Saturday, October 10, 2009

Governor Baldacci declares Maine's right to transit Candian waters in the Bay of Fundy ... and where else in Canada?

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The LNG tanker route at Head Harbour Passage. Brian Flynn photo.

Maine must not cede rights to maritime transit

By John E. Baldacci
Special to the BDN

There is much that binds Maine and New Brunswick together. We have a long and shared history, common borders and many joint economic opportunities. During my term as governor, I have worked hard to increase cross-border cooperation on a number of issues critical to both sides.

And we have made great progress by recognizing that our region is stronger when New England and eastern Canada are able to work together.

But these strong relations do not guarantee that we will agree on all issues.

Right now, Maine and the United States are in a heated dispute with Canada and New Brunswick over shipping in Passamaquoddy Bay, the St. Croix River and through Head Harbor Passage.

Passamaquoddy Bay and the St. Croix River are boundary waters between the United States and Canada.

According to international law, treaties between the U.S. and Canada and current practice, ships headed to port in Maine have as much right to use the passage as ships headed to Canada. The U.S. State Department has taken a strong and consistent position that all vessels enjoy a nonsuspendable right of innocent passage into and out of Passamaquoddy Bay through Head Harbor Passage. This is guaranteed by the International Law of the Sea Convention.

Canada disagrees and has asserted, without evidence, that the river and bay are “internal” Canadian waters, and commerce there can be controlled and regulated by Ottawa.

In the simplest language possible, that’s wrong.

Ships heading for Maine and the United States and Canada have the right to travel up the river, as they do now.

The issue of right of passage has been tied up with two current proposals to develop liquid natural gas terminals in Maine. Canada, which has an LNG terminal of its own, is attempting to block the developments on our side of the border.

While I support the development of LNG facilities in Maine as long as they meet all environmental and safety requirements and have the support of the host communities, the issues along the St. Croix, Head Harbor Passage and Passamaquoddy Bay go much deeper than these two proposed projects.

Today, Canada and New Brunswick have made the decision that it is in their best interest to attempt to block LNG tankers from reaching port in the United States.

Tomorrow, the decision could be made that other types of commercial traffic should be blocked. As Maine works to develop and grow exports, there is great potential for wood pulp, biofuels, wood chips and any number of other products to be shipped down the St. Croix to markets around the world.

Annually, more than 100 deep draft cargo ships visit the ports of Eastport in the U.S. and Bayside in Canada already, and the U.S. Coast Guard uses the waterway to reach the ocean. If Canada’s claim is left unchallenged, that traffic will also be left to the discretion of Ottawa.

Whether a person supports LNG in Calais or Robbinston, this question is much larger.

It is not appropriate for the Canadian government to hold control over commerce in Maine and the United States.

As to the specifics of the LNG proposals, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has a process in place to judge whether the locations are appropriate, and New Brunswick is rightly participating in that process as are supporters and opponents of the developments.

FERC is the best venue for the issue of LNG terminal location to be resolved.

There are legitimate concerns about the projects, and opponents should have the right and the opportunity to be heard. Questions have been raised about the safety of LNG tankers in Head Harbor Passage, Western Passage and Passamaquoddy Bay. According to the United States Coast Guard, which studied the issue, those areas are suitable for tanker traffic. In addition, the communities in Calais and Robbinston have supported the projects.

The proposals deserve a chance to be judged on their merits, not on the disposition of the Canadian government.

I have met with the Obama administration and with the U.S. State Department, and both have reiterated their support for the right of innocent passage through Head Harbor Passage.

Whether LNG terminals are developed in Washington County or not, we cannot cede control of commerce in Maine to another country, no matter how well we are able to cooperate on other issues.

John E. Baldacci is the governor of Maine.

11 comments on this item
r
Yes ole great baldi, but it seems to me while our rights are being protected dealing with Canada, that maybe we could be moving forward in finding another more suitible place for the dang tankers to off load. I really don`t know if we need one since they are already a short distance north and south of us . But I will respect the opinions of others that are more in the know.
If Canada prevails on this matter, we should demand an accounting of what the ships that go to Bay Side terminal in New Brunswick are carrying. Are they carrying hazerdous materials that could lead to a natural disaster? Endangering the ecological balance of Passamoquody Bay?

What if the US Navy decided to bring Nuclear Submarines to Eastport? What could or would Canada do to stop their passage?
Governor Baldacci and the US Department of State ignore the ongoing US refusal to ratify membership to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). As UNCLOS makes perfectly clear, sovereigns must have agreed to the terms of (ratified) the treaty in order to enjoy its benefits. Without ratification, the US has no recourse, as even admitted in the Bangor Daily News by US Coast Guard attorney CAPT Charles Michel, Chief, Office of Maritime and International Law.

The Governor's support for LNG, so long as host communities support the project, contradicts his own premise, since the vast majority of people -- in the thousands, as opposed to the fewer than 300 who have voted in favor of the two projects -- in the Passamaquoddy Bay community oppose these projects.

Additionally, Gov. Baldacci's support contradicts his own Energy Plan. His plan requires a year-long "dialogue" on LNG to determine if it is a good fit for Maine -- a process that has not yet begun.

