsport having jurisdiction in the matter.
“I think this whole procedure should be dealt with in another venue completely,” she said. “It’s way out of our league.”
Kristin Collins, the planning board’s attorney, said that they had to try.
“We have to take a stab at it, so someone can tell us we’re wrong,” she said.
The first portion of Wednesday night’s meeting was taken up by final arguments from the interested parties, including DCP Midstream; Italiaander; Ed Bearor, the attorney for the owner of Angler’s Restaurant; and Steve Hinchman, attorney for opposition group Thanks But No Tank.

Mar 26, 2013

Belfast City Council writes to Army Corp of Engineers: Prepare EIS on DCP tank plan

From Belfast Republican Journal/Waldo Village Soup

Belfast requesting Environmental Impact Study for Searsport LPG  tank project    By Ben Holbrook | Mar 26, 201

BELFAST — The Belfast City Council is sending a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers requesting an Environmental Impact Study be conducted in regard to the proposed construction of a 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tank and terminal in Searsport.

Councilor Eric Sanders requested the issue of the Environmental Impact Study be included on the agenda for the Tuesday, March 19, meeting, citing a desire to express to the Army Corps of Engineers how important the study is to residents. Prior to discussion about submitting the letter, residents voiced their concerns about the LPG tank during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Belfast resident Carrie Slocum said she is concerned the facility, which officials of DCP Midstream, the Colorado-based firm that has proposed the tank, have said will be for importing LPG, will actually be used as an export facility. Searsport resident Ken Agabian agreed with Slocum’s concerns, citing financial reports from DCP Midstream’s partner companies discussing the conversion of import facilities to export facilities.
“I believe strongly that this will never be an import facility,” Agabian said.
Christopher Hyke, also of Belfast, said he felt that many of the state’s politicians didn't want to get involved with the project, and that the city should push for more congressional delegates to ask for the study to be completed. Belfast resident Peter Wilkinson was the final speaker discussing the tank, and he said he vouched for the comments of the previous speakers and encouraged the Council to stay involved in the project.
“The biggest lie of all, folks, is that this is not a regional issue,” he said.
The Islesboro Islands Trust and Thanks But No Tank (TBNT) have filed a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue the Army Corps of Engineers for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act, according to a press release from TBNT.
The notice requests that the Army Corps of Engineers withdraw its Environmental Assessment and Clean Water Act permits and reassess the project with new information that primarily relates to whether the facility will be used for importing or exporting LPG, according to the press release
During Council discussion regarding sending the letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, Councilor Mike Hurley, who acknowledged he isn’t “an ardent opponent of this tank,” said he sent a letter to the Searsport Planning Board asking what the benefits of approving the project are for the town.
Hurley said he supported the Council's sending a letter requesting the Environmental Impact Study, but he did not want to become too involved in the project.
Councilor Nancy Hamilton questioned the logic of transporting LPG to Maine, only to ship it to another location. During a final public comment session at the end of the meeting, Hyke and Wilkinson again addressed the issue of exporting LPG. Addressing Hamilton, Hyke said DCP Midstream could add more pipelines, which would allow it to export its product.
Wilkinson stressed that he believed importing propane would not be profitable enough for the company, and that is why he believes the facility will be used for exporting LPG.
The request to send a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers asking for an Environmental Impact Study was approved unanimously.
Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at

Mar 21, 2013

TBNT & IIT file notice of intent to sue Army Corps over its DCP approvals.

SEARSPORT. On Wednesday, March 20th,  Thanks But No Tank (TBNT) and  Islesboro Islands Trust (IIT)  filed a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA). 
DCP's proposed megatank site: forest in center foreground

