PORTLAND (AP) – Three Harpswell residents say their visit to a ConocoPhillips liquefied natural gas terminal in Alaska led them to conclude that a similar facility in Harpswell would put the town at risk.

The three were flown to the plant in Nikiski, Alaska, at the expense of Fair Play for Harpswell, a citizen group opposed to an LNG facility, but the visitors claim they made the trip with open minds.

But supporters of the $350 million Fairwinds LNG project said the report on the visit lacked balance and relied too much on environmentalists who oppose oil development.

John Lloyd, a local estate attorney who also serves as Harpswell’s Town Meeting moderator, made the trip last month with Walter Norton and Dana McIntire.

The three met with local environmental authorities and toured the Kenai LNG facility, which converts natural gas to LNG before shipping the product to Japan.

ConocoPhillips is a partner in the Fairwinds venture, an LNG terminal and pipeline to be built on the site of the former Navy fuel depot in Harpswell.

Harpswell’s terminal would do the opposite of what happens at the Kenai liquefaction plant. LNG tankers would unload LNG in Harpswell where it would be stored and changed to natural gas before being piped across Casco Bay to an existing pipeline west of Portland.

Voters must decide on Jan. 27 whether to approve a long term lease with Fairwinds that would allow the venture to use the property for up to 50 years. In return, the town will receive more than $8 million a year in annual lease revenues.

Lloyd said the Kenai LNG facility was heavily industrialized, generating a noise level that was “deafening.”

“Nikiski has few if any similarities to Harpswell. It has no history other than as an industrial oil and gas center and its apparent population density is a mere fraction of Harpswell’s,” Lloyd writes in his report. “Nikiski may be the perfect site for an LNG facility compared with Harpswell . . .”

“But unlike Nikiski, Harpswell must invite LNG and Fairwinds to join the town. Harpswell must compromise its very existence and accept uncountable risks to welcome LNG, a resource that is not natural to Maine, let alone Harpswell. Can or should we in Harpswell have the same comfort level with LNG as those in Nikiski? Are we willing to accept unquantifiable risks and consequences created by a local LNG facility and the attendant pipeline,” Lloyd said.

Peter Micciche, Fairwinds’ spokesman, said the report was incomplete and focused on environmentalists’ concerns rather than on ConocoPhillips’ relationship with Nikiski, a town of more than 2,700 people.

“There was obviously an agenda and I think that is too bad,” Micciche said. “I don’t feel Mr. Lloyd was interested in ConocoPhillips’ place in this community. He was more interested in the environmentalists’ view of oil in Alaska. I would challenge anyone from Harpswell to pick up a phone book and find someone (in Nikiski) who has anything negative to say about us.”

Selectman Gordon Weil visited the Kenai facility in late October. He later issued a report that LNG backers say was more thorough and factual.

AP-ES-12-03-03 0216EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Daily Headlines

  • Sign up and get the top stories to begin the day delivered to your inbox at 6 a.m.