by Bob Kalish
Times Record news story
WISCASSET — Two more voices have join-ed the chorus of opposition against the proposed Twin River Energy Center.
In Augusta, Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, submitted a bill to limit development of coal gasification plants by requiring such plants to capture and store 90 percent of any carbon dioxide created by the coal gasification process.
In Wiscasset, the board of trustees for the Chewonki Foundation, a nonprofit environmental stewardship organization, announced Monday for the first time that it is officially in opposition to the Twin River proposal.
MacDonald’s bill, titled “An Act to Require Capture and Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-powered Industrial Facilities in the State,” will be heard in the 2008 session of the Maine Legislature.
Wiscasset voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve zoning ordinance changes that would allow the proposed plant to exceed the height ordinance limit of 65 feet, paving the way for plans to proceed in development.
MacDonald has joined several environmental and fishing groups that have come out against the project, claiming it will harm the environment and increase emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
“There are many reasons for local people, and people throughout Maine, to be concerned about this proposed development,” MacDonald said. “Fishermen will be impacted, the housing market will be hit, and all for the hope of economic development from an unproven and untested technology.”>/p>
MacDonald’s bill was one of 144 approved by the Legislative Council on Oct. 25. MacDonald’s district includes Arrowsic, Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor, Georgetown, Southport and Westport Island.
Meanwhile, the board of trustees of Chewonki Foundation has come out opposed to the development of the coal gasification plant, which would be located near the foundation’s complex.
The decision was reached following last week’s day-long seminar of experts in the field who, while not addressing the proposed Twin River facility specifically, did conclude that while the carbon-capture process in question was a promising technology, Maine and New England were not likely to benefit due to the geology of the area.
“After hearing about the transportation and grave environmental implications of this project,” said trustee Bart Chapin, “not to mention the fact that we can’t even sequester carbon here in Maine, it seems pretty obvious that this plant is not a good match for Wiscasset.”>/p>
Sean Mahoney, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation, said that carbon capture and storage was the “fatal flaw” in the Twin River proposal.
“In the best-case scenario,” said Mahoney, “the proposed Twin River plant would only capture 25 percent of its carbon emissions. Yet leading scientists agreed that the necessary target is 90 percent. Second, they have no ability to sequester the carbon dioxide. Here in Maine, it would be catch and release, which makes no environmental or economic sense.”>/p>
Scott Houldin, project director of the Twin River proposal, said this morning he respects Chewonki’s point but would like critics to focus on the opportunities presented by the proposal.
“We have shown in our study that with 25 percent carbon capture and 5 percent biomass as fuel, we can produce electricity with the same or less carbon emissions than released by the cleanest fossil fuel, natural gas,” Houldin said. “With our proposed research and development center, we could work on solutions to the carbon capture problem.”>/p>
Chewonki President Don Hudson said his staff has urged the trustees to oppose the proposed plant because it is in direct conflict with the foundation’s environmental mission.
“Our mission is protection of the natural world,” said Hudson. “Our staff is deeply committed to that mission, and because there is no plan in place for this development to capture 90 percent of the 4.7 million metric tons of carbon it will emit annually, it simply does not put us on the path to addressing climate change.”