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Delegation will not send letter of support to PUC

August 18, 2010
WEST STEWARTSTOWN — The county delegation will not take a position of support on the power purchase agreement recently struck between Laidlaw Berlin BioPower, LLC, and Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH).

Chairman of the county delegation Rep. Robert Theberge of Berlin introduced the idea of writing a letter to the state Public Utilities Commission (NHPUC) to support the agreement at Friday's delegation meeting without prior notice.

Laidlaw proposes to build a 70-megwatt wood-chip biomass plant on the site of the former Burgess Pulp Mill on the Androscoggin River.

If built, it would be the state's largest wood-burning power facility.

Rep. Larry Rappaport of Colebrook took exception to the idea of writing such a letter, however, saying it would be tantamount to taking sides in a competition between Laidlaw and Clean Power Development, which proposed to build a smaller biomass plant.

"It's not our job to side with either one," he argued.

Rep. John Tholl of Whitefield said that some of his constituents have told him that they are worried that if Laidlaw builds a huge biomass plant in Berlin that it will increase the price of wood chips so much that it would jeopardize the profitability of the Whitefield Power & Light plant on Airport Road, now owned by Marubeni America


Treasurer Fred King of Colebrook described PSNH as a very powerful corporation.

Although no fan of PSNH, he said that Laidlaw almost certainly represents the best opportunity to bring good-paying biomass jobs to Berlin. But, Mr. King also noted, reading the agreement's fine print indicates that after 20 years the agreement would allow PSNH to acquire Laidlaw, circumventing the legislature's intent to prohibit the utility from enlarging its electric generation capabilities.

Rep. Theberge decided to drop the idea without calling for a motion and subsequent vote. He said that he knew from the outset that it would be better not to write such a letter unless there was unanimous support.

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