Anacortes Election to Induce City Council Members to Terminate Water Agreement?

Anacortes, Wash.

A letter of  request to the Anacortes City Council for a written termination of the Tethys Enterprises water agreement that would have resulted in a one-million-square-foot bottling plant–the largest in North America–entitled up to five million gallons of water per day. Tethys CEO Steve Winter withdrew from the agreement and moved to Ireland.

TO: Council Member Ryan Walters, Council Member Eric Johnson, Council Member Cynthia Richardson, Council Member Erica Pickett, Council Member Brad Adams, Council Member Brian Geer, Council Member Bill Turner

Dear Council Members:

The muddlement of the City of Anacortes-Tethys Enterprises water agreement stands for a city process gone wrong during this mayoral and city council election. Now is the time to rekindle citizen trust by voting to terminate the Tethys water agreement in writing.

The city council voted to approve the agreement, voted for its extension and now needs to vote to terminate the agreement, lest a loophole remain, allowing Tethys to assign its water agreement to another corporation.

Mayor Dean Maxwell stated in a KUOW Radio interview aired on Sept. 23, 2013, that, “he believes the deal is dead.” In the people’s eye, his belief is no guarantee that the deal is dead. Now is the time to rekindle citizen trust, guaranteeing no loophole that will carry mistrust and fear and continue to paralyze our town.

Tethys was secretly brought to town, negotiations among the mayor, city council and Tethys occurring secretly and citizens given one day’s notice in the Skagit Valley Herald of the agreement before city council discussion and voting approval.

I was among ten citizens who personally approached Mayor Maxwell at city hall before he signed the agreement. We requested a public hearing. Mayor Maxwell refused, saying that the agreement was “the city’s business.”

This year’s election is about “the people’s business.” Candidates are quick to promise respectful citizen involvement regarding development and the town’s vision. Anacortes needs a fresh start.

Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin requests, on behalf of Anacortes citizens, that you put a written termination of the water agreement with Tethys on your agenda and vote to terminate the agreement by Oct. 14, 2013. Now is the time to rekindle citizen trust in the city council to perform “the people’s business” during this election.


Sandra Spargo
Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin/The Alliance for Democracy

Cc: Mayor Dean Maxwell

Tethys’ Pullout of Bottling Plant Draws Mixed Response

Anacortes American
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Tethys’ pullout draws mixed response

Reactions are mixed to the announcement last week that Tethys Enterprises backed out of its plans for a bottling facility on the island.

Some residents were pleased the proposed 1-million-square-foot plant is off the table while others are lamenting the potential jobs lost. But all are looking to the future and how Anacortes could plan to best utilize the property — and how to attract a business that more people can get behind and support.

In a letter sent to Mayor Dean Maxwell last week, Tethys CEO Steve Winter said the project was viable, but the company and its principals had other opportunities come up over time. They opted to halt their efforts on the bottling plant project.

Tethys has worked on the project for several years and signed a water contract with the city in late 2010.

Winter has not answered requests for further comment.

Sandra Spargo, who organized Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin, said she’s received about 200 emails since the announcement last week.

“I am getting a lot of emails from people who are happy about this,” she said. “I am relieved but cautiously relieved because I don’t know what this means.”

She has heard from residents who still have questions: Can Tethys sell the water contract to another company? Has Tethys reimbursed the city for all expenses? Will the city still pursue the urban growth area expansion request?

Mayor Dean Maxwell said the contract is “dead.” In order to transfer water rights, Tethys would have to make a request and it would have to be OK’d by the City Council. He said there’s been no request. He said a new company couldn’t meet deadlines built into the contract anyway.

“It’s just not going to happen,” he said.

Tethys has one more small payment to the city to reimburse it for all expenses, Maxwell said.

He said the city will discuss the UGA expansion request after the November election. It could be rolled into the city’s 2016 comprehensive plan update — but that’s up to the City Council.

“There’s no urgency now,” Maxwell said.

City Council member Ryan Walters said he’d like the city to send a letter to Tethys thanking them for their time and indicating the contract is terminated because they say they will not fulfill their side.

