- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

JAY, Maine (AP) - Verso Paper Corp. will significantly scale back production in Maine, costing 300 jobs at its mill in Jay, officials with the Tennessee-based company Thursday.

Verso said it will shut down a pulp dryer and paper machine at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, citing declining demand for coated paper as well as Maine’s high energy costs and local property taxes.

“One of Verso’s founding principles is to do what’s right for the company as a whole,” Verso President and CEO David Paterson said in a statement. “This includes maintaining a balance between Verso’s supply of products and our customers’ demand for them.”

Verso said demand for coated paper in North America was down 4.7 percent in the first half of 2015 after declines of 3.4 percent in 2014 and 4.3 percent in 2013.

The company will also indefinitely idle a mill in Wickliffe, Kentucky, officials said. That’s expected to result in the 310 workers being laid off.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Rep. Bruce Poliquin said in a joint statement that the announcement is a “devastating blow” to the mill workers and their employees. The congressional delegation is urging the company to seek assistance from the federal government that would allow workers to receive employment training, help finding a new job and income support.

“Far too many Mainers have lost their livelihoods as a result of increased foreign competition and a decline in demand for paper,” they said. “We stand ready to help hardworking Mainers who are affected by this announcement.”

More than 500 employees lost their jobs when Verso closed its paper mill in Bucksport last year.

A union representing some of the workers there had sought to prevent the sale of the mill to Canadian metal recycler, AIM Development, and open a way for a buyer that will keep the mill operating. But a federal judge denied its request and the sale was finalized in January.

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