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Councilors weigh in on CPD PSNH dispute


June 23, 2010
BERLIN — The disagreement between Clean Power Development and Public Service of New Hampshire has thrown the position of city councilors in even starker relief to one another, with those against Laidlaw crying foul and those in favor of Laidlaw voicing support.

But it's the councilors in the middle—those willing to work with both companies and preference between them—that have been most swayed by the issue.

"I don't think it's reasonable at all," said Councilor Ryan Landry. "PSNH gives hundreds of easements every year for situations just like this and it's obvious they're stonewalling competition."

Mr. Landry is not an ardent CPD supporter. He has voiced reservations about the location of the Laidlaw project, but he has been open to working with them to make their project happen. In the battle for support of the two projects that's been playing out over the last few years, he's somewhere in the middle, but this latest debate is frustrating him.

"I see obvious benefits to Laidlaw's proposals as well as Clean Power's, but it's obvious they can't exist together." he said. "The actions of Laidlaw Public Service clearly show that they can't."

Berlin is caught in the middle, he said, as PSNH works for its partner, Laidlaw Berlin Biopower, against CPD, the competition.

"I would like to know that each of the power producers that are coming into Berlin are being treated fairly and that the city is doing what it should, which is to step out of the way," said Councilor Mark Evans, another councilor who has not chosen sides on the issue. "Despite everybody's claims that they favor both projects, there are definitely several councilors that favor one project over the other."

He wants to see the free market decide which project succeeds, not the city.

"It seems like PSNH gets to pick, like they get to be the party that chooses who's going to succeed," he said.

He's not sure whether that is the free market, he said, due to the nature of the industry, but it's the model the city has to work with.

But Councilor David Poulin, who has come out in favor of CPD but has never made a move to block the Laidlaw project, feels the city should be doing whatever it can to support both projects.

It's about the jobs, he said; the city needs them, and the council should do everything it can to attract them.

If Laidlaw came to the city with a problem of the same magnitude as the easement issue PSNH has threw in front of CPD, he said, he would support the city taking actions to smooth things over. He's disappointed the ideological divide doesn't work the other way.

Mayor Paul Grenier, who has said he supports both projects, has come out in recent weeks with statements very critical of CPD. He sees no problem with what PSNH is doing.

"Until Clean Power Development pulls back from the legal track that their on I don't think PSNH and Clean Power Development will ever come to any fruitful conclusion to their project," he said.

CPD argues linking the Public Utilities Commission complaint to the property rights issue is a form of retaliation. The PUC is likely to rule on the issue in the coming weeks, but in Berlin the situation is only increasing the divide between councilors.

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