Bill Would Set High Standard for
Residents Voted Down the Coal Gasification
Plant in Wiscasset, but Developers Haven't Given Up
Nov 8, 2007 - Portland Press Herald
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
Such a measure would effectively kill
any hopes developers have for reviving plans to build
the Wiscasset plant.
"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 the proposal to build a
plant didn't die with Tuesday's vote. The company,
he said, plans to conduct a community survey to determine
why residents voted 868-707 against a zoning amendment
to accommodate 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 hold a second
vote on the project.
A second referendum vote, if it were
to occur, would most likely take place next spring,
"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,"
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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