Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Would the East-West Highway also be used to connect Canadian fracking fields and the proposed Searsport LPG tank?

by Chris Buchanan, Defending Water for Life in Maine

With Canada developing natural gas fracking fields in Quebec and New Brunswick and a LPG (liquid petroleum gas) tank proposed for Searsport, serious questions have arisen as to whether the proposed East-West Highway might be destined to become a super-corridor to transport LPG in trucks to Canada and natural gas by pipeline along the highway to the Maritime Provinces for export. Here’s why we are concerned.

The East-West Highway route through Maine connects both the Canadian fracking fields directly adjacent to Maine so it could be highly profitable for the investors in the East-West Highway to run a natural gas pipeline along the highway from the Canadian natural gas fracking fields to the Canadian Maritimes. This would provide even greater returns for highway investors, in addition to tolls they would receive from Canadian transport trucks.

The proposed Searsport LPG storage facility comes into the picture because of new fracking technology developed by GasFrac, a Canadian energy company, which uses a thick gel made from propane, rather than water, to force the natural gas out of the shale rock. LPG is a mixture of propane and butane.

“This is a game changer for the industry,” says Don LeBlanc in a November 15, 2011 article in Chemistry World. LeBlanc is the “principal consultant at Eastex Petroleum Consultants in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who has been involved in shale gas trials with gelled propane in New Brunswick, Canada.” So far gelled propane has been used about 1,000 times mostly in Canada.

From an investor’s prospective, under this scenario a LPG tank in Searsport is a great idea. From there, they can truck the propane to Canada via the East-West highway to use for fracking shale gas. Then the natural gas produced by the fracking could be transported to the Canadian Maritimes via a pipeline built along the East-West Highway.

Indeed, Peter Vigue of Cianbro announced his vision to use the highway as a multi-use corridor during his presentation to the Maine Legislature’s Transportation Committee during the public hearing on Valentine’s Day.

This larger energy scheme would benefit private investors, but lead to further exploitation of Maine as a supercorridor throughway with only two proposed exits for the whole state. Yet the people of Maine would have no voice in how this private toll road was built or managed. Nor would the state and federal regulatory agencies be concerned with the environmental impacts of fracking or the safety of the new technology using highly flammable propane.

This is a highly organized energy triad, poised to make a few people very wealthy at the cost of Maine’s people and the land we need to survive. We were confused why Searsport selectmen were supporting the East-West highway, but now it is clear how the pieces can fit together in a highly profitable way.

Instead of locking Mainers into a supercorridor dissecting the state for foreign profit, our legislators need to step back and identify what the people of Maine need to thrive over the long haul. Prioritizing Canadian businesses and multinational corporations that do raw resource extraction, is not the way. Public funding for private investment, at the added cost of individual rights and local control, is not the way. We need to create a long-term vision that values Maine’s strengths—how we can benefit from our priceless ecological beauty and how best to use Mainers creativity, work ethic and passion to create lasting jobs for the people and families of Maine.

1 comment:

Gian-Angelo said...

Roads always lead to the destruction of the environment that surrounds them. In fact, if you study worldwide development patterns, you will see that nearly all major environmental losses occur within 50 miles of a road. This so-called 'highway' is actually a 'utilities corridor.' I believe that Peter Vigue used that term himself. Clearly, this 'corridor' is designed to allow Canadian companies to move multiple products via multiple means to Atlantic Ocean ports. So, what is Canada exporting these days? Oil (regular and oil sands bitumen), natural gas (regular and fracked), LPG, LNG, uranium, asbestos, electricity and timber. The highway itself would not be the major profit-center of this corridor. The real money is in petroleum and petroleum byproducts, so this is all about Canada's great desire to run as many pipelines as possible through the United States. Maine people have rejected this bad idea before, and they need to make it clear to their representatives that this latest attempt is certainly not in the interest of the people of Maine.