These violations occurred when the Corps issued the May 2012 Environmental Assessment (EA) and CWA Section 404 permit for a 22.7 million gallon liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) marine import terminal, storage and distribution facility proposed by DCP Searsport LLC.
The Notice requests that the Corps immediately withdraw the 2012 EA and CWA permit and reassess the project in light of significant new information that has surfaced since the EA was issued.  As explained below, this new information demonstrates several important points, including:
  • there is no need for a marine terminal to import foreign LPG;
  • more cost-effective and less environmentally damaging practicable alternatives are available to meet Maine’s energy needs; and
  • the Corps failed to consider the grave consequences for Penobscot Bay if the Searsport terminal is used to export LPG.
While releasing the Intent to Sue, IIT Executive Director Steve Miller declared: “By constraining the Corps’ EA to support the DCP terminal project and by arbitrarily excluding other viable solutions, the Corps failed its duty to provide federal, state and local decision-makers and the public with the information necessary to properly weigh the potential economic and environmental costs and benefits of the proposed action. Accordingly, the Corps must withdraw the 2012 EA and wholly re-do its analysis.”
Steve Hinchman, project attorney, added, “Recent events and new information demonstrate that the EA is wrong, out-of-date, and unreliable, and must be supplemented…There is no need for a new marine LPG terminal to import foreign LPG into Maine or anywhere on the East Coast.  New information demonstrates that other fuels and energy sources are practicable and reasonable alternatives to increased propane use.”
According to the legal filing, NEPA states that the Corps must withdraw the 2012 EA and initiate a supplemental analysis. Similarly, under the CWA, the Corps must withdraw the 2012 permit to fill wetlands under their jurisdiction and fully evaluate if there are less environmentally damaging alternatives that would supply the Maine energy market and/or to provide new export terminals for domestic LPG.
As Tara Hollander, TBNT Steering Committee, pointed out, “No company–including DCP–is using the marine import facilities that exist today to bring in foreign LPG. In fact, there is a glut of domestic LPG which costs at least a dollar less than imported LPG.”
Further background: The filing submitted by IIT and TBNT’s legal team methodically outlines repeated Corps failures in its review of the DCP terminal project under the required NEPA and CWA statutes:
  • The EA fails to take a “hard look” at Maine’s LPG infrastructure, market trends and reasonable alternatives. The Corps failed to consider the current state of Maine’s existing LPG supply chain and infrastructure. And, they illegally excluded from the analysis any consideration of the ongoing and fundamental transformation of the Maine and global LPG and energy markets due to changes in production and supply. NEPA requires a “hard look” when a proposed action will affect the quality of the human environment in a significant manner or to a significant extent.
  • The Corps limited the overall project purpose of the EA to the marine import of foreign-sourced LPG. Despite extensive public comment that, because of the ongoing boom in domestic gas production, Maine has no need for a marine LPG import terminal, the Corps applied a presumption to assume–without independent evaluation or verification–that the DCP project was viable and needed in the marketplace. The Corps excluded from review any consideration of non-marine (i.e. rail or truck) terminals, alternative sources of LPG, alternative fuels, such as natural gas and compressed natural gas and alternative energy sources such as biomass and solar.
  • The Corps’ permit relied on unsubstantiated emergency response claims and failed to adequately consider potentially devastating human and environmental risks.
  • The Corps failed to acknowledge the impacts of the dredging which the proposed LPG facility would require–dredging close to one million cubic yards of sediment from the Mack Point vicinity.
  • The EA failed to consider the potential use of the Searsport facility as an LPG export terminal. Under NEPA regulations, the Corps must consider direct, indirect and cumulative effects of a proposed action, including “reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes such other actions.”
The entire 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue can be downloaded here.  Additional documents pertaining to the Army Corps of Engineers can be found on our Army Corps Docs page.

Maine seaweed harvesting bill Legislature hears for and against

Audio of speakers.On March 20, 2013, the Maine legislature's Marine Resources Committee heard three and a half hours of testimony on LD 585 An Act To Require the Development of a Statewide Approach to Seaweed Management. 
Summary: "This bill...directs the Commissioner of Marine Resources to develop a fisheries management plan for a consistent approach to the management of seaweed harvesting throughout the State and to report to the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources no later than January 31, 2014."

Audio recordings of  speakers at the LD 585 hearing (mp3s). 
See misspelled names? Send corrections to
Rep Catherine Cassidy 5min 14sec
Dennis Damon 14minutes
Jeff Romano, MCHT  3min30sec
Jeff Erhart 6min 40sec
Brian Beal UMaine 12min 31sec
Bimbo Look 5min 32sec
Robert Morse 8min 22sec
Max Vinal 1min 15sec
Doug Wood 12min 38sec
Nancy Prentiss  13min 28sec
Ivy Frignoca CLF 5min 10sec
Sonny Beal 3min 32sec
John Huff 1min 50sec
Tom Boutureira 10min 3sec
Karen Robbins 2min 55sec
Carl Ross 9min 45sec
Betsy Brown 3min 2sec
Robin Hadlock Seeley 17min 22sec
Susan Denizi 5min
Pete Bixler 2min 56sec
David Myslawoski 7min 43sec
Larch Hansen 8min 2sec
Sebastian Belle MAA 1min 48sec
Tolof Olson 3min 37sec
Sara Rudman Seagrant to End 2min 16sec


Mar 14, 2013

Islesboro Selectmen to Army Corps: Do EIS on DCP.02

Might Searsport LPG Facility Export Instead of Import?
Islesboro Selectmen ask Army Corps to Do Full EIS

Islesboro, Maine- At their regular meeting Wednesday March 13th, the Islesboro Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to send a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) and press them-for the second time in a year-to undertake a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Liquified Propane Gas (LPG) marine import facility proposed at Searsport. New information available about the rapidly changing propane market-and diminishing demand for LPG-presents a significantly different picture from that of a year ago regarding the safety and environmental impacts of the proposed project on the Penobscot Bay and the entire Midcoast region.

