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Environmental Clinic Wins Long Campaign for Passamaquoddy Bay

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The Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic has prevailed in its seven-year battle over a proposal to build a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal at Pleasant Point on the shores of beautiful Passamaquoddy Bay.

In 2005, the Clinic filed suit on behalf of a group of Passamaquoddy tribal members challenging the decision of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve a lease to construct the terminal at a site with great historic and spiritual significance to the Passamaquoddy people. The case wound a tortuous path through the federal courts, with two trips to the First Circuit before the matter was referred to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals.

As time passed the Canadian Government registered formal diplomatic opposition to supertankers transecting its waters, the market for East Coast LNG collapsed, and the developers’ financing faded.   Still, the project, like the walking dead, lingered in the shadows.   That ended on January 25, 2013, when the IBIA issued an order vacating the approval of the lease and declaring the case — at long last — at an end.

Many hands contributed to this success, first and foremost the dozen or so clinicians who slaved over the countless briefs it took to counter the machinations of the government lawyers, including a companion case under FOIA that forced disclosure of documents hidden from public view for years.  Justin Kolber ‘07, the clinic’s first Fellow, argued before the First Circuit in the early round.  Teresa Clemmer, staff attorney and acting director of the clinic, took over the case and argued the second round before the Circuit.  And last but not least, Laura Murphy administered the coup de grace by convincing the IBIA to bury this bad idea once and for all.

The Passamaquoddy refer to themselves as the People of the Dawn. Whales and porpoise and other marine life play a prominent role in their culture, nutrition, ceremonies and heritage. Thanks to the clinic the critically endangered right whales that ply the waters of Passamaquoddy Bay will not have to compete with tankers.

Doug Ruley
Associate Professor of Law, Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic

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