Our View: Transparency needed on transportation projects

The public has the right to know what the state and its private roadwork partners are up to.

April 3, 2013 | Portland Press Herald

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Back in 2010, the Legislature created an exemption to the state’s right-to-know law that you could drive a truck through.

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A group responds to Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro Corp., while he addresses more than 700 people during a public meeting at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft on May 31, 2012, to discuss the proposed east-west corridor. A study on the project’s feasibility will cost Maine taxpayers $300,000, although Vigue says the project will be privately financed.

2012 File Photo/Derek Davis

Under this exemption, all records of public-private partnerships involving transportation projects of $25 million or more are sealed until the Maine Department of Transportation decides whether to go ahead with or reject a given project.

All submissions and communications are secret. The public can’t find out how it would be affected until late in the process. Even when the public is paying for the work, under this exemption the public has no right to know how its money is being spent.

This exemption is far too broad and should be tightened by the Legislature this year. Lawmakers should do that by passing L.D. 721 and bringing transparency to this type of project.

The weakness of the current law became instantly obvious with the very first project to come along since the law went on the books – the proposed east-west transportation, utilities and communications corridor that the Cianbro Corp. construction company has proposed to cut across the state from Calais to Coburn Gore.

Cianbro President Peter Vigue has publicly said it would be a privately financed project, built on existing rights of way, taking no land through eminent domain. But the public is paying up to $300,000 for a feasibility study. Beyond that, there is no information available.

People have legitimate questions about how this project might affect them. No one knows the proposed route (except its broad outline), and the specifics could affect property and business owners along the way.

The project is supposed to be completely privately financed, but how would that work exactly? What role would the state having in maintaining and policing the new corridor or in connecting it to the rest of the transportation network?

What would happen if the company that owned the corridor went bankrupt? This has happened in other states when public-private partnerships were used to build roads and the state was left holding the bag.

Although it has been stated that no public money would be needed for the east-west corridor, the public is already spending $300,000 for a study at a time when it is cutting key services elsewhere.

There may be simple answers to all of these concerns, but secrecy is a surefire way to destroy public trust.

A narrowly defined exception that would protect trade secrets and the company’s competitive position could be crafted to permit the kind of public oversight that would ease these concerns.

The Legislature ought to tighten up this exemption to the right-to-know law to make sure important projects have public involvement every step of the way.

Sangerville residents place moratorium on east-west corridor development

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff | April 02, 2013

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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

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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.

Tribe says LePage threatened Passamaquoddy over elvers during ‘enraged’ phone call

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff | April 02, 2013

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ELLSWORTH, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage issued an ultimatum to the Passamaquoddy Tribe on Monday morning: Play by the state’s fishing rules or face consequences from his office, tribal officials said.

According to a Passamaquoddy official who sat in on a phone call from the governor, LePage threatened to withdraw support for issues of importance to the Passamaquoddy — including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a possible casino in Washington County — during a brief call with tribal leaders Monday morning.

Newell Lewey, a member of the Tribal Council, said he and several others sat in on the call, which LePage made to Chief Clayton Cleaves. LePage told the tribe he’d make good on those threats if they didn’t stand down on their claim to authority over tribal members’ right to harvest elvers.

“Gov. LePage also threatened he would shut down the entire fishery,” Lewey said Monday evening, quoting a letter sent by the tribe to Senate President Justin Alfond informing him about the phone call.

Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s press secretary, confirmed that LePage had spoken with Cleaves on Monday, but said she could not comment on the specifics of the conversation because she wasn’t present for the call.

“The governor is gravely concerned about this issue,” Bennett said Tuesday. “We have state law that is very clear and we have a Passamaquoddy Tribe that is knowingly issuing more than double the number of licenses that are allowed.”

She continued, saying, “In regard to what some are calling threats, the governor has the responsibility to ensure that the law is followed.”

March 12 legal opinion by Attorney General Janet Mills was made available Tuesday in which Mills backed up the state’s authority over tribal fishermen.

Lewey said there was no mistaking LePage’s intent or anger, describing the governor’s message as “loud, enraged and demanding.”

“He’s going to try to hold us hostage, that’s what he’s going to do,” Lewey said. “I was in there. I heard it. I heard his tone. There was no mistake.”