“I think we need to clean that up,” he said.

Walters said he wasn’t surprised Tethys backed out. He said the idea didn’t seem conceivable. The plant was proposed to be the largest in the country, but Tethys hadn’t bottled beverages before and it didn’t appear to have any real assets, he said.

“It didn’t really strike me as a very serious effort,” Walters said.

Peggy Flynn, who met Winter in an MBA program in 1986, introduced him at some of the community events he attended.

She said Anacortes has lost the economic benefits of a construction project that would have hired 250 workers and spent $500 million to build the facility as well as the potential for a significant number of well-paying jobs.

“We’ve lost what would have been the most environmentally and technologically advanced beverage manufacturing plant in the world,” Flynn said — citing plans for biodegradable and recyclable packaging materials, reduced and recycled wastewater, and the use of rail instead of trucks.

She said the good news is that Anacortes still has water rights and can look for other economic opportunities going forward.

Spargo said now is the time for a community discussion.

“I think this is an opportunity for the community to come together and give their vision of what they would like to see out there as possibilities,” she said. “We need a plan. We need a plan for all our city.”

She sees the grassroots Defending Water group continuing to have a voice in the process.

Walters said he’d like to see the city continue to explore the current comprehensive plan proposal that would limit the size of facilities on industrial property.

“If something is going to be massive, 1 million square feet, then we need to look at it and it needs to be not outright allowed,” he said.

The approval process wouldn’t have to take long, he said. As it is now, a massive facility could come in for a building permit with environmental review, but without council consultation. He said in the future water shouldn’t be the focus.

“When we look at economic development look for industries that provide good jobs — not industries that use water,” Walters said.

Tethys timeline

• April 2008 — Tethys Enterprises is formed.

• April 12, 2010 — Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, in a letter to Tethys CEO Steve Winter, says the city will discontinue any further work on the proposed agreement to build a bottling plant there. He cited a concern that Tethys refused to link water provided to the number of jobs created.

• Sept. 13, 2010 — The Anacortes City Council approves a contract to provide up to 5 million gallons of water a day to Tethys. The contract, dated Oct. 1, 2010, requires the company to provide a legal description and map of property for the development. It must be at least 30 acres, served by rail and within the city limits.

• October 2010 — Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin was formed as a “grass-roots educational influence to promote citizen input regarding the contract signed between the City of Anacortes and Tethys Enterprises.” It is associated with the Alliance for Democracy.

• Sept. 26, 2011 — The City Council approves a contract extension, requiring Tethys to find property by Dec. 1, 2012.

• July 31, 2012 — The City of Anacortes requests adding about 11 acres off Highway 20 near Stevenson Road to its urban growth area. The site was being eyed for Tethys. At the time, Mayor Dean Maxwell said the city will benefit from the added industrial property no matter what ends up there.

• Oct. 10, 2012 — The county requests more information from the city about its UGA request.

• Nov. 29, 2012 — Tethys gets title commitments for 30.33 acres of property at Highway 20 and Reservation Road near Stevenson Road. At the time, Winter told the American the 30.33-acre site was just part of the plan. It also proposed to use about 11 acres the city requested to be added to its urban growth area and, at the time, Tethys was in discussion with other property owners.

According to the contract, Tethys then had two years to complete the necessary studies and apply for permits. The plant was required to be up and running by June 1, 2018, according to the contract.

• April 9, 2013 — Skagit County commissioners hold a public hearing on the city’s UGA expansion request. Speakers brought up issues including traffic concerns, the size of the proposed Tethys plant, the city infrastructure to support any amount of acreage outside the presently designated city limits and the Tethys project being out of scale for the site and nearby communities.

• July 10, 2013 — Skagit County commissioners voted unanimously to docket the City of Anacortes UGA expansion request, allowing the review process to continue. An environmental review process was the next step.

• Sept. 10, 2013 — The city announces Tethys has backed out of its proposal.

