PM Application Incomplete for DCP Propane Tank
Nearby Towns Take a Stand on Proposed Searsport
Serious concern over DCP Midstream's proposal to build
a 23-million-gallon liquid propane tank at Mack Point in Searsport, and
with the state and federal review process of the proposal to date, has
begun to solidify in the region as Searsport's Planning Board begins
its review and towns in the region realize that the last opportunity
for a thorough review of the project rests with that board. It would be
the largest such tank in the country.
Islesboro recently raised the alert to area towns
about the proposed development, making the case that the impact is
regional and that Searsport should not review the permit to build
without significant input from area towns. Of particular concern to
Islesboro is the impact on emergency management mutual aid efforts in
the face of an industrial emergency at Mack Point. Islesboro's Select
Board sent a letter to the Town of Searsport and also requested other
towns that would be impacted by the tank do the same.
"No single municipality in Waldo County or the region
has the infrastructure in fire safety, emergency response, police or
hospital facilities to cope with a catastrophic incident at the
proposed DCP Midstream facility," stated the letter from Islesboro's
Select Board to the Searsport Planning Board. "In the event of any
emergency at the proposed LPG facility, Searsport will need the support
of other communities in Waldo County and the midcoast region for fire,
police and medical services, pursuant to the Waldo County emergency
response mutual-aid agreement. Indeed, in representing that Searsport
had the ability to respond to the fire safety and security challenges
posed by this facility to the Army Corps of Engineers, emergency
response officials in Searsport expressly relied on their ability to
use the mutual-aid agreements throughout Waldo County to respond to any
such emergency - thus acknowledging that without utilizing the
resources of other municipalities in the region, Searsport lacks the
personnel or equipment needed to handle any catastrophic incident at
Mack Point." Islesboro's letter went on to specifically outline many
other regional issues that it said must be considered and addressed
prior to approval of any permit for the LPG facility.
Four other towns have now also sent letters to
Belfast's City Council and the select boards in
Camden, North Haven and Stockton Springs decided to send letters of
concern to the Searsport Planning Board, asking them to do a more
thorough assessment of the regional impacts of the proposed development.
Camden's Select Board had a split vote, 3-2, with
Martin Cates and John French opposed to getting involved. The letter
sent by Camden's Select Board to Searsport outlines concern about the
impact of increased truck traffic, boat and tanker traffic, the impacts
on tourism, and emergency response capability.
Stockton Springs' Select Board expressed similar
concerns and voted unanimously, 5-0, to go on record as seeking an
independent economic impact study of the proposed development.
DCP Midstream hired economist Charlie Colgan of the
University of Southern Maine Muskie School to conduct an economic
impact study earlier this year, but some have taken issue with his
comparisons that tend to focus on larger municipalities with more
diverse economies, rather than rural towns that are heavily invested in
scenery and tourism dollars.
Stockton Springs expressed concern about the scenic
impact of the development on the value of coastal real estate and the
safety impact of propane cargo transported by rail on tracks that run
through Stockton Springs. The town has eight railroad crossings, and
the most populated part of the town is near the tracks.
DCP Midstream has no immediate plans to use railroad
to ship cargo, but the availability of the rail line is one of the
reasons they found the Searsport site attractive, according to company
spokesperson Roz Elliott.
North Haven's concerns were more pointed; they hope
the Searsport Planning Board will reject the proposed development. The
North Haven Select Board voted unanimously, 5-0, to endorse the points
raised by Islesboro. Of particular concern to North Haven are any
potential impacts on the state ferry. The North Haven Select Board's
letter states: "As residents of an island, we view the maintenance of
our 'highway' to the mainland, the Maine State Ferry Service, as of
paramount importance. Tanker traffic and possible tanker accidents loom
as threats to the ferry service."
Belfast's City Council went further; they unanimously
approved sending a letter to the Searsport Planning Board asking it to
"recognize the many logical regional concerns that have been raised"
and asking Searsport to grant Belfast "the right to participate in your
permit review process." Belfast City Council noted that there is a
history of cooperation between Searsport and Belfast on issues of
economic development, public safety and regional traffic concerns.
