Audio Coverage of July 14th Public Forum, Dexter

Here is the recording of the public forum where the public made comments and asked panelists questions about the East-West Corridor project.

Panel members included: Dave Pearson, District 24 House Candidate; Dusty Dowse, District 27 House Candidate; Sherman Leighton, Senator, District 33; Frederick Dawson, District 25 House Candidate; Ken Fredette, House Representative from District 25; Sue Mackey Andrews, candidate for Piscataquis County Commissioners; Jim Aniss, selectman from Dover Foxcroft, candidate for Piscataquis County Commissioners; Herbie Clark, District 10 House Representative, candidate for District 27 Senator seat (against Doug Thomas); Hillary Lister, a local activist and representative of Stop the East West Corridor; Chris Buchanan, statewide coordinator for Stop the East West Corridor and organizer with Defending Water for Life in Maine.

Link to press release here.

Press Release: July 14 Celebration of Local Economy and Public Forum, Dexter

Ridge View Community School, Dexter, ME: On Saturday July 14, nearly 175 area residents and local and state officials met at a public forum hosted by Dexter and Dover Area Towns in Transition {DDATT} for an open discussion of the proposed East-West Corridor.

 

Residents spoke with a panel of local government officials of both parties, candidates for this fall’s state elections, and members of concerned citizens groups including Stop the East-West Corridor, and Defending Water for Life in Maine.

 

State Senator Doug Thomas, a central proponent of the plan, who had initially made three confirmations of attendance, did not attend.  Two other representatives, Paul Johnson and Ray Wallace, also cancelled their confirmed plans to attend on the night before the forum.

 

As residents asked questions and shared comments on the East-West Corridor proposal, panel members learned about the project, mostly from audience members, and panelists Chris Buchanan, statewide coordinator of Stop the Corridor coalition, and Hillary Lister, a local activist.   Both public officials and citizens are currently unable to access any specific information regarding location, investors and full intent for land use.  Questions also remain about how alternatives to the Corridor and the full impact of a Corridor would be assessed.  In addition, attendants questioned how public officials would address the exemption of Freedom of Access to private infrastructure proposals. These questions and many others remained unanswered by Representatives Herbie Clark and Ken Fredette.  They both expressed that, like the audience at large, they too sought to understand the proposal more clearly.

 

In his opening statement, representative Herbie Clark said that he listens to his constituents.  “90 percent say, ‘Herbie, we don’t need it,” he said.

 

While filing into the gym, many attendants remarked at the absence of any state, local or private security, in contrast to the heavily policed presentation by Cianbro’s Peter Vigue at Foxcroft Academy on May 31st. Despite the absence of law enforcement, and the urgency of the subject matter, those in attendance maintained a civil tone.

 

Although scheduled to end at 9pm, the forum was extended in order to allow all those interested to speak their turn. Some waited for up to an hour in line behind the microphone.  After the conclusion of the meeting people gathered outside the school to continue discussion.

 

The consensus at the end of the evening is that more transparent information is needed from those behind this proposal before many members of the community can accurately come to a well informed conclusion.

 

Panel members included: Dave Pearson, District 24 House Candidate; Dusty Dowse, District 27 House Candidate; Sherman Leighton, Senator, District 33; Frederick Dawson, District 25 House Candidate; Ken Fredette, House Representative from District 25; Sue Mackey Andrews, candidate for Piscataquis County Commissioners; Jim Aniss, selectman from Dover Foxcroft, candidate for Piscataquis County Commissioners; Herbie Clark, District 10 House Representative, candidate for District 27 Senator seat (against Doug Thomas); Hillary Lister, a local activist and representative of Stop the East West Corridor; Chris Buchanan, statewide coordinator for Stop the East West Corridor and organizer with Defending Water for Life in Maine.

 

Before the forum a community fair was held.  Local businesses and community organizations presented their crafts, trades and information.  This gathering seemed to set a positive tone with music, home made food and a robust exchange of local info. One small local businesswoman who sews finely crafted handbags and tote bags displayed a sign stating: “This is What Job Creation looks like.”

 

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Residents demand answers about proposed east-west corridor at Dexter forum

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff | Posted July 15, 2012, at 7:41 p.m.

Link to Article
A man against the east-west corridor wears a T-shirt advertising his point of view at a public forum held Saturday, July 14, 2012, at the Ridgeview Community School in Dexter.

A man against the east-west corridor wears a T-shirt advertising his point of view at a public forum held Saturday, July 14, 2012, at the Ridgeview Community School in Dexter. Buy Photo
David Finley, of Dover-Foxcroft, was the first of 22 members of the public who got up to speak their minds and ask questions about the proposed east-west corridor at a public forum held Saturday, July 14, 2012, at the Ridgeview Community School in Dexter.

