Op-ed: The Kingfish Industrial Complex

The Kingfish RAS proposed in Jonesport has recently stirred several exceptionally biased letters in support of Kingfish.  I am unable to fully comprehend why people harbor such animosity toward Kingfish opponents, particularly when opponents present scientifically rigorous data and receive Bronx cheers rather than constructive dialogue.  One recurring comment is that the opponents are ‘from away’.  As the President of Protect Downeast, I fail to understand how I could be considered ‘from away’ if my family settled in this area in 1761?  Moreover, supporters do realize that Kingfish is a Dutch company, don’t they?  

And, just for argument, if the Kingfish Industrial Complex was totally self-contained there would be no argument from Protect Downeast.  Contrary to local opinion, Jonesporters do not own Chandler Bay, it is part of Maine’s coastal legacy enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.   

Kingfish has stated that their facility will reduce taxes in Jonesport.  Congratulations to supporters for choosing possible economic benefit over environmental integrity.  This choice rarely results in benefit to anyone except a profit-motive-only corporation.  For comparison, in 2021, lobster catch in the Jonesport/Beals Island zones accounted for $34 million in revenue.  The Kingfish Industrial Complex will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the lobster catch (and mollusks) thanks to the nitrogen, phosphorous and formalin circulating in the coastal waters off Jonesport and Roque Bluffs.

The State of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development compelled the DEP to significantly raise their threshold for nitrogen concentration.  The letter to the DEP was based on an economic report from UMO.  UMO was paid $40,000 by Kingfish for generating an economic report that utilized data provided by Kingfish and combined with standard data reflecting State averages.  Not what I would call a rigorous, independent assessment.

There are three major points that have NOT really been analyzed properly.  (1) The Land Use Development Ordinance for Jonesport clearly states, in Table 15, that industrial structures are not permitted in the Resource and Residential District.  A ‘functionally water-dependent’ use does not and should not override a prohibition of Industrial structures.  (2) The 1639 lbs of Nitrogen per day, 393 lbs of Phosphorous per day, and unknown amounts of formalin deposited into Chandler Bay will cause serious environmental problems.  The current flow pattern in Chandler Bay has never been accurately modelled and if a circular current exists then nitrogen, phosphorous and formalin concentrations will build up over time.  Of course, Kingfish contends this is not a problem but it undeniably is.  (3) The Kingfish Industrial Complex will take 43,200 gallons of fresh water per day from the Jonesport aquifer, equivalent to more than 850 new families in Jonesport, but without the benefit to the school or town.  Big problem rarely mentioned.  Further, Kingfish always highlights that their Zeeland installation is special because it is situated close to a protected area.  Take a look on Google Earth and see that it is situated in the middle of industrial agricultural land, immediately adjacent to a 4-lane highway and nearby commercial shipping lanes feeding Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Consider this:  Jonesport residents harbor the false notion that Kingfish will rescue Jonesport.  How many new people could possibly come to Jonesport and/or Addison to help populate the schools?  There is NOT enough housing to accommodate more than a handful of families within the Jonesport school district.  Moreover, how many people will desert businesses such as AC Inc. and defect to Kingfish?  That is a zero-sum game.  

At the final Planning Board meeting I acknowledged that all the members had weathered a grueling 9 months to evaluate comments on both sides.  Even this statement resulted in baseless heckling from proponents.  When did we abandon informed discussion in favor of choosing a side and sticking with it regardless of logic and facts?

Richard Aishton

May 31, 2023

Machias Valley News Observer

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