2/24/10: some news from Maine

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Maine roundup for today

The announced closure of the Bumble Bee sardine cannery in Prospect Harbor continues to be troubling. 128 jobs to be lost. Governor Baldacci says the state will help find a new business, and could designate the cannery as a Pine Tree Zone, allowing the new owner to be exempt from 80% percent of its employee tax withholding for the next 10 years.

Tissue manufacturer Lincoln Paper and Tissue forecasts 2010 as a moderately successful period of no major investments or substantial new hiring. LP&T's CEO Keith Van Scotter has considered switching the fuel for its steam boilers from No. 2 heating oil to natural gas, but can't do so without help from state or federal government.

Landfill gas to energy: the City of Old Town, University of Maine, and Casella Waste Management have requested $3 million in federal stimulus funding to construct a 6-mile gas pipeline allowing gas from the Juniper Ridge Landfill (operated by Casella on behalf of the state) to flow to the steam plant at the university. Phase I consists of building the pipeline and upgrading the steam plant, and would significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Phase II involves building an electricity generating facility connected to the landfill by a second pipeline. These plans are tied into the nascent Maine Green Energy Alliance, an entity owned by Casella that aims to generate electricity and sell it directly to participating municipalities like Old Town. Landfill gas remains somewhat contentious, with some opposing the project on environmental and fiscal policy grounds.

Maine does have experience with the Pine Tree Landfill in Hampden, also operated (and owned) by Casella. The $10 million Pine Tree Landfill gas project commenced operation in 2008, and is projected to produce enough methane gas to power up to 3,000 homes for 15 years or more. In 2009 a similar project was launched at the Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock.

Bangor Daily News editorial yesterday lauding Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative (EMEC) for its customer-oriented culture and low prices, noting that the customer-owned utility cut power prices by 10% last year. The editorial is careful not to bash investor-owned utilities, but hints that their profit-to-shareholder motives may result in worse rates or service than customers can get from coops like EMEC.


Bloom boxes unveiled. Lots of buzz still, relatively few details. We have learned that commercial-scale units cost $700,000 to $800,000, and that five Bloom Energy Servers deployed by EBay last July produce electricity to power space for 2,000 to 3,000 employees and cut eBay's power bill by $100,000 so far. Interestingly, EBay uses natural gas as the fuel, but plans to convert to landfill gas soon.

Iberdrola anticipates profit growth over the next three years.

The Senate continues to wrestle with the carbon bill, with carbon pricing remaining as the sticking point. Cap and trade? Cap and dividend? Carrot and stick?

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