David Finley, of Dover-Foxcroft, was the first of 22 members of the public who got up to speak their minds and ask questions about the proposed east-west corridor at a public forum held Saturday, July 14, 2012, at the Ridgeview Community School in Dexter. Buy Photo

DEXTER, Maine — Just before walking into Saturday’s sometimes heated public forum about the proposed east-west highway, Ripley resident Gordon Canning stopped to find his property on a Maine map that had a rough estimate of the corridor drawn in a thick red line.

“I’m here to get information — to find out what’s coming,” he said. “I went to the meeting in Dover-Foxcroft with Peter Vigue and I didn’t feel like they answered [the questions] adequately.”

The path of the proposed corridor, for instance, is “one of the things we don’t know for sure,” Canning said.

Unanswered questions about secret agendas and big money seemed to be the biggest concern at the public gathering, which included shouts of anger and also vocal support for leaving the region alone or ideas in opposition of the project.

The crowd of 200 or so — most opposed to the road construction project — gathered at the Ridgeview Community School for the forum, dubbed the “civil discourse party” by Sam Brown of the Dexter Dover Area Towns in Transition, a group that sponsored the event.

The 220-mile privately funded toll highway favored by Vigue, chairman and CEO of Cianbro Corp., gained state funding for a $300,000 feasibility study in early April that is expected to be finished in January.

The $2 billion roadway would start in Calais, follow Stud Mill Road to Costigan, just north of Old Town, cross the Penobscot River, then head northwest to LaGrange, Milo, south of Dover-Foxcroft, Monson and The Forks before connecting to Route 27 and crossing the Canadian border into Quebec.

The initial plan has six interchanges in Maine and from the border, it is only about 60 miles to Trans Canada Highway Route 10 near Sherbrooke — with connections to Buffalo, Detroit and other Midwest destinations — and to Trans Canada Highway Route 73 to Beauceville, located south of Quebec City.

The planned highway through rural Maine is “an abomination,” said Sidney Mitchell, Dover-Foxcroft resident and central region coordinator for the Stop the East-West Corridor coalition. “We live here because of the beauty.”

Residents at the forum also wanted to know if the proposed highway would include other utilities, such as an oil pipeline running underneath; who the deep-pocket investors behind the plan are; why there are not more alternative models on the table; and what are the biggest drawbacks and benefits of moving forward with a privately funded roadway.

“This east-west highway is a big deal,” said Dave Pearson, a Democrat who is running for state Representative for District 24, and was one of eight candidates who attended the forum. “If it’s built, it’s going to profoundly change the lives in eastern Maine. There is no turning back.”

Sue Mackay-Andrews, a Piscataquis County Commissioners candidate, said she hasn’t made up her mind about the project but asked the crowd about other options.

She asked, “If not this, then what” can be done to improve the region’s economy?

“Is there an opportunity to bring jobs to Maine?” and “What are the environmental issues?” are two questions Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, the lone Republican on the forum panel to show up, said he hopes the feasibility study answers. “I want to see what the studies say. I want answers” before any decisions are made.

Hilary Lister, of the Stop the East-West Corridor coalition, said she has watched as industries such as Dexter Shoe have left the area, taking people along with them, but added those who left are slowly coming back to Maine.

“More and more people I know are moving back into the state and they’re moving back because its not developed,” she said, adding later that, “I don’t see what’s in it for the local people.”

Democrat Herbert Clark, who is running for the District 27 Senate seat, said in his 24 years as a state lawmaker, he has never seen a “bill go through so fast,” referring to the feasibility study bill, and said, if elected, he’ll work to repeal it.

While most of the 21 people who stood up and spoke at the meeting opposed any type of highway, two said people should work toward guiding the plan to suit the needs of the individual communities.

“Development is coming. How we guide it is up to us,” said Dover-Foxcroft resident David Twitchell.

Vigue has said that since the project is privately funded, eminent domain is not allowed and will not be used to acquire land for the project, which means the exact route is in flux until the land is under contract.

The Proposed East-West Highway: Boon or Boondoggle?..and what it means for Midcoast Maine

The Proposed East-West Highway: Boon or Boondoggle?..and what it means for Midcoast Maine
Wed. July 18, 6pm
Belfast Free Library, 106 High St, downtown Belfast
Free, donations welcome.

Chris Buchanan, Hillary Lister, and Read & Heidi Brugger will provide background on the East-West Corridor project, share updates, and discuss how to involve citizens of the Midcoast.

Concerns raised include harmful effects on the environment, disruption of the rural lifestyle of north central Maine, the transportation of hazardous chemicals on the road or by pipeline, the loss of valuable farmland (possibly through eminent domain), and the fact that benefits will go primarily to Canada and project developers, not to the people of Maine.

