Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bill would set high standard for coal plants

Residents voted down the coal gasification plant in Wiscasset, but developers haven't given up yet.

By DENNIS HOEY Staff Writer November 8, 2007

WISCASSET — After winning their fight to block construction of a
coal gasification plant, opponents are continuing the battle in
the Maine Legislature.

About 30 people gathered on the town dock Wednesday
morning to support a bill prohibiting construction of coal power
plants in Maine that do not capture 90 percent of the
greenhouse gases they produce.

Such a measure would effectively kill any hopes developers have
for reviving plans to build the Wiscasset plant. They've said
they're not giving up on the idea, despite Tuesday's vote.

"We need good jobs and industry in the state, but we can't keep
polluting the atmosphere in order to get them," said Rep. Bruce
MacDonald, D-Boothbay, who is proposing the bill.

Scott Houldin, spokesman for the Twin River Energy Center, said
his company plans to conduct a community survey to determine
why residents voted 868-707 against a zoning amendment that
would have allowed them to build the plant.

Twin River needed the amendment -- one of four ballot
questions on the plan -- because at 230 feet tall, the plant
would have exceeded the current height limit of 60 feet.

Houldin said that once the survey is finished, his parent
company -- National RE/sources of Greenwich, Conn. -- would
consider the cost of conducting more studies before asking the
town to sanction a second vote on the project.

A second referendum vote, if it were to occur, would most likely
take place next spring, Houldin said.

"Our next step is to understand why people voted no," Houldin
said. "I've heard a lot of people say that the project was moving
too fast. That does not necessarily mean they are opposed to the
project. To me, that says they want to take a deep breath and
learn more about it."

In July, the company announced it wanted to build a plant that
could convert coal and wood biomass into a gas that would be
burned to power a 700 megawatt generator.

During the months that followed, opponents criticized the
project, claiming emissions would harm air quality and that coal
shipments would disrupt fishing and boating on the Back and
Sheepscot rivers.

On Wednesday, after voters rejected all four ballot questions
that would have opened the door to construction of the plant,
opponents called on the developer to leave Wiscasset.

"I've got one question: What part of 'no' don't they understand,"
said Willy Ritch, who organized the Back River Alliance to oppose
the plant.

Houldin said the margin of defeat -- 161 votes -- was not
sufficient to convince him the project doesn't stand a chance.

Houldin said it might be beneficial to conduct further studies.

"We're not closing the door just yet," he added.

National RE/sources has begun construction of a maritime
village on Wiscasset's waterfront and owns the i.Park,
commercial land that was once part of the former Maine Yankee
nuclear power plant site. The coal gasification plant would be
built on 50 acres within the i.Park.

At Wednesday's press conference, Anne Leslie, a Wiscasset
resident, expressed hope that Wiscasset can move on.

"I don't want this issue to divide our town," Leslie said. "This was
not a vote against the maritime village or against the i.Park. We
want those projects to succeed. This was a vote for responsible

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 725-8795 or at

Copyright © 2007 Blethen Maine Newspapers

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