The Governor's attempt to assert Canada has an agenda other than safety of its citizens and environment is unfounded and unsubstantiated. Innocent passage is the issue, as even the world LNG industry indicates. The Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), representing virtually the entire world LNG industry, has published best practices for LNG terminal siting. LNG terminals in Passamaquoddy Bay cannot be made to fit those best practices. Canada's prohibition is in perfect agreement with the industry on this matter. The US, on the other hand, brushes aside those best practices, rationalizing that they are not law.

Canada voiced its prohibition of these projects in 2007. The real puzzle is why Governor Baldacci and the LNG developers refuse to relocate these projects in industry-compliant locations instead of using a flawed argument to pick an unnecessary and winless fight.
I have been informed by the US Coast Guard they are currently investigating the issue of ammonium nitrate shipments to Bayside, NB. For the same reason as Canada's ban on LNG transits into Passamaquoddy Bay, the US would be within its authority to ban ammonium nitrate transits in US waters.
"Canaport LNG, a partnership between Irving Oil (25%) and Repsol YPF (75%), is constructing a state-of-the-art LNG receiving and regasification terminal in Saint John, New Brunswick that will begin operations in late 2008. It will be the first LNG regasification plant in Canada, sending out natural gas to both Canadian and American Markets. The LNG have a send-out capacity, or the ability to distribute via pipeline, 1 billion cubic feet (28 million cubic meters) of natural gas a day after it has been regasified from its liquid state.[8]..."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_John,_New_Brunswick

Is Canada possibly trying to protect its economic interests under the guise of environmental concerns, or are there genuine (excessive) environmental risks/concerns in Maine's proposal?
Canada and New Brunswick have both repeatedly stated they do not oppose LNG development in Maine. They simply oppose LNG in Passamaquoddy Bay, due to it being an unsafe fit.
Can the validity of their concerns be accurately and non-subjectively assessed?
The LNG industry terminal siting best practices indicate...
• long, winding, inland waterways, with high tides and fast currents;
• with existing conflicting uses; and
• >>> where LNG vapors from a release could affect civilian populations <<<
...are unfit for LNG facilities.

The Passamaquoddy Bay proposals would require thousands of civilians in New Brunswick and Maine be subjected to LNG ships' Federally-defined 2.2-mile-radius Hazard Zones. There is no question that Passamaquoddy Bay does not conform to LNG industry best practices.
Note that Canaport LNG is in a rural industrial area, adjacent to an oil refinery, 5 miles across the water from Saint John, NB -- well outside US Federal Government-defined Hazard Zones.
Thanks for the information.
Please go to www.bayoffundy.ca/LNG/ .The first article by Cliff Goudy of MIT shows how ridiculous the "innocent passage" position really is. Two google map representations show the difference between the approaches to Saint John and the approaches to Robbinston and Red Head in Passamaquoddy Bay via Head Harbour Passage. Huge difference wouldn't you say?

Also, the area supports a long-time sustainable industry based on tourism, fisheries, aquaculture, education, research, etc. that brings in between a half billion and one billion dollars each year. These businesses will be seriously disrupted by the exclusion zone that will exist around LNG tankers (2 miles ahead, one mile behind, and 1000 yard on each side - underway, at port, or during layover as I recall). These resource-based industries depend on an ecosystem that supports the highest biodiversity on the Atlantic coast of Canada, if not north of Cape Cod. This has been proven and substantiated scientifically. The reports are on the record at FERC.

Finally, the citizens of Quoddy, both Canadian and American, are the ones that wish to protect their homeland and the thousands of jobs that depend on this unique environment. It really has nothing to do with politics or Irving other than the Prime Minister, Premier and others have agreed to support our position in this serious matter. We pitched them and they are standing up for their electorate and Canada's rights.

To learn more about about why this place is so special, go to www.bayoffundy.ca/LNG/slideshow to see a presentation that was prepared over 2 years ago but is still valid today. Also ilovequoddywild.blogspot.com shows the importance of Head Harbour Passage to whales, birds, fish, and humans right now. Several dozen endangered species, including the North Atlantic right whale, finback, and Harbour Porpoise, are in our trust. You will be astounded by the life that has been reported in Head Harbour Passage and vicinity this summer.

All of the scientific publications supporting these statements are in the public domain. It is sad that the Governor and others in Maine have not taken the time to learn for themselves how important Head Harbour Passage, West Isles, and Cobscook Bay really are. What's worse is the demonization of those of us here who are simply trying to protect our homes, jobs, and the environment that supports them ... for me that includes many generations from both sides of the border.

Finally, the contention that Head Harbour Passage is internal Canadian waters is supported by law, treaty, and definition. It's all in the documents folks. But, I admit it really does take patience and time to wade through to find the answer. It's really much easier to toss of words like "innocent passage", "NIMBY" and to use threats and insults.

Oh, by the way, if the Americans that control the Bayside port want to pack up and go home., that's okay by me ... and most of the citizens over here as well! What they have done and wish to do to our coast is and will remain, a moral sin and represents everything that you can expect from the LNG developments in Passamaquoddy Bay ... a future of destruction.

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