- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A Maine pulp mill company is facing tough questions from state lawmakers about its plan to get out of federal regulations by having the state take over the U.S. side of one of its dams on the U.S.-Canada border.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s bill would have the state own and manage part of the Forest City dam.

Several lawmakers and other critics said during a Tuesday hearing that the bill, as written, could leave the public on the hook for $6 million in dam operating costs over the next 30 years, not to mention potential litigation costs.

The dam’s owner, Woodland Pulp LLC, is unhappy with its 30-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license that it received in 2015, saying the requirements of the license are just too costly. The company has told the FERC that it would rather abandon the dam and release the gates, which has nearby home and business owners, environmentalists and the Canadian consulate general concerned.

Woodland Pulp lawyer Matt Manahan told lawmakers Tuesday that FERC requirements could disappear if Maine takes over the U.S. side of the dam, which is part of a hydropower project. But he added there’s no “100 percent” guarantee.

Manahan said that Woodland Pulp provided a draft agreement to the governor’s office which states that the company will continue to operate the dam and pay for operating costs using its own funds for the next ten years.

Democratic Sen. Michael Carpenter said that lawmakers hadn’t seen that draft agreement, and Republican Sen. David Woodsome accused the company of wasting lawmakers’ time.

“Let’s make it a lifetime (requirement) or don’t bother us.”

Manahan stressed that if no agreement is reached, Woodland Pulp “is going to pull the dam gates.” He said the company can’t continue to operate “an uneconomic dam.”

Natural Resources Council of Maine scientist Nick Bennett said the best answer is to let the federal government continue its process of figuring out what happens next.

“The Legislature should not intervene in this process at such short notice and at the risk of harming fisheries and incurring substantial costs to Maine taxpayers,” he said.

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