Waldo VillageSoup
http://waldo.villagesoup.com/p/470971

Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 8, 2011
Updated

Petition seeking LPG moratorium progresses to next step

Anti-tank movement goes 'viral'
By Tanya Mitchell | Dec 02, 2011
Photo by: Tanya Mitchell This diagram, which was shown as part of the Nov. 2 slide show presentation that was hosted by the local coalition known as "Thanks but no Tank" in Searsport, depicts the storage tank that Colorado-based DCP Midstream hopes to build at Mack Point.

Searsport — Searsport Town Office staff confirmed Tuesday, Nov. 29 that a petition seeking a six-month moratorium on all liquefied petroleum gas developments has been turned in and certified.

And while Searsport residents have been at work to bring the issue to voters at the March 2012 town meeting, people in neighboring towns and states are weighing in on the matter through another ongoing signature drive at signon.org.

Both actions are in response to a proposal from Colorado-based DCP Midstream, which centers around the construction of a 137-foot-tall propane storage tank at Mack Point.

The local petition, which started circulating Monday, Nov. 14, asks voters if they would support enacting a six-month moratorium on any LPG-related projects. The temporary stoppage on such developments, according to the draft language of the moratorium, is intended to buy the town time to re-examine its land use and site plan ordinances and its comprehensive plan.

Peter Taber of Searsport, who has been working with a coalition of local residents and businesspeople called "Thanks but no Tank," said Tuesday, Nov. 29 that the petition had gathered at least 223 signatures.

"And there were more drifting in," said Taber.

Taber said the petition was delivered to Searsport Town Office staff last Tuesday, Nov. 22, and that a few of the signatures were disallowed because the signers were not verified as Searsport voters and residents. Even so, Taber said the petition carried more than enough signatures to bring the issue before the board of selectmen.

"There was something like 11 signatures that were disallowed," said Taber. "We needed about 150 [signatures], but we had over 200 people who signed it."

The aim of the petition is to get an article on the warrant for the March 2012 annual town meeting that would seek voter approval to enact the moratorium. Taber said Tuesday that the process has now moved to the next step.

"The selectmen do have to take action on it," Taber said.

Board Vice Chairman Dick Desmarais said Wednesday morning, Nov. 30 that the agenda for the Dec. 6 meeting has yet to be posted, but that he "would be surprised" if the selectmen did not take up the petition in some shape or form.

"I don't know if it's going to be an agenda item or if it will be under open to the public," he said, adding that he expects the agenda for that meeting to be posted before the end of this week.

According to the draft, the moratorium would span 180 days and would be retroactive to Nov. 23. It would then expire May 20, 2012 unless the town opts to extend it. The Nov. 23 date was chosen because Nov. 24 was the final day that members of the public could file appeals about the project with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

If voters enact the moratorium, the draft states, the town would be temporarily barred from "accepting applications, processing applications that have already been filed, and issuing approvals and permits relative to any aspect of the development of any LPG terminal and/or storage facility within the Town of Searsport during the term of this moratorium."

If voters give the moratorium the green light at town meeting, the draft states that a nine-member independent review committee would be established for the purposes of reviewing the ordinances and comprehensive plan. That committee would include three appointees of the board of selectmen, three representatives of "Thanks but no Tank" and three more members randomly drawn from a pool of volunteers who are also registered voters in Searsport.

While the local petition seeks to let Searsport voters decide whether or not the town needs more time to examine its own rules and regulations, the drive at signon.org is a widespread effort to stop the project altogether.

Under the heading of "ConocoPhillips is trying to wreck the Maine Coast," the lead-in for the electronic petition states DCP Midstream (which is currently a limited liability corporation of ConocoPhillips and Spectra Energy) is attempting to bring a terminal to Searsport that is unnecessary and could adversely alter the regional landscape and by extension, the tourism industry.

"We have more than enough natural gas on the North American continent to take care of our energy requirements for 100's of years. We need NOT import gas from foreign countries that are frequently our enemies, via tankers that use a lot of fuel to get here — when we have more than enough in the USA," the post stated. "We're telling ConocoPhillips and its investors that we don't want you here, we want clean energy and not noise, air quality and light pollution. The loss of jobs and sales tax income will be huge, as tourism will drop drastically."

The petition, which was posted to the site earlier this week by Stockton Springs resident Nancy Linn Nellis, had gathered more than 2,000 signatures from people across Maine and the nation as of Tuesday evening. It is intended to be delivered to the Maine House of Representatives, the Maine State Senate, Governor Paul LePage and President Barack Obama, according to the signon.org post.

Tuesday night, Nellis said she is amazed at how quickly her posting gathered support.

"It went viral yesterday," said Nellis. "I couldn't believe it. In a matter of a few hours 1,400 people had signed it."

Nellis said in her post that the DCP Midstream proposal would create noise and air pollution, as well as add more heavy trucks to the already busy Route 1 corridor.

"Our beautiful, natural environment and landscape will be wrecked," stated the post.

Nellis also noted that if the LPG terminal becomes a reality at Mack Point, it would be a temptation for potential terrorists both here and abroad.

"They don't always come from overseas," said Nellis.

Nellis said she also posted the petition because she wanted to give residents of other towns and states a voice regarding the future of Midcoast Maine.

"Should one town be allowed to deem the fate of the who coast?" she said.

Especially, she added, since the article in the 2011 Searsport town meeting warrant seeking approval for the the land use ordinance change that paved the way for the DCP Midstream development passed by a mere 13 votes (79-66).

"And other towns don't have any way to vote on this," Nellis said. "... This is wrong."

Nellis stressed that she has never had an issue with Searsport's existing companies in the industrial zone such as Sprague Energy and Irving. That, she said, is because both companies have been good neighbors — Nellis operated an inn in Searsport for several years — and that neither company, to her knowledge, has ever asked the town to change its regulations to suit their needs.

Those who have signed on to the the petition Nellis launched hail from places as close as Belfast and as far away as California.

Signer number 2,046, who is listed as Larry Hunsberger of Delran, N.J., wrote, "This project is not needed and will destroy one of the most beautiful natural landscapes anywhere on earth. Please stop this senseless project from destroying the beauty of my favorite place on earth."

Signer number 2,043, who is listed as Alexander Allmayer-Beck of Belfast, stated, "This project should not be considered in a populated area."