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March 26, 2014

Lawmakers endorse mill, hydropower bill

A legislative committee gave unanimous approval Tuesday to a bill that would allow East Millinocket mill owner Cate Street Capital to share profits with the hydropower producer that provides its mill discounted electricity.

The Bangor Daily News reported the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology committee gave 11-0 approval, with two members absent, to LD 1792. The bill would remove limits on when Brookfield Asset Management can sell its electricity to the wholesale market, requiring however that it share a portion of those profits with the mill. Current law requires the hydropower producer to sell all of the power from its three Penobscot River dams according to a 10-year power supply contract signed in 2011. That deal secured lower-than-market-rate power prices for the mill. Harold Pachios, an attorney for Brookfield, said during the committee’s deliberation that such a bill would violate that contract.

The bill that passed in committee differs from an earlier proposal, which would have required the dam owner to agree to a revenue-sharing proposal. The deal that now heads to the full Legislature makes it possible for the two parties to negotiate a revenue-sharing deal but does not require it.

The mill owners have said a deal to share in hydropower revenue will help it meet a goal of putting the East Millinocket mill back into production by May 1.

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