"There is no need for a new LPG import facility when existing U.S. marine LPG terminals are converting to export, " declared Islesboro Selectmen Chair, Craig Olson. "For this and other reasons, the Islesboro Board of Selectmen urges the ACoE to withdraw its earlier Environmental Assessment and take a hard, fresh look at the proposed LPG marine import project as part of a full Environmental Impact Study analysis."

In the last year, the production of U.S. domestic propane increased at a staggering rate. In the words of gas industry spokesperson Stephen Wilson ( 2/14/2013), "We are seeing a game-changer because of this era of shale gas." The dramatic increase has reduced propane prices in Maine and the U.S. to record lows and is so extensive that the U.S. is now exporting, not importing, LPG.

Two Maine LPG projects in late 2012 increased the state's propane capacity and infrastructure by 43% from domestic sources, without detrimental environmental impact or the need for NEPA review. According to the Richard A. Clarke Good Harbor Risk Assessment, "gas export would completely alter the risks posed by gas development at Searsport," creating exponentially more propane traffic on roads, rails and ships plying Penobscot Bay.

"Numerous cost effective and environmentally preferable alternatives to importation of foreign propane already exist or are underway to provide energy sources where needed," noted Islesboro Islands Trust's Steve Miller. These alternatives include the following: expanded and new rail LPG terminals, new LPG storage facilities, expansion of natural gas pipeline service in direct competition with propane, use of renewable solar and biomass, increased use of weatherization and efficiency to reduce energy consumption and development of wind power.

The Islesboro Board of Selectmen shared a copy of the letter with the U.S. Congressional delegation from Maine and all Towns in the Penobscot Bay region. They await a response from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Islesboro Islands Trust is a non-profit land trust serving the community of Islesboro and the Penobscot Bay region of Maine. IIT's mission is to enhance the quality of residents' lives through the preservation of open space, educate all residents as to the value of the islands' natural ecosystems, and act as an environmental advocate on behalf of Islesboro and the surrounding Penobscot Bay region.
For more information, email or call:
Steve Miller, Executive Director, Islesboro Islands Trust,; or
Arch Gillies, Islesboro Board of Selectmen, 207-734-6452

Mar 11, 2013

Maine legislature votes to merge MEMA with Homeland Security, check dams less often

LD 326 An Act To Update the Maine Emergency Management Laws changes the role of the Maine Emergency Management Agency  by linking its Homeland State Security efforts with the federal Departmernt of Homeland Security.  Listen to the public hearing and the work session below.

It had a public hearing on March 4th,  and  was "approved as amended" at its work session on March 11th by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Curiously, LD 326 strengthens response to terror actions but reduces natural disaster prevention If LD 326 is signed into law, County Emergency Management directors, like Waldo County EMA's Dale Rowley, would be deputized into the Department of Homeland Security and given terror-fighting authority - in effect a license to imprison and as necessary kill Mainers and people from Away, if directed by Homeland Security officials that the Maine Homeland requires their immediate removal.  Maine "emergency management forces" will  have immunity from liability for their actions during that emergency according to the bill.

LD 326 relaxes oversight of dams. It changes  dam hazard evaluations  from every 6 years to  every 12 years It changes the  inspections of  high and significant hazard dams from at least once every 4 years to at least once every 6 years.

AUDIO at the public hearing on the bill: Waldo County Emergency  Management director  Dale Rowley  testified in support (mp3)  (3 minutes; only recorded the last few minutes of his testimony at end of hearing). 
AUDIO of the bill's work session was 3 min 43 seconds listen here.

Written testimony was also given by Robert McAleer, head of MEMA. The bill was approved as amended.

