HARPSWELL – Residents who support a liquefied natural gas terminal in Harpswell have submitted a petition in hopes of forcing the town to hold another vote on building a nearby storage terminal.
“We heard from a lot of people who were afraid to sign our petition for fear of repercussions. That’s why we think a second vote could be therapeutic, to make sure that this vote is done the right way,” said Jack Sylvester, spokesman for a pro-LNG group calling itself “Yes! For Harpswell’s Future.”
The group claims to have collected 1,272 signatures on a petition for a new vote. Town Clerk Rosalind Knight said she has not had time to verify the totals on the citizens petition but said she had received it.
It is now up to the town’s three-member Board of Selectmen to schedule a vote.
Selectmen are scheduled to hold a meeting Thursday, but LNG supporters and opponents say it’s unlikely the board will decide on a vote so soon.
On March 9, Harpswell voters rejected a proposed LNG terminal on the site of a former U.S. Navy fuel depot. Voting was interrupted by a bomb threat, and proposals for terminals at other sites, including Hope Island in Cumberland, Cousins Island in Yarmouth, and state-owned Sears Island in Penobscot Bay, have encountered resistance.
Last week, Gov. John Baldacci announced that a partnership of energy developers proposed a $300 million LNG terminal on Passamaquoddy tribal land. Quoddy Bay LLC wants to build the terminal on a 42-acre site at the Pleasant Point reservation near Eastport.
Despite resistance around Casco Bay to an LNG terminal and competition from another energy partnership, the Harpswell group remains determined to bring ConocoPhillips and TransCanada Corp. back to their town.
“Early on, we identified Harpswell as a suitable site, but we also said at the outset that we would respect the decision of the townspeople and we have done that,” said Heidi Feick, spokeswoman for TransCanada. “We are not prepared to speculate on what we might do if the town approved this project on a revote.”
Lee Umphrey, a spokesman for the governor, said the project was voted down once because it turned out to be too divisive. The governor has repeatedly said he will support LNG projects only where they are welcome, Umphrey said.
“He continues to support the need for an LNG project in Maine, but the governor does not want to see a community become polarized over this issue,” Umphrey said.