WWU to Become Largest Public University in the U.S. to Ban Bottled Water


Western Washington University [Bellingham, Wash.] is poised to become the largest public university in the country to ban sales of bottled water. The school joins Evergreen State College and Seattle University in making the move.

For many young environmentalists, saying no to bottled water and yes to public taps is an easy choice and a cause they can get passionate about.

That’s certainly the case for Carolyn Bowie, co-president of Students for Sustainable Water at Western Washington University in Bellingham. For her, bottled water is wrong from start to finish.

“The bottles themselves are made of petroleum, a non-renewable resource. And once people dispose of them, only one-fifth of bottles actually make it into the recycling,” she said.

The plastic clogs landfills and pollutes our oceans. And, Bowie feels, water should be considered a human right.

“And when corporations begin to extract water on huge scales, it really commodifies and turns what should be a shared resource into a commodity to make profit off of,” she said.

That’s the argument at the heart of a national movement that has helped 125 cities including Seattle ban bottled water use in official business. Fourteen National parks including Mt. Rainier, and more than 70 universities across the country are also going bottle-free.

Last spring, after nearly three years of campaigning, the student body at Western voted on the proposed ban of all bottled water sales on campus. Seventy two percent supported the proposal.

And last month, they received a letter from the school’s administration stating the school would begin implementing the ban as soon as possible to help the university meet its goal of serving as a model of institutional sustainability.

Bowie can hardly contain herself as she remembers getting the news.

“Oh, my God. We were ecstatic. I can’t express how excited we are to have this finally come to such a great conclusion for the year,” she said.

It wasn’t an easy win. As a public school, Western is facing massive budget tightening. The student association had to agree to absorb up to nearly $60,000 in lost revenue if people buy fewer cold beverages from campus shops and vending machines after the ban is in place. The money could be cut from the students’ budgets for residence halls and lecture series.

Sangerville residents place moratorium on east-west corridor development

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff | April 02, 2013

Link to Article

SANGERVILLE, Maine — Sangerville residents voted to place a moratorium on development related to a proposed east-west highway during Saturday’s town meeting.

Residents voted nearly unanimously to place a six-month moratorium on any development related to the east-west corridor, Sangerville Town Manager Dave Pearson said on Tuesday.

Sangerville isn’t alone in taking steps to slow development of the corridor. The Piscataquis County town of Monson is in its second 180-day moratorium on such development. The Penobscot County towns of Garland and Charleston are planning similar moratoriums, according to officials.

The proposed corridor includes a 220-mile toll highway connecting Calais to Coburn Gore, making an east-west route from New Brunswick to Quebec. Cianbro Corp. President and CEO Peter Vigue, who has been a leading voice in favor of the route, has previously said the highway would avoid town centers and pass between Dover-Foxcroft and Dexter. He also has said that eminent domain will not be used in acquiring land for the project.

“We don’t have a land use ordinance or zoning,” Pearson said. “There are concerns about what this thing means and what’s involved. They want this moratorium to give the planning board time to study the impact on it and whether there needs to be a stand-alone ordinance. In theory, the planning board and other folks would start working on this ordinance, and in six months probably bring it back to a town meeting for adoption.”

Pearson said the moratorium would expire on September 23, but it gives the town an opportunity to “call a timeout.

“If somebody were to come in right now and ask for a permit for shoreland zoning for the east-west corridor, the planning board would have to say we can’t because of the moratorium,” Pearson said.

Planning board chairman Jerry Peters spoke out in favor of the moratorium during the meeting.

“At one point [Vigue] said it would miss Dexter and Dover-Foxcroft and go between them. That leaves Sangerville,” he said.

Of the 150 or so who attended Saturday’s meeting, only three voted against the moratorium, said Peters.

“That was a pretty emphatic statement, I would say,” he said. “I don’t know if everybody is opposed to it, but everybody has questions about it. I don’t think that sits well with people. I wish they were more open.”

Pearson said he has concerns about the proposed east-west corridor.