Rumors also swirled in Augusta on Monday that LePage had threatened to call in the National Guard, though Bennett said there was no indication that guardsmen would be called in to enforce the state’s rules on elver harvesting.

The dispute began last week when DMR announced that it would invalidate all but 150 of the 575 elver licenses issued by the tribe. A new state law limits the number of elver permits available to the Passamaquoddy to 200 — 150 permits to set fyke nets anywhere in the state and 50 permits to use dip-nets in the St. Croix River.

Keliher said the Passamaquoddy had put the state out of compliance with rules imposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Enforcement of the law began March 31, and Keliher said any Passamaquoddy fishing with a permit number higher than 150 would be issued a summons and have their nets confiscated.

For its part, the Passamaquoddy say they aren’t backing down. Lewey said that even if he wanted to, the chief couldn’t back down because the Joint Tribal Council — which represents Passamaquoddys in Indian Township and Pleasant Point — had already spoken.

“The chief of the tribe is acting on a Joint Council Resolution, shaped by the people of the tribe, and the council voted unanimously, all 12 council members, to support the elver fisheries management plan,” he said. “The chief cannot override that.”

On Sunday night, there was a confrontation between tribal leaders, backed up by a crowd of Passamaquoddys, and Maine Marine Patrol in Pembroke. State police were called to backup DMR’s effort to enforce its rules and ultimately Keliher, who was on scene during the incident, agreed to hold off on issuing summonses, but nets were still confiscated.

Keliher later told legislators in Augusta that the police involved in the Sunday incident had become fearful for their safety because of the number of Passamaquoddy protesting their action.

At least three summonses have been issued to tribal fishermen, though DMR has not returned calls for comment, so the total number of summonses issued is unknown.

Fred Moore III, a former Passamaquoddy representative to Augusta and a member of the tribe’s fisheries committee, said attempts to strip indigenous fishing rights would only result in more tribal fishing.

“They can come and take a couple of us to jail, and 300 more will join in.” he said Monday.

The sovereignty dispute has grown hotter by the day, with the Passamaquoddy attacking the state’s elver management plan and touting the superiority of its own conservation techniques.

Lewy said the state’s effort to protect the elver population by limiting the number of licenses was inferior to the tribal management plan, which instead sets a total allowable catch limit of 3,600 pounds.

“The idea that we have jeopardized the entire fishery for the state is an outright lie,” Lewey said Monday night. “He [Keliher] keeps coming back to that number, that 150 or 200 licenses, but it doesn’t really matter because at 3,600 pounds, we’re shutting down, whether we reach that in early April or mid-May.”

The lucrative elver season runs from March 22 to May 31. Last year, harvesters netted 19,000 pounds of the juvenile American eels and were paid nearly $38 million for their catch. Individual fisherman sometimes received more than $2,000 per pound.

Regardless of whether the tribe’s management plan is superior, Bennett emphasized that the Passamaquoddys are not in compliance with the law on the books.

“There were no concerns like this brought up during the legislative process, albeit it was a relatively quick process,” Bennett said, referring to the rule passed in March that limited the number of Passamaquoddy elver licenses. “It’s very clear that the tribe is defying state law.”

While the Passamaquoddy seem to have drawn a line in the sand over the elver issue, Bennett said the governor hoped a resolution could be found before the dispute escalates further.

“We hope the lines of communication remain open,” she said. “The governor has a background of trying to improve tribal relations. He would hate to see this issue jeopardize that relationship.”

BDN reporter Robert Long contributed to this report. Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at@riocarmine.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story stated that Attorney General Janet Mills released a legal opinion on the jurisdiction dispute on Tuesday. While the opinion was released on Tuesday, it was dated March 12, 2013.

TransCanada pitches west-east pipeline

Proposed project would bring crude to refineries in Quebec, Saint John

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CBC News | Apr 2, 2013 9:28 AM ET 

TransCanada Corp. is seeking firm financial commitments from companies seeking to ship crude oil from Western Canada to refineries in Eastern Canada.

The Calgary-based company announced on Tuesday morning a bidding process that will allow interested producers to make binding commitments for space on the pipeline. Companies will have from April 15 to June 17 to enter into long-term commitments to use the pipeline.

The open-season process follows a successful expression-of-interest phase and talks with potential shippers.

