Gloucester Fishermen’s Association
February 25, 1998
The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Senator Kennedy:
The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association has, for decades, prided itself in helping to protect our ocean environment and the fishermen’s way of life in all New England fishing communities. In the past, we have successfully opposed drilling for oil and gas offshore on the Georges Bank, lobbied for a ban on ocean dumping, and worked diligently with local, state, and federal officials and many private organizations to protect our ocean resources for the good of our nation. Additionally, we have been instrumental in establishing a comprehensive medical insurance program, the Fishing Partnership Health Plan, that currently covers nearly 1000 fishermen and their families.
Now, the Gloucester fishing community faces perhaps its greatest challenge. A small, Texas-based, oil and gas company, Tatham Offshore, has proposed to build the world’s longest undersea gas pipeline. This 1500-mile long pipeline which will purportedly bring natural gas from Canada’s Grand Banks to Seabrook, New Hampshire cuts directly across some of the richest fishing grounds on the East Coast across the Gulf of Maine and Jeffreys Ledge). As of May 1, 1998, 1200 square miles of prime fishing grounds in the Gulf of Maine including Jeffreys Ledge will be closed to fishing for three years. In addition larger rolling closures lasting two months each will close all Gulf of Maine inshore fishing grounds where the pipeline will be present. Although the company claims it’s $3 billion project will have little adverse impact on the fisherman and environment of New England, the facts tell a very different story. Common sense and the history of accidents and environmental failures in the petroleum industry says that even a 500 mile pipeline (Phase I is scheduled for completion in November 1999) which is pressurized to 3000 psi and stands 4 feet above the seafloor represents a major threat to the region.
Gloucester Fishermen & Wives
February 25, 1998 – Page 2
The following package of materials summarizes the project and details our case against the offshore pipeline. Most of the documents and research are sourced either from the gas industry’s own documents or from government agencies. These materials illustrate the three fundamental reasons why we oppose this pipeline project.
Our first concerns are the inherent risks and safety issues involved in permitting a gas project of this magnitude to go forward in such a critical area. The statistics provided the by the US Government’s own Office of Pipeline Safety show a total of 891 gas pipeline incidents by transmission operators over a recent 10 year period resulting in 37 fatalities, 170 injuries and more than $180 million in damage. Furthermore, more than half of these incidents appear to have been the result of corrosion problems or defects. The accompanying case histories show that contrary to the company’s assertions, gas leaks can and do lead to catastrophic explosions and fires.
Moreover, our extensive research has unearthed a significant risk of a major earthquake occurring along the route which could result in a catastrophic failure of the pipeline. As the maps show, one of the highest risk areas is located near the proposed route and only 50 miles offshore Gloucester. This startling revelation is supported not only by the historical records of major quakes going back 350 years, but by the recent tremors in the same vicinity which were reported in the local newspapers. This earthquake record alone should preclude any consideration of industrial developments in this region of the Gulf of Maine.
Our second concern is the very shaky financial position of the proposed operator.
Examination of Tatham Offshore’s own quarterly reports show that the company is deeply in debt and losing money. On July 21, 1997, the company declared that it would take a write down of approximately, $42 million to reflect its production-related problems. Since then, it has announced that the company is in danger of being de-listed on the NASDAQ National Market. After incurring losses for 3 of the last 4 years last October it failed to maintain a $1 per share value for 10 consecutive days. With net assets less than $4 million, the company, nevertheless, claims to have invested nearly $5 million in pre-development costs for the offshore pipeline proposal and plans to spend another $5 million by the spring of 1998.
The parent Company, Deeptech Int’l Inc., is also in poor financial condition. Deeptech’s net income for the three months ended September 30, 1997 totaled $2.4 million. According to one stock analyst it lost $18 million in the previous 12 months. This company, too, is burdened with debt. Deeptech’s quarterly report states, “In the future, the Company anticipates that it will need significant additional funds from outside sources to fund its debt obligations which mature in 1998 and beyond.” This is not the kind of company that could be expected to operate and maintain a multi-billion dollar pipeline in a safe and responsible manner. Nor, does it have the resources to cope with the liabilities and financial consequences if a major problem develops.
Gloucester Fishermen & Wives
February 25, 1998 – Page 3
Finally, we are deeply concerned about the potential adverse impacts such a development could have on the fish habitats which we consider essential for the survival and recovery of the New England fishery. Unlike Canada, the proposed route does not avoid rock outcrops, steep slopes and significant fishing areas. Contrary to Canadian practices, the pipeline will not be trenched or buried and according to the company’s own brochure, “no valves or other protruding features to catch nets and no exclusion zone is required.” In the absence of any control valves near a leak, it could take many hours to shut off the flow. During major leak or rupture, methane gas and other contaminants would bubble up to the surface causing a significant environmental and safety hazard.
If this project is completed, it will add impetus to the oil company frenzy which is presently taking place on the Grand Banks of Canada. These, partially subsidized oil and gas operations have already overrun centuries-old Canadian fishing grounds, and have encroached upon their most sensitive marine and wildlife sanctuaries. We cannot make the same mistake
For all of these reasons, the offshore gas pipeline should never be approved. The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association and its allies will oppose the construction of this pipeline with every means at our disposal. We desperately need your support and assurance that such an ill-conceived plan will never make it off the drawing board.
Angela Sanfilippo, President Gaetano G. Brancaleone, President
Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Assn. Gloucester Fishermen's Assn.