“I’m kind of concerned about it. I don’t know who’s behind it or what the plan is,” he said. “There should be more transparency on this. It’s pretty hard to support something when you don’t know who’s backing it, where it’s going or whether there’s a pipeline attached it.”

There may be hidden costs to the town as well, he said.

“For us, we will probably have to update our ambulance crew and fire department for accidents on the highway,” Pearson said. “I’m leery on this, honestly. I need to be convinced and I don’t see anybody out there convincing me.”

Monson Town Manager Julie Anderson said a 180-day moratorium on the east-west corridor was passed in September 2012. That moratorium was extended a further 180 days. It is set to expire in September.

“It was passed to stop development until the planning board can set guidelines in our land use ordinance for these big developments,” said Anderson, who added the moratorium was passed unanimously during a special town meeting last year.

Garland Administrative Assistant Julie Kimball said plans for a moratorium are forthcoming.

“We had it in our town warrant, but the problem is that we didn’t have a fair hearing,” said Kimball.

An east-west corridor committee made of up town residents was created, she said. They will “start working with the planning board to cover all of our bases so when we do get [a moratorium] in place, we don’t miss it due to a technicality.”

She expects a special town meeting regarding the issue to be held in late June or early July.

On Monday, residents placed a moratorium in front of the Charleston selectmen to be reviewed.

“We’re currently reviewing it and we’ll be sending it to our legal department,” said Teri Lynn Hall, selectboard chair. “It will be a few months down the road. We have to send it to our legal department to check to make sure all the terminology is correct. It’s the first one we’ve ever dealt with. We want to make sure we dot all of our i’s and cross all our t’s.”

Hillier Artman of Sangerville, who spoke during Saturday’s town meeting in Sangerville, said the east-west highway will be a tough sell.

“Nobody wants it. The people I talked to don’t want anything to do with it,” he said. “The people who don’t care [either way] don’t live anywhere near [the likely proposed route].”

CORRECTION:An earlier version of this story requires correction. Planning board chairman Jerry Peters spoke in favor of the moratorium, not against the east-west highway.

Unanswered questions fuel contentious meeting over east-west highway

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff | April 02, 2013

Link to Article and Video

BANGOR, Maine — Uncertainty surrounding the route of a proposed 220-mile highway across Maine sparked vehement questioning and opposition during a Tuesday morning meeting at the historic Penobscot County Courthouse.

Cianbro Corp. CEO Peter Vigue, the leading proponent of the east-west highway, spent much of the meeting with commissioners trying to dispel what he called rumors and misconceptions about the proposed private $2.1-billionproject. Many of the more than 100 residents of Penobscot and Piscataquis counties in attendance weren’t satisfied after nearly two hours spent posing questions and concerns to Vigue.

Vigue argued that such a roadway would help Maine’s struggling economy grow and thrive. Residents voiced concerns that their towns and properties might lie in the path of the proposed highway, putting rural, agrarian ways of life at risk.

Cianbro, a Pittsfield-based construction company, has yet to release information about the corridor’s proposed route because its plans are fluid and changing on a regular basis, company representatives have said. That has left residents to speculate about whether it will cut a path through their communities or properties.

Penobscot County Commissioner Peter Baldacci said during the meeting that uncertainty among property owners about the path of the highway could lead to “condemnation blight,” a legal term referring to a reduction in property value that results from potential eminent domain claims. While Cianbro has repeatedly said that eminent domain will not be used, its decision to map out a route behind closed doors is causing uncertainty among residents who are left to speculate about the future of their land, Baldacci said.

Residents vehemently questioned Vigue, mostly on where the highway would be placed. Some attendees shouted out in disagreement or scoffed when Vigue provided uncertain answers or said he didn’t have or wasn’t prepared to release information related to the private project or its partners.

During his presentation and in answering questions that followed, Vigue vowed that there would be no public-private partnership between Cianbro and the state, that eminent domain would not be used to acquire land, and that tar sands and oil pipelines would not be run along the corridor in the foreseeable future.

