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City Officials in Maine Change Minds, Back $200M NatGas-Fired Power Plant

Two days after failing to muster enough votes to grant a Boston-based company a non-binding option to build a $200 million natural gas-fired power plant within the city limits, the city council of Rockland, ME, reversed course on Friday and voted 4-0 to proceed with the project.

Rockland City Manager James Chaousis told NGI that he is now authorized to enter a non-binding option agreement with Rockland Energy Center LLC, which is owned by Energy Management Inc. of Boston. He said the proposal calls for building a 68 MW power plant on an 18-acre parcel within the city limits -- a parcel that includes city hall.

"There have been proposals to bring natural gas to Rockland in the past, but they had all failed more due to the economics of their plans," Chaousis said Tuesday. "This natural gas power generation facility would essentially increase the natural gas demand by about 800%. They become the primary customer, and the driving customer for [more] natural gas expansion in our area."

Chaousis said the original vote last Wednesday was 2-1. Three votes were required to move the proposal forward.

Under the terms of the option agreement, Chaousis said Rockland Energy would pay the city $1,000 per month to hold the option to develop the property. There would also be no sale before Aug. 31, and the final sale would need to be approved by a referendum.

"There's a lot to be uncovered through the city's decision-making process, but having $200 million worth of private, taxable property investment is appealing considering that over the last decade we've seen a 0.2% annual average increase in taxable property value," Chaousis said.

Chaousis added that a natural gas pipeline would need to be extended to Rockland if the facility were ever built, but he was not familiar with Rockland Energy's thinking about which pipeline would provide service. According to the Maine Public Utilities Commission, three interstate pipelines -- the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System, the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline and the Granite State Gas Transmission Co. -- serve the state.

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