Bill Summary 
1. Amends the Maine Emergency Management Act to include in its purposes coordination of homeland security;
2. Enacts definitions of "homeland security" and "terrorism";
3. Adds to the duties of the Director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency certain planning and training and the maintenance of the State Emergency Operations Center. It also requires that public education programs include information about prevention of emergency situations;
4. Designates the Commissioner of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management as the Governor's homeland security advisor;
5. Changes the name of the Disaster Relief Fund to the Disaster Recovery Fund to more accurately reflect the fund's purpose to support long-term community disaster recovery;
6. Clarifies local and state emergency planning requirements and ensures current national standards are followed;
7. Provides that emergency management forces deployed under either the Emergency Management Assistance Compact and the International Emergency Management Assistance Compact are considered state employees for the purposes of immunity from liability and workers' compensation coverage. It specifies that a person holding a valid professional license in the State may be designated a member of the emergency management forces in that profession after verification of current license;
8. Consolidates in one subchapter language governing situation-specific operational plans and adds general language governing any agency-specific emergency plans;
9. Changes the general dam hazard evaluation requirement from at least once every 6 years to at least once every 12 years and changes the time frame for hazard evaluations from within 30 days of a request to within 60 days of a request; and
10. Changes the dam condition inspection frequency of high and significant hazard dams from at least once every 4 years to at least once every 6 years.

Mar 8, 2013

Maine mosquitoes face increased chem/bio attack if LD 292 passes

Maine's governor  will be able to declare a Mosquito State of  Emergency if a bill heard Thursday by the Maine legislature's Agriculture Conservation and Forestry committee passes.
MOFGA and other healthy Maine ecology interests spoke against the bill.

LD 292 Summary
"This bill authorizes the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to conduct appropriate mosquito-control activities in response to mosquito-borne disease public health threats. In addition, the bill authorizes municipalities to cooperate in controlling mosquitoes through the formation of mosquito-control districts. 
It establishes the Maine Mosquito Control Fund to provide funding for mosquito-control activities. Finally, the bill authorizes the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to declare a mosquito-borne disease public health threat"

Mar 7, 2013

Searsport: did "independent consultant Neal Frangesh have conflict of interest when advising town on DCP megatank?

In this 3/7/13  letter, activist Nancy Galland summarizes her findings about "independent consultant" Neal Frangesh's background and behavior advising the town of Searsport about DCP, which suggess he has a conflict of interest that marred his value to the town.  This was also published in the Republican Journal 3/6/13

The front page article last week on the final Searsport Planning Board public hearing for the DCP mega-tank was replete with quotes and detailed descriptions of the lively exchanges that night of Feb. 25. I was, however, puzzled by the omission of one very important testimony given early on in the public comment period. I am hoping this was simply an oversight, but “censorship by omission” is not uncommon. Admittedly, the issue has serious implications, and I hope this column will correct that omission.

I was about 10th in the lineup of about 50 who wanted to testify. What I had to say implicates “something rotten in Denmark,” as Shakespeare might say. There is a crack in what appears to be a democratic process. It is of utmost importance that people are aware of this endemic issue.

Here are excerpts from my testimony:

“In the beginning, DCP objected to the idea of the Board hiring an independent consultant. In response, Mr. Probert stated that he wanted someone who knew more than he did about these things to advise the Board. Then he chose Mr. Frangesh, who is an LPG/LNG industry consultant, who had no experience in advising municipal boards, and who has worked for DCP. Mr. Probert decided this was not a conflict of interest. “

I went on to point out that Mr. Frangesh had signed “a conflict of interest avoidance statement, promising that he won’t work for DCP until either (1) project completion (2) project termination or (3) 12/31/14. Clearly, he intends to go back to work for DCP.”

“During these hearings,” I continued, “more often than not, when Mr. Probert asked if there were any questions after testimonies were submitted, only silence could be heard from Mr. Frangesh. His silence frustrated some of the Board members; they weren’t getting what they needed from their consultant, he was too quiet. I have this on good authority.

"But why was the engineering consultant so silent throughout most of the hearings?

And why, when he did have something to say, was it invariably as an apologist for DCP?”

(In fact, when Mr.Frangesh gave his evaluation of the site plan that night, he sat at the DCP table, receiving advice from the DCP lawyers. He found no problems with the site plan. When a member of Thanks But No Tank began to cross-examine the consultant, Mr. Probert gaveled him down, telling him to submit his questions in writing. The public would hear neither these critical questions nor the responses.)

My testimony continued:

“Even though Mr. Frangesh was hired by the Planning Board as an independent consultant, the $25,000 for his services was paid to the town by DCP.

“This is an oxymoron: how independent can a person be when his paycheck comes from an interested party? And how independent can he be when he’s worked for DCP in the past and, as evidenced in his “avoidance” statement, he intends to do business with them in the future?

"To paraphrase E.B. White, “It’s hard to stand up to someone when you know he holds your next paycheck.”