The meeting came less than two months after a commissioners meeting during which more than a dozen Penobscot and Piscataquis County residents blasted the highway proposal. Commissioners asked Vigue to provide Cianbro’s perspective on the idea.

Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue, project manager to update Penobscot County commissioners on east-west highway plan

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff | April 01, 2013

Link to Article

BANGOR, Maine — Penobscot County commissioners will hear the leading proponent’s side of the contentious debate over the proposed 220-mile east-west highway on Tuesday morning.

Cianbro Corp. chairman and CEO Peter Vigue and Darryl Brown, manager of the $2.1 billion project, are scheduled to update commissioners around 10 a.m. in the third floor courtroom of the historic Penobscot County Courthouse at 97 Hammond St. The meeting is open to the public.

The meeting comes less than two months after a commissioners meeting during which more than a dozen Penobscot and Piscataquis County residents blasted the proposal, arguing that it would change the face of the region, put the environment at risk and wouldn’t have a significant positive effect on the state’s economy.

Penobscot County commissioners decided they needed to hear from the other side before taking any positions on the issue.

Brown said during an interview Monday that he and Vigue would be “trying to dispel some of the misinformation that continues to be out there,” Brown said.

For example, some residents continue to express concerns that land for the 500-foot-wide corridor would be acquired through use of eminent domain. Others believe the corridor would be closer to 2,000 feet wide.

“We keep emphasizing that’s not the case,” Brown said.

Brown said during a February Franklin County Chamber of Commerce business breakfast that the embattled project is “going to happen,” according to the Lewiston Sun Journal.

Commissioners will hear Cianbro’s explanation of the expected economic benefits of the project, including thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of maintenance jobs after construction is complete, as well as increased trade and transportation opportunities, according to Brown.

“It’s very critical that we meet with the citizens about this project and let them know that this clearly will be a game-changer for maine’s economy,” Brown said.

Brown said the route of the proposed corridor continues to change on a weekly basis, and it would be foolhardy to release preliminary ideas because they are constantly evolving. Concept maps of a potential route have been used in Cianbro presentations and circulated by residents. Some of those along the rough route expressed concerns about the corridor dividing their communities and compromising their rural way of life.

Brown said the route would be revealed once a solid path is decided based on the minimum possible effect to property owners and risk to the environment.

East-west highway foes pursue access to information

Much of a hearing on confidentiality also serves as a forum for criticisms of the proposed $2 billion project.

By Michael Shepherd | March 23, 2013
Portland Press Herald |State House Bureau

Link to Article

AUGUSTA — Opponents of a proposed east-west highway across Maine packed a legislative hearing Friday to lobby lawmakers for more access to information about the controversial project.

click image to enlarge


Jeff McCabe

Contributed photo

They backed a bill that would strip the confidentiality provision from an existing law that governs access to information on major public-private partnerships involving theMaine Department of Transportation.

But DOT officials said the bill would not apply to the east-west highway project. They also said that if the bill passes, it could discourage businesses from forming partnerships with the department because proprietary information might be disclosed, which would hamper economic development.

Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said his bill, L.D. 721, was motivated by constituent concerns surrounding the proposed $2 billion project, which would run from the Calais area on the New Brunswick border to the Coburn Gore area on the Quebec border.

McCabe told the Transportation Committee that much of the opposition to the east-west highway, especially north of his district in Somerset County, “is based on the lack of information that’s out there.”

In written testimony, McCabe said the bill was not specifically about the east-west highway but was aimed at fostering more informed community discussion of major transportation projects.

“If you drive around rural Somerset and Piscataquis (counties), the opposition has become visible to say the least,” McCabe said. “Transportation planning decisions, capital investment decisions and project decisions, particularly in these challenging economic times, are definitely matters of public concern.”

The bill would remove the DOT’s authority to restrict public access to records from transportation projects with an “initial capital cost” of $25 million or more, or when the project would establish tolls on roads that were previously toll-free.

Records related to such public-private partnerships are now confidential until the DOT determines a project meets agency standards or until the proposal is finally rejected by the department.

