Issues I have overheard

Clearly the decision on whether to vote for or against Fairwinds will be difficult for most of us. There are good reasons for voting either way. Much of the discussion I have heard seems to pass by the other side. In the space below, I have written down some issues I have heard. Please write me here and be sure  to tell me which comment you are responding to.

4. 11/26/03: I love Harpswell. I hate all the anger, and I will not write any letters. At first, I was dead set against Fairwinds. Now I think I may vote for it. I am not worried about a terrorist attack. That's too remote a possibility. I'm not so worried about the fishermen anymore, because they seem to catching lobsters OK in Portland Harbor. Fairwinds has convinced me that they will not harm the environment.  Besides, although it's not so important to me, I am concerned about how much money SADD 75 will need.

’ll address your points individually:

The terrorists haven’t disappeared so terrorism is not a “remote” possibility. Due to our overwhelming military might, terrorism is the new method of war against the American people. The federal government recognizes this and has devised a easy-to-communicate “colored” alert system to warn its populace. Perhaps you are aware of this? The threat is real. Terrorists just don’t attack everyday, so people, with their short memories, tend to dismiss the possibility glibly. This dismissive compliance, ironically, makes a target “softer” and increases the attractiveness of a target and potential for attack because it causes folks to let their guard down. Bringing this target to Harpswell makes the town a potential victim of a very real threat. Believe it.

Please read #2 below. Even Fairwinds admits there will a loss in catch due to the construction of the pipeline. Portland Harbor is not a comparable situation.

I can say nothing to sway you if Fairwinds has convinced you that they will not harm the environment. But in my opinion, that’s snake oil sales, and you’ve bought it. Major industrial complexes ALWAYS have a detrimental impact on the environment. But don’t believe me. Just go visit any hulking industrial complex and view the impact for yourself. Talk to the folks from environmental agencies. You’ll find that they do their best to just control and mitigate the damage. But there definitely is damage. Just go over to Cousin’s Island and dive near the power plant. Witness the ocean floor’s condition for yourself. It’s dead. You’ll become a believer quickly enough.

The TIF has been created so that SAD75 wouldn’t get a larger share of tax money from Harpswell. Any increase in their spending would have to be voted on by all the contributing towns. Autonomous control of the budget exists only when there are no other municipalities involved in the decision. This means that Harpswell would have to fund a “Harpswell only” school system in order to completely control spending. If you want to talk about that cost, now you’re talking some real numbers. The lease money vanishes in a puff of green smoke.

I love Harpswell too. It is my favorite place on this earth. Conoco Phillips will trash and destroy this town…both in character and in spirit. The damage has already begun. The “hate” you speak of is just the beginning of said damage. There will be more and greater dire consequences to follow if this is allowed. That’s not a scare tactic. That’s reality.


#4 I would like to comment on the ill-informed comment  "I'm not so worried about the fishermen anymore, because they seem to be catching lobsters OK in Portland Harbor".  A major portion of the best fishing bottom will be off limits to the lobstermen because of the buoyed off channel for the LNG ship.  Some of the best late summer fishing is between the Whaleboats.  Some of the best fishing is directly off the existing pier that will have a jetty extended over it making that bottom off limits.  Would the author of "not so worried about the fishermen" like to see their income potentially cut in half!!?  Just how many lobsters constitutes an OK catch?   

The issues for me come down to two major ones:

     1. Fairness -- is it fair to make some people poorer to make others richer? Is it fair to destroy the property values of roughly 100 of our neighbors who live within a stones throw from the facility? Is is fair to ask the residents of Harpswell Neck to put up with three years of construction? Is it fair to ask the fishing families of Middle Bay to assume so much risk? Is it fair to h arm so many or our fellow Harpswell residents on the hope that our taxes will be lowered?
     I have heard from a few people that they don't believe that property values in the project area will be negatively affected. To those who think that way, I offer to take you on a tour of the area, and show you many specific properties, and how close they are to the site. These are modest, middle class homes, with middle class families living in them. Is it fair to do this to them? I personally know several families who live near the site -- they are not sleeping, they are very stressed out as they see the threat of their homes being rendered worthless, of their life savings being destroyed. Is that what we want to do to our neighbors?
     To those who are thinking of voting for Fairwinds, please ask yourself one simple question -- If the facility were being built next door to your property, would you still support it?