TransCanada said if the next phase is successful, it plans to start seeking regulatory approvals later in 2013, and the oil could start flowing to Eastern Canada by late 2017.

The proposal would be to convert 3,000 kilometres of the company’s natural gas pipelines to allow for crude oil to be transported. The company would also be looking at building 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline from Quebec into Saint John.

The pipeline could carry between 500,000 and 850,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to the eastern refineries, according to the company.

Premier David Alward called the west-east pipeline proposal an historic initiative. Alward made the comments in front of the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John on Tuesday.Premier David Alward called the west-east pipeline proposal an historic initiative. Alward made the comments in front of the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John on Tuesday. (Robert Jones/CBC)

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said on Tuesday TransCanada’s announcement was a “positive step.”

“We welcome such proposals, because they can generate thousands of Canadian jobs and long-term economic prosperity — particularly in Quebec and the Maritimes — for generations to come,” Oliver said.

The federal minister said the proposed pipeline project must meet a series of regulatory reviews.

If the project moves forward, Oliver said it would be an important piece of energy infrastructure for Canada.

“Pipelines moving oil from Alberta to Quebec to New Brunswick would be among the most expansive and ambitious stretches of energy infrastructure in the entire world and would contribute to the energy security of Canada and all of North America,” he said.

Officials from the Saint John-based Irving Oil Ltd. have said in the past their refinery could handle western crude oil.

The Irving Oil refinery is the largest in Canada and can process 300,000 barrels of oil per day. Saint John also has a deep-water port and a liquefied natural gas facility.

Oliver said he has recently toured the Irving refinery and the Ultramar refinery in Levis. The federal minister said he plans to tour Suncor’s refinery in Montreal in the coming weeks.

3 days in Alberta

New Brunswick Premier David Alward responded to TransCanada’s announcement on Tuesday morning during a news conference held at the Irving Oil headquarters, calling it an “encouraging step forward.”

The New Brunswick premier said the pipeline proposal is a “historic initiative” for both the province and the country.

“We envision New Brunswick as Canada’s next energy powerhouse and Saint John as the anchor of that powerhouse,” Alward said in front of more than 30 Irving Oil employees.

“If we proceed, this project will strengthen our national and provincial economies and create jobs and economic growth today and for generations to come,” he said, suggesting the project has the potential to be as important to Canada’s economic future as the railway was in the past.

Alward said the pipeline will create high-paying jobs in New Brunswick and will keep workers in the province instead of heading to western Canada to find employment in the oilsands.

“I want to see the day when the mother or father, the son or daughter leave their New Brunswick home in the morning to go to work in the development of natural resources, they will return for dinner that night, not three or four weeks later,” he said.

Alward spent three days in Alberta in February talking to Alberta Premier Alison Redford and oil executives about the possibility of the west-to-east pipeline.

The project has the possibility of creating 2,000 jobs during the construction phase of the pipeline and a few hundred refining jobs after, according to some estimates.

Alberta has been interested in the project, because oil from that province is now being shipped to the United States, where there is a glut. That means oil producers are getting $20 to $40 less per barrel than the world price.

Those lower prices translate into lower royalties for the provincial government, and that is causing a potential multi-billion dollar deficit in Alberta. A pipeline to the Irving Oil refinery would allow Alberta producers to charge the higher world price.

A new pipeline would also alleviate Canada’s dependence on foreign oil and increase the value of Canada’s crude oil through shipping to world markets from the deep-water port of Saint John, said Alward.

Port Saint John president and CEO Jim Quinn welcomed the prospect of playing an integral role in bringing Canadian crude to global markets.

“This opportunity for Saint John and our port is phenomenal,” Quinn said in a statement.

The port, which for 50 years has been handling petroleum cargo for both import and export, currently handles the largest oil tankers in the world, as well as the largest crude carriers, he said.

TransCanada Corp. may build 1,400 kilometres of pipeline, extending its capacity into Saint John. TransCanada Corp. may build 1,400 kilometres of pipeline, extending its capacity into Saint John. (Courtest of TransCanada)

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

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff | April 01, 2013

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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 mshepherd@mainetoday.com | March 23, 2013
Portland Press Herald |State House Bureau

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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.

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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:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com

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

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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.”

CORRECTION:

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.