Details on these and other concerns will be presented, along with a powerpoint presentation about the proposal, followed by discussion. More info online at:  defendingwater.net/maine

Sponsored by the Peace & Justice Group of Waldo County.  For more information: Heidi and Read Brugger atrhbrugger@fairpoint.net,  (207) 382-6477.

La Conner to Consider Clean & Fair Elections Ordinance

July 12, 2012
Terry Nelson
La Conner, Wash.
On May 1, 2012, I submitted a proposal to the La Conner Town Council to adopt a clean and fair elections ordinance, which would contain language denying corporate personhood and other clauses tailored to our particular circumstances.
     In the proposal, I included a model ordinance prepared by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), as well as one prepared by Envision Spokane for their initiative.  I also included other supporting documents and urged the council to adopt the Move to Amend resolution as well, but emphasized the importance of an ordinance, since it has legal weight, whereas a resolution does not. I let several weeks go by for the council to be able to fully digest the information, as well as to gather support.  Even though I did not garner much local support, to my delight last Tuesday night (July 10), the council resolved to adopt such an ordinance and asked me to help out in the process.
     This afternoon I had a conversation with Mayor Ramon Hayes to try to assess his and the council’s resolve, since taking up this matter represents serious personal legal jeopardy for the mayor and councilpersons.  The mayor confirmed to me that he is willing to risk it as a matter of principal, because he sympathizes with our position on the issue of corporate personhood and other matters affecting local sovereignty.  He also thinks the council members feel the same, although we haven’t really drilled down on the issue yet.
     Mayor Hayes is out of town next week and probably not much more of substance will happen until the next meeting on July 24, at which time people will be assigned and the committee to do this will be set up.  I am very pleased with this outcome, especially because our Mayor Hayes is the chairman of the Skagit Council of Governments, which is working on Envision Skagit 2060, the comprehensive plan for Skagit County.  I am hopeful we can include supportive language in that plan in the future.  Mayor Hayes says they will be subdividing responsibilities soon and that then would be a good time to introduce the concept.
     This is an uphill battle, but must begin somewhere…..why not here?
Terry Nelson

The Crash Report: A hellacious highway

Written by Crash Barry |  The Portland Daily Sun

http://www.portlanddailysun.me/index.php/opinion/columns/7218-the-crash-report-a-hellacious-highway#