Belfast city councilors also took strong issue with
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to not hold a public hearing
and to not require a thorough environmental impact study of the
project, as Belfast had requested in February.
In its letter to Searsport, Belfast City Council said,
"The need here is for transparency in the details of this project.
There is also a need for the external communication of objective
information by independent reviewers to all persons reasonably likely
to be affected by this project."
by Christine Parrish
The application to build a 23-million-gallon
liquid propane tank at Mack Point in Searsport was deemed incomplete by
the Searsport Planning Board on Monday night, June 11.
The main glitch in accepting the application was the
lack of a Maine Fuel Board permit. DCP Midstream, the developer, has up
to 60 days to provide the planning board with the permit, which hinges
on a fire safety analysis. The planning board also required DCP to
recalculate application fees and place $53,000 in escrow to be used by
the town to hire independent consultants.
Once those items are in place, the review of the
application can begin and a public meeting will be scheduled.
3-D Model, Simulation, Balloon Test Required:
In addition to the complete application, the planning
board asked the developer to provide a computer simulation of the
built-out site and a balloon test that would show the true height of
the tank at the building site.
DCP Midstream representatives present at the meeting
balked at creating a model, a simulation, or a balloon test, saying
they would not provide the planning board with any additional
information that was not already provided in two dimensions in the
application and that it was an unnecessary expense for the company,
would take unnecessary time and was not required for the completeness
of the application.
"I thought the applicant had already agreed to do
this," said Kristin Collins, the attorney representing the town on the
DCP project. Collins was referring to a scale model that the company
had offered to provide months ago. "Architects do this all the time.
They take their own photos and do it."
Bruce Probert, the planning board chairman, said the
public wanted those views and that the planning board also wanted a
better sense of the visual impact of the development.
Probert said the balloon test would allow the public
an opportunity to see how high the tank would be at the actual site of
the development, with the top of the tank indicated by the top of the
The balloon test is scheduled to be held at dawn on
Thursday, June 21, if the weather cooperates. June 22 is the back-up
date. Five pictures will be taken of the balloon from different
locations. A suggestion was made to wait until after the public hearing
to schedule the balloon test, so the public could be involved, but DCP
resisted, saying it was too difficult to schedule the equipment for the
test to be on site.
The planning board approved the June dates.
The planning board also required DCP to provide a
three-dimensional computer simulation of the built-out site with the
tank and other structures in place and the vegetation removed. The
simulation will include views from eight points, one of which will be
the Sears Island causeway, at a distance of 2,000 feet from the
Searsport Approves Hiring Three Consultants:
The planning board approved hiring three consultants:
one for a small traffic study of the impacts on the development on
Station Avenue, one for a town-wide economic impact study, and an
engineering peer review consultant to provide oversight during the
application review process.
#1) Traffic Study for Station Avenue
The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) has
approved an exit permit onto Route 1 for the development. Dave Allen,
the MDOT traffic engineer who oversees state roads in Searsport, said
the proposed development would not generate enough traffic to trigger
an MDOT traffic engineering study.
A minimum of 100 vehicle trips per hour, during the
peak travel hour at the proposed development, is the minimum to trigger
an MDOT traffic study, according to Allen.
The DCP development will have three trucks per hour
(six trips total). A tractor-trailer truck equals two cars in terms of
traffic counts, so the peak hour coming out of DCP Midstream's site
would be 12 trips, according to Allen.
Let's round it up to 15 trips a day, said Allen.
"Route 1 has tens of thousands of vehicles going down
it every day," said Allen. "No one is even going to notice these
Midstream estimates from 12 to a maximum of 66 vehicles a day, noting
that the application figure of 144 vehicles a day indicates the maximum
capacity, not the realistic use.
The town will hire a consultant to estimate the wear
and tear of the surface and subsurface of Station Avenue based on the
weight of the trucks.
#2) Economic Impact Consultant
The board concluded they needed an independent
economic impact assessment of the proposed development on several
items: town-wide property values, the tax burden for the next 5 to 10
years, the impact of tourism for the next 5 to 10 years, the cost of
municipal services for the next 5 to 10 years, and the impact on the
town if special tax incentives are provided to DCP Midstream. The town
has not offered tax incentives to the company.
