Nancy Oden

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Machias Valley News Observer, January 11, 2009

NEWS with VIEWS

by Nancy Oden

County Govt — More Than You’d Think

You really ought to attend a monthly County Commissioners’ meetings to see who’s who and what’s going on in Washington County government. It’s quite interesting – and there’s some occasional drama, too.

These facts and comments are from last Thursday’s meeting. An important presentation has been omitted here for lack of room, but I’ll write it up for next week.

Since I was the closest thing to a reporter/commentator there, I’ll report those items that might affect your pocketbook or your soul. For the ordinary doings, you can read official Minutes at the County offices in the Machias Court House.

  1. Washington County’s Unorganized Territories, managed by Dean Preston, got named or re-named, reported elsewhere in this newspaper.
     
  2. Clean Water Coalition (represented by me) reported that the proposed dump for “from away” toxic trash in Township 14 was voted down by the Marion Twp, LLC group, to whom Dean Bradshaw had sold the idea about 5 years ago. Board members wondered where their more than $200,000. had gone with no results.
     
    Since this means that once the current dump in Marion Twp. is full--and they’ve been filling it up with “from away” trash for years so that only a few years’ of space are left for Washington County--costs for disposing of construction and demolition debris will go up, unless we get serious about recycling and re-using people’s throwaways.
     
    Clean Water Coalition has committed to draw up a plan to create new job-business opportunities by making new from old.
  3. Commission Chair Chris Gardner (Edmunds) read a letter from the Commissioners to MPBN network, condemning the proposed exclusion of Washington County from public radio and television.
     
  4. Ian Emery, a former state representative, gave a full-color, laser-pointer presentation of his idea for a Calais liquefied natural gas pier and harbor. When asked where this gas might come from, he said something vague about various options, which means he doesn’t have a gas supplier yet. So, build it and they will come?

Emery wants his dirty, dangerous project built in hopes of enormous profits, so it’s full speed ahead into the Neverland of applications, hearings, federal and state agencies’ permits, as well as searching the world for a supplier of liquefied natural gas.

He’s determined to build a pier and have huge ships full of explosive gas come in right close to Route 1 a very short distance from where people live.

I took a photo of the proposed 20-mile pipeline map, and we’ll try to reproduce it in this newspaper. It appears that the route chosen would mean taking people’s property by Eminent Domain, if approved. The pipeline is meant to connect with the Baileyville gas pipeline from Canada.

He is being funded by Goldman-Sachs, one of the Wall Street players which appears to have survived so far, although they’ve restructured themselves. He would not say how much money they’ve given him or committed to this project, but they would, of course, expect to be paid back with enormous profits.

Member of the public pointed out LNG, a fossil fuel, is a greenhouse gas which adds to Global Climate Change, and suggested conservation, wind, and solar instead. Emery claimed to be for all of those, too, but “later.” Of course, as people who read know, we don’t have any “later” for stopping earth’s warming. We need to stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible; right now would be best.

He promised hundreds of jobs, although most of them would be for people brought in to do the specialty work, and LNG ships have their own crews handle the LNG, not unskilled local people.

The Commissioners have voted to support this project. They did not hold a Public Hearing where citizens could have asked our questions and expressed our concerns. This should have been done, as it should be done for every major project proposed for Washington County, since we’re all affected.

Two (of three) Commissioners — John Crowley and Chris Gardner — work hard at taking their duties quite seriously, but there does need to be more inclusion of the public in decision-making.

Emery has hired a large advertising firm to sell his Calais LNG idea to the public, so expect to see propaganda materials floating around in the newspapers, etc.

Robert Godfrey of Save Passamaquoddy Bay, based in Eastport, pointed out that the Canadian government still says it will not allow LNG-loaded ships to pass through their waters in Head Harbor Passage, which they must to reach Emery’s proposed industrial zone. Godfrey said that the USA has a decreasing need for LNG imports since there are at least seven LNG export projects in progress in North America.

Godfrey also pointed out that the LNG industry’s standards specifically state that Head Harbor Passage is unsuitable for LNG tankers. If the LNG industry itself does not think it’s safe, why should we? Hazard zones (at least 2.2 miles) around an LNG tanker — that is, where the population would be at risk — would include Eastport, Pleasant Point, Perry, Red Beach, Campobello Island, and that area.

Commissioner Gardner stated that the Commissioners do need more information to determine if it is, indeed, worth doing. Robert Godfrey supplied information from the LNG industry standards and some CD’s with relevant statistics for the Commissioners.

And, by the way, as with the Baileyville pipeline, this gas would not be for us here in Washington County, but would get shipped away to Portland, Boston, New York, as usual.

So, we get the construction and industrial smells, noise, potential explosions, and mess while the cities get the advantages. Sound familiar?

Emery is looking for support to leverage for more money. One hopes Emery will not ask for taxpayers’ money, as so many other so-called “private" businesses do. We’re tired of corporations whining about taxes and government, then begging for our money to subsidize them. We’ve had enough of oil, gas, and coal companies’ profiteering at our expense, haven’t we?

It’s stunning to watch how quickly (and without all the facts) the taxpayer-supported “economic development” groups mindlessly endorse any and all schemes, no matter how dangerous to people or harmful to our clean air and water, so long as they promise “jobs.” These schemes rarely pan out, but this comes after many people’s time and money has been wasted.

We need REAL livelihoods producing our necessities. This means growing our own food locally, fixing up or building new warm shelter — energy-efficient homes and apartments — and stopping the poison sprays rained down on us and into our clean water and home gardens.

Organizing ourselves to deal with hard times is what is needed, not more schemes to enrich a very few which likely won’t work out anyway.

Washington County’s people have historically been, even 20 years ago, independent and able to be mostly self-sufficient for our necessities. We need to start now to deal with the long-term economic depression we’re in.

Our world has been permanently changed by the profiteering oil and military-industrial corporations with their wars bankrupting our country, such that our lives will never again be as they were.

Let’s take this challenge to do what we have to – especially growing our own food locally. Let me know if you have ideas or are willing to help. 497-5727,

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