Loggers Seek Legislative Help to Save Maine Biomass Energy Facilities
– by Chris Facchini, January 8, 2016, WCSH
The professional logging contractors of Maine, a trade group representing the men and women working in Maine’s forests believe the state legislature can and must take action now to save jobs in the state’s struggling rural economy. With biomass power plants in West Enfield and Jonesboro closing in March, loggers are running out of places to take their harvested timber.
To save those plants, Dana Doran, the executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine says lawmakers need to take action.
“I think we’re in a tough spot and I think the governor and the legislature appreciate that.” Doran said. “They understand whats happened in the past 6 months with the paper mills and this situation and that something has to be done for the long run.”
One thing he says the state should do right away is to guarantee power contracts for renewable energy plants so they can compete with cheaper natural gas power.
That could raise costs for electricity ratepayers making it a tough sell to the LePage administration which has been working to lower energy costs.
“That’s an expensive prospect and we have to look at economics and public policy and is that the right way to promote logging and is that the right way ensure that we have low energy costs,” explained Patrick Woodcock, the Director of the State Energy Office.
“Obviously its hard to see power plants closing its also hard to see energy users closing those are balancing acts,” he said.
Doran says it would be more expensive to lose the power plants which he says generate four indirect jobs in Maine’s forest products industry for every megawatt of power they produce.
“The value that’s lost when those plants go away cannot be replaced even with cheaper sources of power like natural gas,” he said.
Woodcock did leave the door open to consider all options to help the logging industry. He also suggested that the state will look at the market for renewable energy credits in Maine and New England and see if there’s a way to help those power plants that way.