Where there once were three, will there now be just one?

That looks like it will be the total number of companies pursuing plans to construct a terminal for importing liquefied natural gas in Maine after one hopeful, Quoddy LNG, withdrew its applications and a second, Calais LNG, last week lost its sole financial backer.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. One such terminal would be sufficient to meet the projected demand for LNG imports to the state, so it has been clear for a long time that there would only be one built — if any were.

Indeed, it remains to be seen whether the surviving firm, Downeast LNG, which wants to build a terminal in Robbinston will be able to overcome all the hurdles that remain in its path.

Calais LNG, whose backer was the financial giant Goldman Sachs, was planning on a $1 billion investment to pipe gas shipped in via huge tankers south to markets from Portland to Boston and beyond.

That’s still Downeast LNG’s business plan, but it faces opposition from environmental groups and the Canadian government, who fear an accident in Passamaquoddy Bay. The plan also may founder on a lessened demand for LNG due to the current recession and competition from terminals in Massachusetts and New Brunswick.

Nevertheless, Downeast LNG continues to press forward with the permitting process, and says that by the time the facility is in place, demand could be expanding again.

The state backs a terminal because it would give Maine insurance against restricted supplies of other fuels. That’s a wise position, and it’s why an LNG terminal still deserves support.

 


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