Tank opponents gather enough signatures to force moratorium vote in Searsport

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 08, 2011, at 3:57 p.m.

SEARSPORT, Maine — Should the town of Searsport place a six-month moratorium on all liquefied petroleum natural gas terminal projects?

Residents will have the chance to decide at the March annual town meeting, after the board of selectmen unanimously voted Tuesday night at a regular meeting to place that article on the warrant.

The request stems from the controversial propane gas terminal which Denver-based DCP Midstream would like to build in the Mack Point industrial zone. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection this fall approved the construction of a 138-foot tall tank there, which would be nearly three times taller than surrounding tanks.

Some midcoast residents concerned about safety, views and environmental impact have been working to halt the project.

“Moratoriums, by their design, are not stop lights,” Searsport Town Manager James Gillway said Thursday morning. “They’re yellow lights. They switch a project from green to yellow.”

He said that advocates of the ordinance, who gathered more than 200 signatures on a petition which was submitted to the town last week, argue that the town’s existing land use ordinances do not cover the propane terminal project.

DCP Midstream has not yet submitted an application for the project to the town of Searsport, he said.

If voters approve the ordinance in March, it would be retroactive to Nov. 23, Gillway said.

“If an application comes in before now and town meeting, it can be acted on. It can be worked on. It can be approved. But it would be put on hold while a committee works on the ordinances,” he said.

At the meeting, town officials responded to questions about whether DCP Midstream has offered to give Searsport equipment such as fire trucks, according to Gillway. It has not, they said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/12/08/news/midcoast/tank-opponents-gather-enough-signatures-to-force-moratorium-vote-in-searsport/ printed on December 8, 2011