Try to picture a turnpike that cuts across the interior of Maine. A four-lane super-highway built through woodlands and bogs. A completely fenced-in, 220-mile private toll road, running along rivers, lakes and farms, then over mountains and ridgelines. Starting in Calais and ending at the Quebec border at Coburn Gore, the so-called “east-west corridor” is being pushed by Peter Vigue, head of Cianbro, the construction wing of Maine’s energy-speculation industrial complex.7-7-crash-Wildlifecrossing
Under Vigue’s plan, a steady parade of tired Canadian truckers hauling tandem trailers (or Irving tanker trucks filled with gas and diesel) from the Port of Saint John in New Brunswick will pay $125 to save two hours driving time en route to Quebec. These monster tandem trucks — measuring over a hundred feet long — aren’t currently permitted on Maine’s roads. But via Vigue’s private expressway, the Canadian trucks would be allowed to surpass American weight standards, all while traveling at 75 mph, the proposed speed limit.
Vigue never mentions the traffic from the west, however. Probably because he knows the image of truck convoys loaded with medical waste and sludge from Canada headed into central Maine would be unpopular with the locals. Yet under Vigue’s proposal, waste haulers transporting municipal and industrial biosolids will appreciate the short-cut to Casella Waste’s “New England Organics” mega-sludge processing facility in Kennebec County’s Unity Township. And if Vigue gets his right-of-ways, haulers of medical waste will be happy with the toll road’s proximity to the Juniper Ridge landfill in Old Town, owned by the state, but run by Casella.
The tolls from the truckers coming from both directions, though, won’t be enough to pay for the construction of the $2 billion road project. And since Vigue won’t even venture a guess on the fee for passenger vehicles, it’s doubtful revenue from tourist traffic will make a dent in the construction debt. That’s why the scheme is referred to as a “corridor” instead of a “highway.” Despite his public protestations to the contrary, Vigue’s fancy new website (eastwestme.com) admits the powerful truth: the road paves the future for utility and communications corporations to run lines from Canada into the heart of Maine. Big Wind and other energy giants will be glad to rent the private highway’s median as a way to link to the power grid. And once the roadwork is completed, then voilà, a ready-made path exists for a pipeline pumping oil sands to the Canadian Maritimes.
Environmental activist Hillary Lister, who lives in Athens in Somerset County, has observed Vigue’s efforts to turn his east-west pipe dream into a reality since 2007. It was at a conference in Bar Harbor featuring New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers when she first heard Vigue publicly mention the corridor.
“He said it was important to view Canadian companies as friends to Maine and not to treat them like enemies,” Lister recalls. “But his big reason for the road was that ‘there was no other plan’ to bring jobs to Maine.” Vigue went on to bemoan the loss of well-paying manufacturing jobs, specifically Dexter Shoes, that headed to China after being purchased by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire-Hathaway Corporation.
That argument struck a sour chord with Lister. She grew up in Dexter. The super-highway, if built, would be located about 10 miles to the north. How, she wonders, would a toll road help her hometown recover from the devastating shoe factory shutdown in 2001? These days, Dexter, like many of Maine’s former mill towns, is plagued by opiate abuse, unemployment, despair and empty brick buildings. It drives her crazy that Vigue goes around the state offering false hope and empty promises of jobs in order to secure support for the highway. After all, how many employment opportunities can truck stops and gas stations actually provide?  Because wireless robots will collect the tolls at each of the six exits, so no humans need apply for those gigs.
But even more troubling, for Lister, is how Vigue’s pet road would dramatically increase the tonnage of out-of-state trash being shipped into Maine, where regulations for waste disposal are far less stringent than laws across New England and eastern Canada. And the situation is bound to get worse. Thanks to a new trash-for-gas and pipeline deal with U-Maine, Casella needs to import more and more waste to generate maximum amounts of methane from the Juniper Ridge landfill.
For years, as an activist, Lister has focused on the trash industry’s negative impact on Maine’s water supply and the environment. And now, as the state continues to grow as a dumping ground for other people’s garbage and gunk, she finds Vigue’s current push for the toll road particularly infuriating. So on July 14, she and others will be asking tough questions to a gaggle of political candidates at a forum in Dexter devoted to the proposed highway. Vigue has been invited to the event, but organizers haven’t heard back. Lister doubts he’ll attend.
“He doesn’t want to publicly deal with all the unanswered questions. Will this road cross the Appalachian Trail? What’s going to happen to the wildlife in this corridor?” Lister also doubts the road could be built for the two billion bucks Vigue claims. And she worries that if the project does start, cost overruns could turn the road into Maine’s version of Boston’s Big Dig. “They still don’t have financing for the project. Besides, even if they do get the money and the government’s approval, it’ll take a while. And then it’ll be at least another three years to build the road. And that’s an optimistic time frame. By then Vigue will be retired,” Lister says. “Maybe he’s just trying to set up construction projects for his son Andi Vigue who is now president and chief operating officer for Cianbro?”
Time and time again, Vigue has publicly denied that Cianbro has any interest in building the project. “We build bridges,” he’s been oft quoted, “not roads!”
Vigue is being disingenuous about Cianbro’s real business. Even a cursory exploration of cianbro.com shows the company’s deep involvement in many industries. They’ve built LNG terminals, wind farms, oil rigs, fuel pipelines and trash-burning plants. Their clients aren’t just in the energy sector. Cianbro fixed a giant paper machine for Great Northern, built a bottling plant for Poland Spring Water, constructed a half-million square foot micro-chip facility for National Semiconductor, helped repair the Pentagon after the 9-11 attacks and has worked with Casella on several projects. And that’s just a tiny fraction of the company’s global customer list.
It’s understandable why Lister and others don’t trust Vigue. Especially since the fella is known for his odd behavior and secrecy about project details. These days, for instance, Vigue appears at public events accompanied by a half-dozen bodyguards, claiming the thugs are necessary to prevent attacks by hippies and eco-terrorists who have allegedly threatened his safety. Plus Vigue is always rabidly defending his decision to keep the actual route of the highway confidential. He insists it’s the only way to prevent super-highway opponents from harassing landowners into not selling. At a recent Tea Party gathering, one of Vigue’s surrogates also implied the secrecy would help developers acquire land parcels cheaply, since sellers wouldn’t know the true value of their property as a potential segment of highway.
Despite support from Governor LePage and members of the Legislature, the highway isn’t a done deal, yet. Vigue still has to raise billions of bucks, followed by the tough task of convincing regulators that paving a new roadway through undeveloped land — and expanding existing logging roads — won’t hurt the environment. Even if he makes it past the bureaucrats, he’ll have to contend with court challenges and other actions by environmentalists. And by then, it’ll take more than Vigue’s six bodyguards to quell the angry mobs.

Whistleblowers should e-mail tips @ crashbarry.com. At 7 p.m., on Tuesday July 10, Crash Barry will be presenting “Tough Island: Live”  at the Patten Free Library in Bath.