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Two petitions request SEC to review CPD

December 23, 2009
BERLIN — Residents from Berlin and Gorham submitted petitions to New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to request the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Committee review the proposed Clean Power Development project in Berlin.

"Pursuant to New Hampshire law, we, the undersigned registered voters from Berlin, New Hampshire, hereby request the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee commence a proceeding to determine whether the proposed Clean Power Development, LLC biomass power plant in Berlin, New Hampshire should receive a full review from the Site Evaluation Committee," the Berlin petition reads. "The Clean Power Proposal is a 29 megawatt project just one megawatt below the threshold level requiring Site Evaluation Committee review and therefore Clean Power has not sought a Certificate from the Site Evaluation Committee. We believe the Site Evaluation Committee should nevertheless take jurisdiction over this project to determine whether it is consistent with the State energy policy and whether it will have a significant impact upon the local and state environment and the orderly development of the region."

"It is definitely something we take seriously," said Bill Gabler, project manager for CPD. "It has the potential to disrupt our contract negotiations with Fraser and/or the electric power purchaser."

The petitions' cover letter, signed by Mike Laflamme of Berlin and Howard Jones of Gorham, said the review is important to ensure the project gets adequate scrutiny. Mr. Laflamme and Mr. Jones did not return calls for interviews, but the letter lists concerns about the plant using wastewater discharge in the cooling towers and burning algae, and truck traffic through neighborhoods.

"The specific allegations in all cases are groundless," Mr. Gabler said. CPD will build a new road directly off Hutchins Street to avoid any neighborhoods, he said, and the wastewater will be cleaned to drinking water standards before it goes into the cooling towers. And algae isn't allowed to go into the plant for combustion, he said, because their permit doesn't allow it.

Regardless of specific allegations, however, the petition cover letter said the review process would give the project "the proper level of scrutiny."

"It is impossible for the community to gauge the financial viability of a project like this," the letter said, "and therefore evaluate their prospects for sustained operations."

DES, which has three representatives on the SEC, is in the process of verifying that every person who signed the petitions is a Berlin or a Gorham resident. Once that is completed, the SEC will schedule a hearing and issue orders of notice to the parties involved.

"The veracity and facts of the petitions will become a part of the early discussions by SEC members when they meet to consider the application," Tim Drew, of DES, said in an email. Based on those discussions, the SEC can decide whether to move ahead with the review, reject the petitions, or allow CPD to submit applications to agencies directly, he said. "Stay tuned."

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