PLEASANT POINT (AP) – Maine’s Passamaquoddy Indians voted Tuesday to move forward with a plan to develop a $300 million liquefied natural gas terminal on its Pleasant Point reservation.

More than half of the nearly 600 eligible tribal members turned out to vote at the tribal office, with 193 voting in favor of the proposal, and 132 against it.

A small group of demonstrators opposed to LNG development gathered along U.S. 1 in Perry, not far from the office, displaying cardboard signs spelling out their concerns.

The outcome was being watched with interest by residents of nearby communities, including Eastport, Lubec and Campobello Island, New Brunswick, which would be affected by the passage of giant LNG tankers off their shores. The vote clears the way for the tribe’s leaders to move forward in talks with Quoddy Bay LLC, an energy development partnership in Tulsa, Okla., to build an LNG terminal on a 42-acre site on Passamaquoddy Bay.

Quoddy Bay estimates that the project could generate as many as 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and more than 70 full-time jobs once the facility is operating.

“The community has voted to endorse this and the governing body will do everything in its power to ensure this is a good deal for the tribe,” tribal attorney Craig Francis said.

If a terminal is to be built, the tribe must reach an agreement with Quoddy Bay on the terms of the deal, and the appropriate permits must be issued, Francis said.

Supporters see LNG as an economic boon for a tribe smarting from last year’s defeat of a referendum for an Indian casino in southern Maine; opponents maintain that the proposed terminal would harm the environment and be out of sync with the Passamaquoddies’ traditional uses of the land.

State and federal officials have promoted LNG development as a way to bolster the nation’s supplies of natural gas. New England has both the demand and the pipeline capacity to support new terminals, and companies have been exploring several potential sites in Maine.

Gov. John Baldacci has encouraged communities, including state-owned Sears Island in Penobscot Bay, to consider hosting a terminal. In a referendum in March, voters in Harpswell rejected LNG development in their town.

Across the border in Canada, LNG projects in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have been moving through the permitting project.

LNG is supercooled natural gas that can be transported long distances by sea before being converted back to vapor.

The various proposals would hook up with the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, which carries natural gas from Sable Island off Nova Scotia through Maine and onto markets in the Northeast.

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