Bruce Van Note, deputy commissioner of the Maine DOT, said the east-west corridor proposal is currently a private project, outside the scope of the law allowing the department to participate in public-private partnerships.

Furthermore, he said, there’s never been an application to the department for any public-private partnership.

But after his testimony, Van Note acknowledged that the DOT has sent mixed messages on the project.

In March 2012, DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt appeared at a New Brunswick forum with Peter Vigue, the Cianbro Corp. president and CEO who is the highway project’s main champion. The Bangor Daily News reported then that Bernhardt referenced the possibility of a public-private partnership.

In April, DOT spokesman Ted Talbot said a feasibility study could include examining a variety of public-private partnerships that would make the highway project economically viable.

Last year, the Legislature also directed the DOT to conduct a $300,000 economic feasibility study of the highway. Gov. Paul LePage, a project supporter, slowed the study last year after a Republican senator’s constituents raised concerns. Van Note said the DOT has spent “a few thousand dollars” to draft a request-for-proposal to conduct the study, which drew no response.

When Rep. Wayne Parry, R-Arundel, said the state was acting “as an outside entity,” on what is now a private project, McCabe said he questioned whether it could work in that manner.

“It is a branch of government and I think something we should push for as much transparency on as possible,” he said.

Shenna Bellows, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said confidentiality protections are too broad, and McCabe’s bill would benefit future public-private partnerships, even if there aren’t any now.

In written testimony, Bellows said “no agency should receive a blanket exception for all activities surrounding a particular program.”

But Van Note and Peter Mills, executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, said allowing public view of partnership documents in projects’ infancies would render the public-private program meaningless.

Both added that they have never received public-private partnership applications, but they said companies considering large investments in Maine need protection from competition before the department acts on project details.

“If you’re going to remove this confidentiality provision, get rid of (the partnerships),” Mills said. “Repeal it. Don’t leave it on the books as a false representation that they’re available in this state because without these confidentiality provisions, you probably don’t have a workable tool.”

Much of the public hearing, though, served as a referendum on the east-west highway project, with residents of communities near the corridor’s proposed route speaking not just to transparency, but to criticisms of the highway project.

Charles Fitzgerald of Atkinson, a Piscataquis County town just east of Dover-Foxcroft, said he and many others are concerned because if the project is approved, it might not be just a road, but a 2,000-foot corridor that would cut through sensitive environmental areas.

In a 2012 interview with MaineBiz, Vigue said the project could be more than a highway: It could be a “transportation, utility and communications corridor” that the magazine described as “a 2,000-foot-wide swath that leaves room for future needs — whatever they might be.”

And Robert Morrison, of Charleston in western Penobscot County, said the scope of the project leaves the possibility open to an oil pipeline running alongside the highway.

“Would you want a partner that kept secrets from you? Particularly a partner that had tried to deceive you for a year or more?” he asked legislators. “No, no, no.”

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

On Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

Democracy School in Dover-Foxcroft

This democracy school by CELDF was brought to Dover-Foxcroft by members of Stop the East-West Corridor.  There will be another school on April 5 and 6th, followed by a rights-based-ordinance workshop on April 7th.  Visit our calendar for details.

Citizens and Activists Learn About U.S. Government System

by WABI-TV5 News Desk | March 8th 2013

View Original Article.

Dover-Foxcroft – Concerned citizens and activists had a chance to learn more about the United States government system.

The Daniel Pennock Democracy School was held at the Congregational Church in Dover-Foxcroft earlier this week.

This was the third time the course has been taught in the area by members of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

“Folks come here to learn about the legal structure. How it’s set up and what they can to do to actually take local democracy back and actually make those decisions for themselves”
“It’s about giving them an avenue to follow to be able to get that kind of community established and in place.”

Nat Pop: “So were going actually move now and take a look at the constitution of the United States of America.”

Participant Matthew Newman was paying close attention throughout the session.

“I came here specifically to learn how to write legislation or ordinances for towns along the route so that they can self govern”

In particular, he is concerned with the East West Corridor proposal.

