Moderator Tom Saviello with panelists Tom Thibodeau of ReEnergy, Robert Linkletter of Athens Energy and Donnie Isaacson of PalletOne discuss how CMP’s NECEC project will impact Maine’s forestry industry at a Wilton forum on Wednesday night. Nicole Carter/Sun Journal

WILTON — Owners of area wood-waste plants told a forum Wednesday night that a transmission line to bring power from Quebec to Massachusetts would be detrimental to Maine’s biomass industry and the environment, and ultimately ripple through the state’s logging, mill and woodlot economies.

Mark Thibodeau or ReEnergy Holdings of Livermore Falls and Stratton, Robert Linkletter of Athens Energy in Athens, and Donnie Isaacson of PalletOne in Livermore Falls addressed what they anticipate will happen to forestry businesses if CMP builds a nearly $1 billion New England Clean Energy Connect line along a 145-mile corridor through Western Maine.

At the top of their lists were the loss of jobs at their plants, sawmills and paper mills across the state, logging and trucking companies, loss of the biomass market and losses to woodlot owners.

“With our facilities,” said Thibodeau, ReEnergy’s regional manager, “we work with 28 mills, taking waste product from their manufacturing. We have relationships with dozens of trucking companies, some owners of very large woodlots, and numerous small tract owners. Much of their output has no other market besides biomass. Just from our two locations in Stratton and Livermore Falls, the radius of Mainers and their businesses that benefit from biomass reaches 150 miles.

“What our plants produce is flexible power that no other energy companies can match,” he said. “Biomass does not require sunshine. It doesn’t require water, and it doesn’t require wind. We take the worst of the wood and we have no limits as long as we have supply and demand. We acquire low-grade wood and waste — sawdust, treetops, bark — and produce energy.”

Athens Energy owner Linkletter echoed Thibodeau’s points.

“Our facility produces energy at 90% of any given day,” he said. “If you consider that wind and solar power production runs at about 20%, there is no comparison to the efficiency of biomass.

“Furthermore, the point of NECEC is for Canada to sell their power to Massachusetts. There are no stops in Maine. There are no environmental or economic impacts for them and our state gets no return.”

PalletOne’s Isaacson told the audience, “With the loss of the biomass market, in addition to the effects on mills, trucking and logging, landowners are going to lose their ability for clean harvests. Woodlots will be left with slash and values will drop.

ReEnergy biomass plant located in Livermore Falls. Donna Perry/Sun Journal

“Maine needs to consider the visual loss, which has really gotten very little attention during this whole process,” Isaacson said. “A woodlot that is left with pulp, treetops and slash is not what we are used to seeing anymore. It will be a different landscape.”

Thibodeau estimated that ReEnergy accepts 800,000 tons of forestry mill waste a year. Linkletter said about 125,000 tons of low grade wood enters Athens Energy annually.

“We need to picture what that kind of impact, all that wood waste will look like,” Isaacson said. “It goes from being a source of energy to a source of pollution, because there is no other outlet to get rid of it.”

Maine will also be hurt by the higher volume of power moving from Canada to Massachusetts, according to Thibodeau. Even now the state’s power grid is burdened at times, and NECEC would add 1,200 megawatts traveling through CMP’s transmission lines

“It’s like a traffic jam, if you will,” Thibodeau said. “We experience periods where there is already too much energy making its way through those lines. And CMP charges us back for that. The demand for power doesn’t go away, we can’t schedule how power moves through. With Canada pumping their energy through that system, it will adversely affect Maine power and Maine power producers even further.”

Forum moderator Tom Saviello of Wilton said, “Biomass has emerged as a critical part of Maine’s forestry industry. But no research has been done on what will happen to it.” He estimated that the loss of jobs in the industry and to local economies could reach 36,000.

“CMP will make millions. Canada, who has made no secret that their economic strategy is to sell energy to New England, will make $41 million for 20 years,” he said.

The forum was hosted by the citizens group Say NO to NECEC and attracted about 30 people, mostly involved with logging and woodlot management.

Sandra Howard of Say NO to NECEC said, “Seventy percent of Mainers are opposed to NECEC. Every town along the corridor that has taken a position has voted against it.”

Say NO to NECEC, Stop the Corridor and the Natural Resources Council are urging Maine communities to consider moratoriums on energy projects, she said.

Say NO to NECEC is also taking steps to bring the project to a statewide referendum in 2020, she said, adding she expects it will be in a position to start collecting signatures by mid-September.


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