April 10, 2020
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Order protects at least 7 mill-site buildings for biofuel plan

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
An excavator continues to raze one of four buildings to be demolished at the former paper mill site on Main Street last month.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A federal court order temporarily prevents the razing of at least seven buildings that would be “an important part” of a developer’s $240 million plan to make biofuels and other materials at the former Great Northern Paper Co. site, according to documents town officials released Wednesday.

The town’s copy of EMEP LLC’s Letter of Intent to purchase the site for $1.75 million lists seven sites within the property at which its operations would occur. The structures are identified as the reclaim, mill, office, and fuel storage buildings, the power plant, finishing area plus “other miscellaneous buildings,” according to the letter.

Released Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Jon D. Levy’s five-page temporary restraining order does permit the razing of four buildings that property owner North American Recovery Management of Boca Raton, Florida, got state permits to demolish on Feb. 1. Those buildings are the two two-story paper machine buildings totaling 230,462 square feet plus two other buildings identified in the permit as the screening room and disk filter buildings.

Levy concluded that EMEP would suffer “irreparable harm” if the razing or other demolition work within the buildings not covered by the DEP permit was allowed to continue. He also ruled that “at this extremely preliminary stage, EMEP has demonstrated a likelihood of success as to its breach of contract” and other claims, according to his five-page decision.

“The Letter of Intent appears to be an enforceable contract, and EMEP presents credible evidence that NARM [North American] breached the contract,” Levy wrote.

North American Chief Financial Officer Jason Inoff did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. Scott Gardner, one of the principals of EMEP, said he could not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. Another principal, William Harrington, declined to comment on Wednesday.

The lawsuit EMEP filed seeking the temporary injunction alleged that North American repeatedly delayed closing on the purchase and sale agreement of the site and committed breach of contract by violating a Letter of Intent covering the purchase.

Town officials are watching the site closely and conferring with the town’s attorney, Dean Beaupain, to ensure that the town’s interests are protected, said Angela Cote, the town’s administrative assistant.

Town officials have expressed concern that the razing of the buildings would doom an EMEP plan that could bring 102 direct jobs and perhaps as many as five times more to the Katahdin region as suppliers of the wood that EMEP needs to operate the site’s biomass boiler that would provide electricity to EMEP operations.

Besides biofuels, EMEP’s $240 million plans call for the sale of renewable electricity credits to Massachusetts and of waste heat to other on-site businesses. Those could include a greenhouse and a chopstick manufacturing facility, according to documents filed with the lawsuit.

A former mill worker who declined to be identified counted 19 buildings at the former mill site prior to any demolition in February. Town officials have said that they do not have any maps that detail every building on the private property.

BDN Writer Darren Fishell contributed to this report.


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