“we should have the right as the community to to say as a community that we don’t want this”

But not everyone is here for the same reason as Matthew,

“We’ve had elected officials folks from all different political backgrounds. Folks come to this school when they either would like to say no to something coming into their community that they don’t want to see that’s going to harm…Or they would actually like to implement a positive policy ”
“I very rarely know what political leanings the people who participate in these democracy schools are. I seldom ask and I seldom find out. It’s really about those members of the communities who see that they perhaps are somehow being restricted from really obtaining the goals they have for their children or their grandchildren”

Caitlin Burchill. WABI TV 5 News. Dover-Foxcroft.

Workers removing oil from cars after train derails near Penobscot River

By Nok-Noi Ricker and Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff | March 07, 2013

Link to Article and Video

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — Emergency workers will be handling crude oil a few yards from the Penobscot River overnight Thursday after 13 full 31,000-gallon train tanker cars derailed and tipped over, spilling just 3 gallons, officials said.

The Pan Am Railways tanker cars, which were among 15 that derailed on the 96-car train, went off the tracks near Route 2 and the Winn town line about 5 a.m. Thursday. No injuries were reported. Thirteen of the 15 cars tipped over but none ruptured, said Pan Am Railways Executive Vice President Cynthia Scarano.

Scarano described the oil spill as that which typically accumulates around the two hatches atop the tank when tanks are filled or emptied. About a gallon of oil came from three overturned tankers, Mattawamkeag Fire Chief Robert Powers said.

“Three gallons — that’s amazing [when you] have the cars laying on their sides, a couple of them in trees,” Powers said. “They’ve built the rail cars to sustain derailment. We are very thankful that that’s where we are at right now.”

Maine Department of Environmental Protection crews and a private contractor will be working with Pan Am to transfer oil from the 13 tankers to 20 smaller tankers. The work likely will continue for two or three days, said department spokeswoman Samantha Warren, who said the spill could have been “disastrous.”

Workers emptied the first car at about 9:15 p.m. The offloading went well, but the work “will be delicate,” she said.

“There are still hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil in derailed cars within sight of the Penobscot River,” Warren added, joining a chorus of voices from the state Legislature and environmentalist community that called the accident’s lack of environmental damage a miracle.

Scarano said a severe leak into the river was never very likely. The train was on a stretch of track from Waterville to Canada that is rated Class 1, which means suitable for traffic moving no faster than 10 mph.

The Federal Railroad Administration investigation of the accident is continuing, but it appears that the train was moving no faster than the speed limit. Firefighters said train workers told them it was traveling 8 mph when the derailment occurred.

A slow speed would be logical, Scarano said, given that the train was approaching a switch in town. Its cargo was to be transferred to New Brunswick Southern Railway for eventual arrival at a refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. She said the train had three engines pulling it.

The tankers were filled in the Baaken oil fields in North Dakota, and were heading to Canada.

The accident occurred just west of 10 Main St. in what is almost the backyard of Dave Markie and his family, but didn’t wake them, Markie said. He and several other residents said that trains go through the area often and minor train derailments, in which cars leave the tracks but don’t tip over, are common occurrences.

“All I heard was the [train] engines running,” Markie said.

Emergency workers gathered along Route 2 and in Markie’s long driveway, just south of Markie’s Garage, for most of the day. A freight engine pulling three freight cars was stopped along the track about a half-mile south of the scene. A long line of tanker cars, possibly to be used for oil transfers, replaced the engine just before dusk.

Maine Department of Transportation crews came to help Federal Railroad Administration investigators determine the accident’s cause, DOT spokesman Ted Talbot said.

“We will follow their lead,” Talbot said. “We are trying to, if we can, identify what went wrong based on what we are seeing now. When the tankers are turned upright and able to move, we will take a second look to see what went wrong.”

An FRA investigator at the scene declined to comment.

This is the second time in less than a year that a Pam Am derailment threatened the Penobscot River, Warren said. Four cars derailed, with two going into the river, near the Bucksport-Orrington town line last May. The cars carried nonhazardous clay slurry used in papermaking.

