14 million pounds of coal a day would make Wiscasset the “grittiest village” in Maine
Today, on the shores of the Sheepscot River in Wiscasset, the Back River Alliance hosted a news conference to highlight the growing opposition to a proposed coal-fired power plant and diesel refinery. Participants included a representative of Maine’s leading environmental group, the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), and a member of the Wiscasset Comprehensive Plan Committee, as well as Willy Ritch of the Alliance.
The news conference also displayed a pickup truck with 1,000 lbs of coal to illustrate just how dirty, gritty and massive the proposed facility would be. The proposed coal plant is so massive it would take 14,000 of those pickup trucks every day (one truck every six seconds.)
“There are many types of economic development that would be good for Wiscasset and the region,” said Anne Leslie, a member of the Wiscasset Comprehensive Plan Committee. “This is not one of them. This kind of heavy industry would threaten the lobster industry, it would drive away tourism and represent a giant step backwards for Wiscasset.”
“There is no such thing as ‘clean coal.’ It is the dirtiest possible fuel. Scrub away at it as much as you can and it is still a danger to our health and our environment,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for NRCM. “If built, the plant would be Maine’s largest source of mercury pollution and double Maine’s share of global warming pollution from power plants.”
The Natural Resources Council of Maine reported that many groups and individuals asked them evaluate the proposed coal plant. After a close examination, it concluded that this project was the wrong choice for Maine.
Back River Alliance President Willy Ritch said every day more and more Wiscasset residents join the opposition to the coal plant. “As it becomes clear how massive this facility would be, people are quickly coming to the conclusion that it would be a bad deal for Wiscasset.”
A Greenwich, CT real estate developer has asked Wiscasset to raise their height ordinance from 65 feet to 230 feet so they can put up what would be the tallest building in Maine as part of a coal plant and diesel refinery. Wiscasset voters will decide on November 6th whether or not to approve that ordinance change.
Originally developers suggested the coal would come in on 400 foot coal barges up the Sheepscot and Back Rivers. Fishermen say the barges would wipe out the local lobster industry. (Recently the developers have begun to back away from their original statements and are now saying they haven’t decided how the coal. would come into town, and have started suggesting they would use trains. That would require a coal train a mile long every day. Coming from the south it would go through downtown Bath, past the Woolwich Central School and into Wiscasset.)
The developers estimate the plant would release 22 lbs of mercury a year into the air in Wiscasset. No other facility in Maine releases more.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that attacks developing brains of young children and babies in the womb, causing significant learning problems. Airborne mercury settles onto the land and water, where it is taken up into the food chain. More than 45 states have issued fish advisories telling women of childbearing age and young children to restrict consumption of fresh water fish due to mercury contamination. One in six women of childbearing age has mercury levels in her blood that are unsafe for her baby. This means, nationwide, as many as 630,000 infants are exposed each year to mercury levels that put them at risk of serious cognitive and developmental harm.
“When you are dealing with more than 10 million pounds of coal a day, you can’t change the fact that the mercury emissions would be real threat. Maine has taken some bold steps in the right direction on energy and our environment, from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to getting rid of mercury in thermostats and electronics. Why would we want to move backwards on all that progress with a giant coal plant on Maine’s coast?” asked Voorhees.
In 2005 the development company sent a letter to Wiscasset voters, asking them for a different ordinance change. At the time, the company said passage of that ordinance change would result in construction of a full service marina, luxury condos and town houses, a “maritime village” filled with shops and restaurants and “eliminating heavy industry.” The marina, condos and shops have not materialized and now they are asking for another ordinance change to bring heavy industry back to Wiscasset.
Last week local fishermen staged a lobster boat parade to protest the coal plant proposal. Over 120 protestors cheered them on from shore in an event that received widespread local, regional and national news coverage.