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Baldacci Expresses Concerns about Searsport LPG Tank Plans
02/25/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Opponents of a proposed 14-story, liquid propane gas storage tank in Searsport are hoping former Gov. John Baldacci will influence members of the local planning board to turn against the project. Contrary to some reports making the rounds in the community, Baldacci says he never told the Denver-based DCP Midstream energy company that he supported their project. In fact, Baldacci is expressing some reservations about the plan, and is urging community leaders to place a priority on public safety, as they consider the company's proposal. A.J. Higgins has more.

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Baldacci Expresses Concerns about Searsport LPG Ta
Originally Aired: 2/25/2013 5:30 PM

Former Gov. John Baldacci remembers well the circumstances six years ago that prompted him to contact DCP Midstream. Maine's liquid propane supplies were running low. It was an usually cold winter. A Canadian Rail strike was interrupting LP supplies to New England, and a tanker that was supposed to be delivering the fuel to Maine had been delayed.

It was what the governor called a perfect storm of events that spelled disaster for Maine homeowners who relied on LP gas for their heating needs. But Baldacci says he never endorsed DCP's eventual plans to build an LP storage tank the size of the Statue of Liberty. And he told the Searsport Planning Board as much in a recent letter.

"I had been approached by a small group from the area who came to me and said that testimonies were being given to say that I was supporting this project, and that my name and the office were being used in endorsing this project and I felt that I needed to make sure that the local planning board knew that if those presentations were being made and had me as supporting it that those were not accurate," Baldacci said.

In the letter dated Jan. 29, the former governor says that while he had reached out to DCP to obtain more LP gas for Maine in 2007, no one from that company had ever discussed plans about an LP gas import terminal or storage tank facility. He urges the planning board to keep safety and the public's well-being in mind above all other considerations as they weigh DCP's proposal.

"I felt that we should be moving away from that as a source, and that we should be working towards other types of fuels that were more readily available and more affordable," Baldacci said.

Opponents of the project may have felt they were getting mixed signals from the Baldacci administration after the governor's former transportation commissioner recently penned some newspaper op-ed pieces advocating his support for the DCP plan. David Cole, now a private consultant, says that while DCP is not one of his clients, a Bangor group that favors the storage project is.

He says his views favoring the DCP proposal are based on his belief that the storage capacity would improve Maine's overall mix of energy sources and provide jobs for the area. Cole says it's conceivable someone from DCP might have mentioned plans for a storage tank at some point after 2007, but that a formal presentation was never made to him and he never discussed it with the governor.

"I just remember that after the shortage this proposal emerged and evolved and it wasn't overnight," Cole says. "At that point, the folks within DOT were keeping me posted on what was going on, but I'm not sure it had evolved to the state where the governor was briefed on it."

Steve Hinchman, an attorney representing opponents of the LP gas storage facility, says he's convinced that DCP has provided information to some members of the Searsport community that states the Baldacci administration was on board with the project.

Peter Taber, a Searsport resident opposed to the storage tank, says he's glad that Baldacci, who is weighing a possible Democratic run for the Blaine House next year, has responded.

"We're very much opposed to this," Taber says. "It's affecting property values; they're concerned about safety on the roads in the vicinity of this structure, and also the fact that this is not another tank. It's of humongous size."

The proposed DCP storage tank would cost an estimated $50 million to build and would hold 22.7 million gallons of liquefied propane gas. The issue has divided members of the greater Searsport community, who will meet tonight for what is expected to be a final hearing on the proposal.


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