EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Cate Street Capital appeared well on its way over the last hurdle late Tuesday to assuming full ownership of the two Katahdin region paper mills, with state environmental officials saying they saw no significant problems with the transfer of the Dolby landfill to the state.
As of 4:30 p.m., state officials had received only one comment from the public regarding the transfer of environmental permits from mills owner Brookfield Asset Management to the State Planning Office — a good sign for Cate Street, said Samantha Depoy-Warren, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
“I can’t say this with certainty, but the last time I checked, there were no significant impediments” to the Cate Street sale, Depoy-Warren said Tuesday. “That’s also a good sign for the Katahdin region.”
State leaders announced on Sept. 16 that Cate Street had bought the East Millinocket and Millinocket mills in escrow for an undisclosed price from Brookfield Asset Management. A final sale of the mills is expected by Friday. Last week Cate Street hiring 215 workers to fill its first order for newsprint.
The state’s assumption of ownership of the Dolby landfill is crucial to the sale of the mills. Cate Street is buying the mills in escrow to allow the lapsing of a 20-day public comment period required by law for the the state to assume ownership.
The one comment came from the Conservation Law Foundation of Portland. It alleges that the state’s plan to assume ownership of the landfill violates the Maine Constitution because it saddles the state with millions of dollars in future operations and closure costs.
State and Cate Street officials have declined to comment on the foundation’s contentions.
Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia W. Aho and her staff will review the permit transfer and could decide to accept it as early as Wednesday morning, Depoy-Warren said.
“The commissioner is fully aware of the time factor involved in this,” Depoy-Warren said, saying that the review would be done shortly. “They know how important this is to the region.”
Besides the hiring of 215 workers — good news in in the Katahdin region, which has had a 21 percent unemployment rate since the East Millinocket mill closed in April, idling 415 workers — the new Great Northern Paper Co. LLC must begin working as soon as possible to fill the Oct. 30 order, company officials have said.
Cate Street spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne declined to comment Tuesday on how soon Cate Street will complete its purchase of the mills.
The Legislature voted in April to approve the state’s ownership of the landfill but many legislators weren’t happy about it. They supported restarting the mills, but some decried what they called “corporate blackmail” on the part of Brookfield for essentially forcing the state to do the cleanup.