August 04, 2020

LNG agreements compared at Perry meeting

PERRY – Did Perry do a better job of crafting an LNG financial package for the town than Robbinston?

Perry’s Bangor attorney says yes.

The Robbinston developer says no.

A comparison of the two agreements, along with other issues, was presented at a meeting at the Perry Elementary School Wednesday night.

Right now, two liquefied natural gas companies are in a horse race. The winner will walk away with the roses and a pocketful of money. The goal: to provide LNG to points south of Washington County.

The Oklahoma-based Quoddy Bay LNG plans to build a multimillion-dollar terminal on the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s reservation at neighboring Pleasant Point with a tank farm in Perry. The Washington, D.C.-based Downeast LNG wants to build a terminal and tank farm in Robbinston.

The town’s attorney, Eric Stumpfel of Bangor, presented the agreement and answered questions. The attorney compared the Perry and Robbinston agreements.

The total value of the Perry agreement over a 25-year period is $128,550,000. The Robbinston deal is $111,870,000 over the same 25 years.

Downeast LNG’s annual payment to the community development fund plus property taxes is capped at $2.7 million, Stumpfel said. The Perry agreement pays the town $3.63 million a year.

The Robbinston agreement doesn’t go into effect until the startup of the plant’s operation, while the Perry deal begins when construction starts.

Robbinston gets a new school, sports complex and assisted living facility valued at $8.5 million. They also get $10,000 a year in college scholarship funds and $500,000 a year paid to the Washington County Economic Development Trust Fund.

Perry residents get $1 million for school expansion and $100,000 a year in scholarship funds.

The Perry developer plans to build a workers camp for upwards of 1,500 employees.

The Robbinston developer plans to make use of existing housing, including motels, to put up its 400 workers.

Dean Girdis, president of Downeast LNG, responding to the comparison Thursday, said that his project is a quarter of the size of the Pleasant Point one and has a smaller footprint.

And, he said, there is no time limit for the agreement. Many facilities are licensed beyond 25 years. “I think the agreement we negotiated with Robbinston is a fair agreement,” Girdis said.

At the Wednesday night nuts-and-bolts meeting, opponents of the Quoddy Bay facility described what they called “shortfalls” in the Perry agreement.

Perry resident John Cook told residents the town needed a deal based on the town’s needs, not the developer’s. He urged voters to reject the agreement and let it go back to the bargaining table.

Among the shortfalls:

. It assures that Quoddy Bay will never have to pay the town more than $3.6 million per year, no matter what impact the facility has on the town.

. Protects Quoddy Bay and its investors from future impact fee ordinances that might be assessed to other businesses in town.

. Does not address the financial impact on the town’s fishing industry.

. Limits the buyout to specific houses and does not take into account any additional properties that may be affected by the facility.

Quoddy Bay LNG project director Brian Smith said those people who were critical of the agreement wanted far more than what the company could afford.

“The less that we can compete … the less likely we’re going to be here and they know that,” he said.

A question of construction workers voting in town politics also came up Wednesday night, but no one seemed to have an answer. Calais City Clerk Theresa Porter said Thursday anyone who shows a telephone or other bill or a piece of mail delivered to their Perry address can be enrolled as a voter in the town.

About 25 out of the town’s nearly 800 residents attended the informational meeting Wednesday night, and they were joined by members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe – including a tribal councilor. One tribal member was allowed to state his opinion. (Perry residents are not allowed to attend Passamaquoddy tribal meetings.)

After the meeting, Stumpfel said he believed that the town had negotiated a good agreement. “If you quote this statement, it will sound bad. But I don’t think there’s a negotiation where you reach the other side’s absolute bottom line number because you’re not psychic, and unless you are engaging in espionage you absolutely don’t know what their final bottom line is,” he said. “In general this is a good financial deal if you compare it with others signed in the area.”

Stumpfel admitted that this was the first LNG deal he had negotiated and said that most existing LNG facilities across the country did not have host community agreements. “So this is really a brand new phase of LNG development nationwide,” he said.

Another informational session will be held on Wednesday, March 14. The attorney said no new material would be presented at that meeting.

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