Island town wants say in fate of propane tank project

Tim Sommer ties up a banner in opposition to a proposed 23-million gallon propane tank in Searsport in March 2012.
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Tim Sommer ties up a banner in opposition to a proposed 23-million gallon propane tank in Searsport in March 2012.
Posted May 31, 2012, at 3:29 p.m.
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David Graham (left) of DCP Midstream debates in January 2012 the aesthetics of his company's proposed propane terminal project with Peter Taber (right) of Searsport.
David Graham (left) of DCP Midstream debates in January 2012 the aesthetics of his company's proposed propane terminal project with Peter Taber (right) of Searsport. Buy Photo

ISLESBORO, Maine — The fate of a controversial, $40 million liquid propane terminal project now rests with the Searsport Planning Board, but elected officials from another midcoast community want a say, too.

“Any decision that affects the use of Penobscot Bay affects us all,” the Islesboro Board of Selectmen wrote the Searsport Planning Board in a letter dated Thursday. “The proposed DCP Midstream [liquid propane gas] tank and terminal will have an impact on the economy, environment, safety and security of the entire Midcoast Region.”

The letter was signed by select board members Craig Olson, Susan Schnur, Archibald Gillies, Sandra Oliver and Jay Zlotkowski.

The Searsport Planning Board recently began the review process for the project that would be located at the Mack Point industrial zone.

Longtime Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert said in mid-May that if the 700-page application meets certain criteria, the proposed 137-foot-tall, 23-million-gallon fuel tank is a permitted use for the industrial zone.

He said it’s good that Islesboro officials have put their concerns in writing.

“We will consider their letter. There will be a public hearing process, and an opportunity for people from out of town to speak,” Probert said Thursday morning.

He said that in the review process, the planning board will consider the 18 performance standards outlined in Searsport’s zoning ordinance. Board members also will need to consider their area of jurisdiction.

“We don’t have jurisdiction on the waterways,” he said.

Denver-based DCP Midstream already has secured state and federal permits for the project to go forward, including approvals from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Safety risks potentially posed by the industrial facility were high among the regional concerns outlined by the Islesboro Board of Selectmen.

“Waldo County is not equipped to deal with the impacts of an industrial facility of this nature,” read the letter’s attached list of concerns. “There are no career fire departments in Waldo County; all firefighters work on a volunteer or paid-call basis. There is only one hospital, which is located in the City of Belfast, and is not a Level 1 certified trauma facility.”

Other points raised include:

• Potential problems from tanker traffic from the propane terminal, such as a tanker fire, could affect every community along Penobscot Bay.

• The select board’s desire to have DCP Midstream be required to provide a scale model of the proposed facility in order to assess its effect on the surrounding towns.

• The desire to have DCP Midstream, a limited liability corporation, demonstrate that it could “fully and timely compensate Searsport and the surrounding communities for any emergency response costs, and damages to people and property, resulting from an incident at their proposed facility.”

“The Searsport Planning board decision could place a significant and profound burden on the quality of life and resources of every community in Waldo County, and the entire Penobscot Bay region,” the letter said. “Searsport owes a duty to all of those communities to consider the full breadth of the impacts that this proposed facility will have on its neighbors.”

In past interviews, DCP Midstream spokesperson Roz Elliott has said that safety is the company’s top value.

“This potential propane import terminal in Searsport, it’s not just an operation to us. It’s the home of our future employees,” she said.

The Searsport Planning Board will next meet at 7 p.m. Monday, June 4, at Union Hall, to go over the completeness of the application. The public will not have the chance to participate at this meeting, Probert said.

There will be an open-to-the-public session at the planning board’s regular Monday, June 11, meeting, held at 7 p.m. at Union Hall.

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  • hopperdredgbill Today 06:06 PM

    What do you know, the summer people have arrived on Isleboro, and heard news that their million dollar vacation homes may have to look at a working waterfront.

  • Of the 10 or so people facing Searsport from Islesboro, all they see now are huge fuel tanks. One more tank isn't going to matter. If someone wants a scenic view looking north in Penobscot Bay they look into Belfast Harbor or up the Penobscot River towards Bucksport. NOT SEARSPORT. If Islesboro is worried about public safety, keep a flare gun on hand in case you hear a fizzle coming from the Searsport direction...

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