2. Impact on Harpswell -- if this project is built, it will change Harpswell forever. Industry attracts other industry. Just look at other towns where these types of facilities exist -- read John Lloyd's report about Kenai -- and ask yourself if this is what you want Harpswell to become? Do you really think that being known as the home of a major LNG facility will help tourism? Despite what you may hear from Fairwinds, this is a major industrial complex, and it comes with all of the negative aspects of such a complex. As to how it will impact the fishermen, I choose to believe what they are saying rather than what the Fairwinds PR people are saying about the issue. And believe me, the fishermen who work the affected waters are virtually without exception against this project. From what I understand, they will are planning to get active very soon -- so we will all be hearing from them in the near future.

3. The Fairwinds Project is just unsafe. A terrorist attack would cause incredible damage.

3. When the government issues terrorist warnings, they specifically include and individually note Liquid Natural Gas vulnerabilities. If it is a “real threat” to the government, it should also be considered “real threat” by Harpswell residents. Terrorist choose “soft” targets, those whose defenses are most penetrable. Harpswell, with its rather laid back style, would be considered such a target. Harpswell residents would have little patience with the demands needed to ensure an impenetrable defense. The nature of such an attack, the newsworthiness, would be the lure to terrorists…for a terrorist doesn’t care how many people are killed in an attack, the motivation is to instill terror. It’s to keep a populace afraid, unsettled and off balance…they don’t attack to necessarily kill people…although it’s considered a nice side benefit. There only guarantee of safety is to build these facilities away from people. This removes people from harm’s way and eradicates the terrorist’s motivation for such an attack. [Kevin White]

2. I don't understand why the fishermen are complaining. They catch lobster in Portland Harbor and near Searsport where there are tankers. Why can't they catch them here in Harpswell?

2. The tanks themselves are not the problem. It’s the pipeline that is to be laid. During the construction of the pipe, the sea floor will be water jet drilled to dig a trench to lay the pipe. A similar operation was done for an electric cable in Long Island Sound and the damage done to the local clam beds was irreparable. Long term studies are currently being undertaken to assess the greater environmental impact from the continued presence of the cable. There is an area where the cable is exposed above the surface, due to the inability to dig (a situation very possible in ledge-ridden Maine), and there is a large amount of damage in this area; and things have yet to return to normal in the area surrounding the exposure. The disturbance from the construction, as well as the heat, noise and electro-magnetic radiation from the ongoing use is expected to cause injury to the fishing industry, resulting in an immediate precipitous drop in catch. This is known and admitted to by Fairwinds. How long it will take to, or if it will ever, recover from the damage caused is an unknown…just like it is in Nova Scotia and Long Island Sound…where they are still waiting after years. [Kevin White]

1. Harpswell needs to accept Fairwinds because many of its citizens need relief from their high taxes.

1. Harpswell will see only temporary relief from taxes until such a time that municipal spending (due to increased population and development pressures) will ultimately drive taxes upward. Most likely this will result in permanent higher taxes created by a higher ongoing level of expenditure by the town. The net result is that Harpswell citizens will have a more costly infrastructure to maintain and the taxes will be more burdensome than they are today. Once the “standard of government living” is raised, it cannot go back to it’s original level. Fringe economic families, who live on the edge of poverty, will be forced to move elsewhere as the cost of living in Harpswell will exceed their means. [Kevin White]

1. Like many I have lost sleep worrying what will become of Harpswell. Lately what comes to mind mostly is taxes.  It is our current inequitable property tax situation that has brought us to the point that we are willing to vote on something that will take away fishing jobs, add risks to the lives of many families, and change Harpswell forever. This is a shortsighted and irresponsible means to lower taxes. If only the time and energy currently being put into opposing groups could be harnessed and redirected to Augusta to bring about meaningful and lasting reform. There are many possible solutions that don't involve gas plants and big energy companies. I find it disgraceful that our elected officials have selfishly allowed this unfair situation to go on year after year at the expense of Maine's longtime residents and fishermen. Other states have created laws that deal fairly with property tax issues, such as only allowing assessments at the point of acquisition and not during ownership.  Something similar should be made available immediately to Maine property owners who are also Maine residents. We should be putting pressure on the government to swiftly resolve the property tax issue, instead of being driven to carelessly throw out our comprehensive plan and welcome industrial blight.  The government of Maine needs to function within its means and not anticipate added income from increased property evaluations at the expense of Maine residents. [Jane Meisenbach, Harpswell