Town awaits official notice

Developer says will withdraw Searsport tank application

Opponents of the proposal also waiting for official word, but cautiously optimistic
Posted:  Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 3:30pm
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SEARSPORT - The developer behind a controversial proposal to build a liquefield petroleum gas (LPG, or propane) terminal in Searsport has announced plans to withdraw its application from the town.

Denver Colorado-based DCP Midstream hoped to build a bulk storage and distribution import facility for LPG near Mack Point cargo port. Plans included a 22.7 million gallon storage tank that would have been among the largest on the East Coast.

A message posted Tuesday afternoon on the company's Facebook page, Propane for Maine, addressed supporters: "It is with great disappointment that we share that DCP is withdrawing its application to the Planning Board as a courtesy that they do not need to deliberate any further. We spent the morning calling personally supporters that we have formed great relationships with. It is important that our supporters here from us."

The announcement comes in the middle of the planning board's review of the application, during which the proposed development was judged not to meet several criteria of Searsport's land use ordinance, relating to noise, health and safety, and the type of uses permitted in a commercial zone that applied to a portion of the site plan.

Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert said the town has not yet been contacted by DCP Midstream. As such, he said the board would continue hearings, including one scheduled for tomorrow night, until official notice was received.

“They said they contacted their many supporters and friends in Searsport. I guess we didn't qualify,” he said, dryly.

The message on Propane for Maine said the project had received federal and state permits but said the local planning board had a "contrary view of our project."

The note continued: "Considering the current circumstances at the local level, we do not foresee any further capital development in Maine. We are tremendously disappointed and wished we could have brought much needed prosperity and support to Searsport."
 
Responding to a request for comment, DCP Midstream spokeswoman Roz Elliott wrote in an email that the company sent official notice to the Searsport Planning Board on Tuesday afternoon. "It was the highest priority to put our efforts in contacting our supporters first who have invested their energy and passion into this prospective project," she said. 
 
Elliott reiterated the point from the Facebook message to supporters that withdrawing the application now was done as a courtesy to the planning board, "so that they do not need to incur any further expense and time."
 
"We have no intention of doing any further development in Maine," she said.

Probert said the Planning Board would continue to review the application until notice arrives. If the company does indeed withdraw its application, he said, the board would consult the town attorney on what actions would need to be taken.

“If it were yesterday maybe they’d say April Fools', we got ya. But I guess not," he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, opponents were also waiting for something more official.

“We have a number of questions that still remain and the Planning Board meeting is still on for tomorrow," said Ken Agabian, spokesman for the citizen group Thanks But No Tank. "So we anticipate learning a little bit more about what they are doing."

Among the unanswered questions, Agabian said, was whether DCP also planned to withdraw its state and federal permits for the project or only the Searsport application.

"We hope to get a bit more clarity at tomorrow night’s meeting," he said. “But the implications are huge.”

Ethan Andrews can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com