Trains pulling tankers north to Canada have become a much more common sight along this rail line in the past year as oil drilling operations in the Northwest increase shipments into Canada and overseas, several residents said.

Of the more than 220 million gallons of oil that crossed Maine in 2012, Pan Am hauled about 105 million gallons, Scarano said. Pan Am has 900 workers in the U.S. Northeast and expects to hire 35 to 40 new train/engine crews this year, she said.

Mattawamkeag resident Timothy Coombs said he wasn’t surprised at the accident. The track’s recent heavy use, often punishing weather conditions and the track’s degraded condition along some stretches made the accident inevitable, residents said.

“It is just something that happens all the time,” Coombs said. “They usually don’t lay on their sides like they did today, but it happens down here four or five times a summer. They usually just derail.”

Scarano said the track was in excellent condition for a Class 1 line, though Class 1 is the slowest-speed track. A Class 5 track can handle 79 mph traffic. The Mattawamkeag stretch of tracks is rated Class 1 more for its use than condition, Scarano said.

Federal Railroad Administration workers inspected the track last fall and found no significant defects, Scarano said. Pan Am, which typically inspects its tracks at least once a week, inspects the Mattawamkeag-area tracks four times a week, she said.

Pan Am does regular maintenance and upgrades on its rail lines and “did a big project from Mattawamkeag south replacing ties” and other repairs recently, Scarano said.

Once the tipped tanks are emptied, Pan Am will use large cranes to right the tanker cars if possible, Scarano said.

Maine DEP will observe the oil transfer and other work overnight and Friday. A heated tent has been set up for emergency workers, Warren said. DEP handles about 3,000 oil and hazardous chemical spills annually.

“This still remains a very active emergency response,” Warren said. “We still have a ways to go, but we are optimistic that the recovery effort will proceed as things have thus far, with no apparent environmental damage.”

“I think it is incredibly fortunate,” Warren said, “that we measured the amount of discharge in drops instead of hundreds of thousands of gallons.”


A previous version of this story said the derailment occurred in Winn. The derailment occurred in Mattawamkeag near the Winn line. Incorrect information was provided to the BDN.

STEWC members organize, present, and lead discussion about EWC in Dexter

On Saturday, March 2nd, 2013, several members of STEWC organized, presented, and led a community discussion about the EWC at the Ridgeview Elementary School in Dexter.  The school’s maintenance person estimated there were at least 200 people there.  Thanks to everyone who volunteered to organize the event, man tables, talk to the press, and make attendees feel welcome!
by Jackie De Tore – March 2nd 2013 07:33pm – Read more Local News

Dexter – Mainers against the proposed East-West Corridor spoke out in Dexter on Saturday.

The timeline for a highway running east and west across Maine is unclear, but the project manager says it will happen.

Residents in the Dexter held a forum, so community members can ask questions.

Many Mainers say they want to know the exact route of the project and who will be affected.

One organizer said she doesn’t think it will be just a highway, she expects tar sands pipe lines and fracking gas pipelines.

A Member of the Stop the East-West Corridor, Meg Gilmartin said “It threatens Maine’s way of life. Here we have a really strong community based rural traditions. Farming, treasuring our natural resources, hunting, fishing, and we want to protect those things.”

Organizers said Project Manager for Cianbro, Darryl Brown denied an invitation to attend.

WABI-TV 5 News Event Announcement

by Jackie De Tore – March 1st 2013

Dexter – The timeline for a highway running east and west across Maine is unclear, but the project manager for Cianbro said it will happen.
Recent discussions with Maine Town Officials and Darryl Brown of Cianbro show the route could go through Charleston, Garland, and Dexter.

Now people in the Dexter are holding a forum so community members can ask questions.

Organizers said Brown declined an invitation to attend, but a local farmer and the state coordinator for people against the highway will be in attendance.

Community members can head to Ridge View Middle School Gymnasium on Saturday between 1:00-4:00pm to ask any questions or learn more information about the corridor.