A DCP spokesperson noted that they had already
commissioned an economic impact study from University of Southern Maine
economist Charlie Colgan.
The planning board said that any consultant they hire
could potentially use the Colgan study as a starting point; however,
during discussion, the town did not have sufficient information on
potential consultants to decide on whom to hire. They appeared to have
looked at one: Yellow Wood Associates of Vermont, but not thoroughly.
The planning board moved to require DCP to put aside
an initial $25,000 to pay for the economic assessment, but did not yet
name a consultant.
DCP representatives balked, saying it was a "really
high amount for this kind of study." Some members of the audience,
which had been waiting for hours for the public comment period to
begin, hissed at the comment.
The planning board unanimously approved the expense,
which will be paid for by DCP.
#3) Engineering Peer Review Consultant
Probert mentioned Neal Frangesh of LGA Engineering as
a potential consultant with sufficient expertise to oversee the
application review with the planning board.
Frangesh, an engineer who has done work for Exxon and
DCP Midstream, also supervised construction of an LNG barge in
Massachusetts. Probert said he did not think the work Frangesh had done
for DCP indicated a potential conflict of interest.
DCP representatives questioned why the board needed
oversight, noting it was not part of the application process and that
it made sense to narrow the consultant's scope, since DCP would be
paying for the consultant.
"I would like to have someone a whole lot smarter than
I am looking at this," said Probert in response.
DCP representatives questioned the applicability to
the town ordinances.
Collins broke in, reminding the DCP Midstream
representatives that while the town was happy to hear their concerns,
that it was up to the planning board to decide who to hire as
"The relevance to the ordinances is my job," she said.
"He'll be there as our expert. His scope is incredibly broad."
The planning board unanimously approved requiring
DCP Midstream to set aside an initial $25,000 for the peer review, but
did not decide on who to hire as a consultant.
Public Comments Began at 10:30 p.m.
The sixty or so people who came to the meeting at 7
p.m. had dwindled to half that by the time Probert declared the public
comment session open at 10:30 p.m. He said speakers should not exceed
three minutes and that comments would be heard until 11 p.m. Probert
then took off his watch and held it in his hand.
Without exception, speakers were brief. All wanted
more thorough investigation into the impacts of the proposed tank.
Kim Tucker, an attorney from Islesboro, took issue
with the narrow interpretation of town ordinances regarding the impacts
on transportation, and the assumption that town ordinances only allowed
the planning board to look at municipal roads. The ordinance included
more than just the wear and tear on roads, she said. It included
congestion, circulation and other impacts. She also noted that
transportation concerns include boat traffic, especially state ferry
traffic, and stressed that the development was a regional issue for
this and other reasons, including emergency response.
Islesboro presents a proposal for an all-hazards
risk assessment from none other than Richard Clarke
Islesboro, which has stepped up in encouraging other
communities to get involved in the DCP review process, also provided a
Archie Gillies, an Islesboro selectman, presented the
board with a proposal for an all-hazards risk assessment from Richard
Clarke - the same Richard Clarke who served as a security advisor for
three presidents of the United States. Clarke is now chairman of Good
Harbor Consulting, a security and risk assessment firm based near
Clarke's proposal is for his company to conduct, among
other things, a thorough assessment of the existing and future hazards,
including worst-case scenarios, related to the DCP development, and an
extensive review of the local and regional emergency response
capabilities should such an incident occur. Gillies encouraged the
Searsport Planning Board to consider hiring Clarke's firm.
Huge task, find help
Buddy Hall, the owner of Angler's Restaurant, stood up
near the end of the meeting. Angler's is located on Route 1 adjacent to
the proposed development. Hall thanked the planning board for their
work, but cautioned them, too.
"You have a huge task in front of you," said Hall.
"I'm at ground zero and I'm not going to get a do-over. I would ask for
you to find help, to find the right answers, so if it's built, it's
"Please do your due diligence and make the right
decision, whichever way it goes."