ROCKLAND, Maine — An application for a natural-gas fired power plant will not be filed until late fall or early summer but not until a series of public informational meetings are held, according to City Councilor Larry Pritchett.
Pritchett moderated a meeting Tuesday night at City Hall during which Energy Management Inc. spokesman Evan Coleman sat in front of the gathering to answer questions for more than two hours.
The plant, which is to produce electricity and steam, will need site plan, air emission and stormwater permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, as well as a site plan permit from the Rockland Planning Board, Pritchett said. He said the company has not even completed a design for the plant.
“Unless it is going to benefit the community, it probably won’t happen,” he said.
About 75 people turned out for the first informational meeting Tuesday night. The questions centered on environmental concerns.
The controversial fracking technique of obtaining natural gas dominated the initial part of the meeting. Fracking is a drilling method that uses hydraulic pressure to fracture rock, creating fissures and cracks deep underground to extract natural gas or oil, according to www.livescience.com.
Advocates say the technique is a safe, economical way to obtain clean energy. Critics say fracking can contaminate groundwater and release greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Some residents Tuesday expressed their concerns about the plant being powered by gas that would come from fracking.
Coleman said, however, that anyone who drives a car that uses gasoline is a consumer of fuel originating from fracking. He said if fracking is done correctly, there is a very slim chance of polluting groundwater.
Mayor Frank Isganitis reminded the gathering that there would not be fracking in the community. He said if people use energy, they are getting some of it from fracking.
Coleman said the natural gas that would be in the pipeline would come from Pennsylvania and would be shipped to Canada and then back to Maine.
Residents also criticized the location of the proposed plant. The City Council has granted Rockland Energy Center LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Management Inc., an option to buy about 18 acres of city-owned land where City Hall and the public services garage are located. The option is conditioned on a referendum in which voters would decide whether the land sale will occur.
Dean Felton of Rockland said he was concerned about noise, pollution and aesthetics.
“Basically, I’m a NIMBY guy,” Felton said, referring to the acronym for “not in my back yard.”
Coleman said the City Hall location was determined to be the best in terms of accessing natural gas and linking to the electrical grid. He said, however, the company is open to an alternative site in Rockland but questioned whether moving it a short distance would allay the concerns of some people.
He said the natural gas line could be built either in the summer of 2016 or summer of 2017. The nearest natural gas line to Rockland is in Windsor. Coleman said land would not be taken by eminent domain for the gas line but instead would follow existing utility rights-of-way.
The plant’s engines may be cooled by water that could be either fresh water from Maine Water Company or gray water, which is water that has gone through the sewage treatment plant. He estimated the plant would use 300,000 to 400,000 gallons of water per day.
He said the project would use much less lighting than what is present at the nearby Walmart Supercenter in neighboring Thomaston, which is within view of City Hall.
Coleman said the company would seek a tax increment financing agreement with the city that would allow it to have a fixed property tax bill for 25 years. Any tax agreement would have to be voted on by the City Council and the public would have an opportunity to comment on it.