"The Planning Board’s next step is to sequester themselves from all outside inputs while they examine the evidence. They can, however, call upon experts for clarifications or missing information. Neal Frangesh should not be among those experts. He is not independent, he has proven his prejudice consistently.

"I hearby call upon the Searsport Planning Board to dismiss Neal Frangesh on grounds of failing in his duty to perform adequately as an independent engineering consultant to the Planning Board on behalf of the citizens of Searsport. Mr. Frangesh has failed throughout these hearings in raising critical questions about the DCP Midstream proposal and in specific incidences, his only comments have been in defense of DCP’s interests. Thank you.”

For 10 nights of previous public hearings the Planning Board sat implacably, patiently, through up to four hours of testimonies from DCP representatives, intervenors from various organizations, and the general public. The “general public” was always last on the agenda, but the Planning Board’s frequent willingness to extend the time another half hour or so was appreciated: it felt like small-town democracy in action.

Even the most recalcitrant skeptics who believed the Planning Board had been “bought” by DCP were softening. This last night, however, shed a bright light on the underpinnings of undue influence. What are we to think when a key cross-examination is shut down, the voices of the public are silenced, and a clear conflict of interest is unveiled?

Nancy Galland is a resident of Stockton Springs who testified at a recent Searsport Planning Board hearing on the proposal for an LPG tank there.

Mar 3, 2013

Fishermens' Forum 2013. The Fisher-Mappers

When I got to  the Maine fishermen's forum Saturday afternoon the folks from the Northeast Regional Ocean Council's  Fisheries Mapping Project had just finished with their presentations and talks.  I talked to them about making a game, as you read below.

NROC is  a voluntary forum for New England states and federal agencies formed in 2005. It self describes as " a state and federal partnership that facilitates the New England states, federal agencies, regional organizations, and other interested regional groups in addressing ocean and coastal issues that benefit from a regional response, and focuses on  Ocean and Coastal Ecosystem Health , on Coastal Hazards Resilience and on Ocean Planning

 Fishers fish in different locations in different  seasons as the animals' behavior require, as weather and climate mandates, as markets expand and contract and as regulators tighten or loosen restrictions on the boats and crews. THe Fisheries Mapping Project was documenting the fishermens's travels upon the waters.

The hangers-on after the close of the NROC event include some fisheries leaders and fisheries consultants (George Lapointe, former Maine Marine Resources Commissioner was there, as "George Lapointe, Consultant" his name tag affirmed).  Also there,  the ones doing the actual mapping: members of  the marine-eco-data-nerd community that ,like George, had the fortune to be funded to map the movements of fishing boats catching and either releasing, incarcerating or slaying different vertebrates and invertebrates in different locations in different  seasons. 

What variables they pondered! An unstable climate, markets expanding and contracting like the bells of jellyfish and the regulatory tightening and loosing  of  restrictions on those boats, from scallopers to groundfishers. More!

In the meeting room, 3 foot by 4 foot bathymetric charts of the Gulf of Maine were laid on tables, with  fishermen with erasable pens leaning over them and  drawing lines correcting or crossing out the routes already on the map.  

I struck up a chat with ex Commissioner Lapointe, and the other consultants and academics there, and told them they need to assemble a Gulf of Maine computer game, punch in all the geo data of the Gulf's sea mounts deep canyons, etc  for the seascape, then  drape  animated biological and ecological data  atop that. 

Then, let the games begin! The players' avatars are limited  any of the hundreds of wild species that live or atop to f the GOM. One could be a swordfish soaring over Jeffrey's ledge, and ,running up upon another player whose avatar is a school of herring, wreak great mayhem! One could be a biofilm of co2-noshing marine bacteria, and ponder whether or not to reach a quorum to raise or lower atmospheric CO2 levels, and make those multicelled  two legger big shots  squirm for solutions.  You could be  a marine amoeba struggling to survive the savage forays of freshly hatched  and hungry cod larvae  - or be the cod larvae herself! Or a harp seal Or a humpback whale

But  mostly, it didn't compute. For alas, these info nerds at the NROC meeting  are still sorta  flat earthers. For them, marine data is to be shown as static slides, one after another after another.  Is it any wonder that today's kids aren't racing to get into ocean life conservation  - though their and all our lives depend on it?  

That's what I told them anyway and it may be a few of them actually "got it". I told them that if one of them wants  to get rich they will commission  and design such a game - being sure the wildlife  fights and gore is at suitably graphic levels, sufficiently bloody  to entertain today's young people. Sigh..If that's the only way to get the kids out into the wild world of the undersea Gulf of Maine, then, so be it!