ROCKLAND, Maine — The city has scheduled a public forum for next week related to a proposed natural gas-fired power plant.
The forum is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19., at City Hall. Councilor Larry Pritchett said three experts on energy issues will be making presentations during the session and will answer questions from the public.
Rockland Energy Center Inc. has proposed building a $200 million, 76-megawatt combined cycle cogeneration plant that would generate electricity for the electrical grid and low-cost steam to heat local industries.
In early May, the Rockland City Council voted to grant the company a nonbinding option to buy about 18 acres of city land where City Hall and public services are located. The company also is studying other possible sites in Rockland including in the Industrial Park and land next to the city’s transfer station.
The proposal has been met with mixed response. Supporters say it would generate considerable new tax revenues for the city and low-cost energy for other local industries. Opponents have raised environmental concerns.
Speakers at next week’s forum will be Tim Schneider, the state’s public advocate; Greg Cunningham, vice president and director of the Clean Energy and Climate Change program for the environmental organization Conservation Law Foundation; and Anthony Buxton, who is the chair of the Preti Flaherty law firm’s energy and utilities practice group.
Pritchett said Schneider’s responsibility includes representing the interest of consumers in utility cases before Maine’s Public Utilities Commission. Pritchett said the public advocate can speak to questions about how his office reviews the ratepayer implications of a project that goes before the PUC and how the PUC traditionally has determined whether a contract with a facility to supply power can produce electricity at a rate that is in consumer’s best interest. He said Schneider also can speak to how natural gas influences electricity prices in Maine and under what scenarios and in what areas adding local generation might be warranted.
The Conservation Law Foundation vice president will bring a regional perspective to the topic, Pritchett said. The councilor cited the foundation’s work toward reducing emissions from power plants. Cunningham also will talk about the permitting process for such a natural gas plant, Pritchett said.
The councilor said there are few people better versed in Maine’s utility laws and utility regulation than Buxton.