The withdrawal decision was made just days before a Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) scheduled hearing on December 16. That hearing date was set after five extensions requested by Calais LNG beginning last summer.
The letter from Calais LNG attorney David Van Slyke withdrew a Natural Resources Protection Act application, a Site Location of Development application, an Air Emission application, and a Water Quality Certification application.
Van Slyke also stated, “As a result of this withdrawal, the Board and the Department no longer have jurisdiction over these applications and the BEP hearing scheduled on this matter for December 16, 2010 is now moot. Calais LNG will notify the Department when it is ready to re-file its applications.”
Calais LNG spokesman Ian Emery hopes that the re-filing will occur in a few months.
“We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to re-file our application this spring,” Emery said on January 6.
For that to happen, Emery will need to find a new principal investor to replace Goldman Sachs, which withdrew from the project in July.
Asked on January 6 what the prospects were for a new financial backer, Emery declined to be specific but said, “We’re moving forward; we’re spending money.”
Robert Godfrey, spokesman for Save Passamaquoddy Bay, which opposes the Calais project, said on January 7 he believes that the Calais facility has no future, adding, “Goldman Sachs-a company known for making money even when the world is losing money-deserted Calais LNG because the project has no value.”
Godfrey then raised the following questions: “From whom and when does Calais LNG intend to get the required financial backing? Where and when does it intend to locate their new project site?”
Godfrey was referring to the November announcement that the owners of the land on which part of the LNG facility was to be built had notified the BEP that Calais LNG had lost the option to purchase or lease the land.
In his December 14 letter to BEP chair Susan Lessard, Emery noted that the project has strong local support including that of the Calais city government. He added, “While we believe that it is in Calais LNG’s best interest, as well as in the best interest of the State of Maine for the companies to withdraw their applications at this time, it is worth noting that this is happening now as a result of a significant force majeure event that has impacted all of America-the meltdown of the financial markets.”
Emery continued, “It is our firm belief that, but for the extreme turbulence of the capital markets, Maine would be well on its way toward having an LNG facility in Washington County that would be capable of providing stable and secure natural gas prices for Maine’s industrial, commercial and residential consumers.”
Godfrey counters, “The natural gas market has been turned upside down. There is now a 100-year natural gas glut in North America according to the industry. Even in the Northeast, LNG import terminals are operating at just a fraction of capacity. Canaport LNG has been operating at below 20% of capacity and canceled building its fourth LNG storage tank due to lack of market. And, there are two new-and around 30 pending-natural gas pipeline projects to deliver abundant natural gas supply to the Northeast, evening out supply and price across the US.”