ME Governor Signs New Law Limiting CO2 Pollution: 3 year Moratorium on New Coal Gasification Plants Will Lead to CO2 Limits

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Colin Durrant, CLF Director of Communications
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Boston, MA (April 14, 2008) – Maine Gov. John Baldacci tomorrow will ceremonially sign into law a bill that paves the way for adoption of the nation’s first limits on carbon dioxide emissions from coal gasification power plants and refineries. The new law also imposes a three-year moratorium on licensing of such plants until the new regulations are developed.

“If Maine wants to retain our reputation as a leader in the fight against global warming it is critical we set effective carbon dioxide emission limits for coal gasification plants,” said the bill’s sponsor, Representative Bruce MacDonald. “This is a common-sense step forward to stabilize the changes in climate that threaten Maine’s coastline, forests, mountains and communities.”

Environmental and community groups applauded the Governor and Legislature saying the bill closes a major loophole in state law that would have allowed increased and unlimited emissions of carbon dioxide – the primary pollutant that causes global warming- from coal gasification plants. That loophole would have opened the door for the Twin River Energy Center, a proposed coal gasification and diesel refinery in the coastal town of Wiscasset. If constructed, Twin River would have instantly become Maine’s largest source of global warming pollution.

“The science is clear-to avoid the disastrous impacts of climate change we must focus on the solutions that will deliver the greatest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Conservation Law Foundation staff attorney Steve Hinchman. “The Governor’s wind power task force set us on a path toward a cleaner energy future and the coal gasification bill ensures we stay on track by avoiding new sources of carbon dioxide pollution.”

The new emissions limits, to be developed by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection, will also require coal gasification plants to reduce emissions through effective carbon capture and sequestration – a technology currently unproven in New England that could eventually involve capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions in underground crevices and passages instead of releasing them into the atmosphere.

“This is not just a victory for the Mid-Coast but a big victory for Maine and a huge victory for the environment,” said Willy Ritch, President of the Back River Alliance, the community group that led the opposition to the proposed plant. “We should all be proud that once again Maine is showing a leadership role by passing this landmark legislation.”

“Without limitations on carbon dioxide, new coal power plants will have an immediate and harmful impact on the public health and sustainability of communities throughout Maine,” said Harris Parnell, Director of Maine’s Toxics Action Center

In 2007, in a major setback for the proposed Twin River Energy Center, Wiscasset voters rejected a zoning ordinance for the project but developers have said they plan to push forward regardless. Making electricity from coal through gasification or combustion emits 45 percent more carbon dioxide than natural gas, and 22 percent more than oil to create the same amount of energy. The proposed plant would have emitted 5.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year – which is greater than all other electrical power plants in Maine combined, and almost double the emissions of any other polluter in the state. Diesel from the proposed plant would release twice as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as diesel made from petroleum.

“The Town of Edgecomb applauds the Carbon Dioxide Emission Control legislation achieved through the good offices of Representative Bruce MacDonald,” said Jo Cameron, Chairwoman of the Town Select board. “This bill will go far to protect our beautiful rivers and their abundant fisheries from devastating pollution.”

“The proposed coal gasification and diesel refinery in Wiscasset would have released – with no limits set by the state – millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air, not to mention substantial amounts of mercury and other toxins,” said Norma Dreyfus of the Back River Alliance. “With what we now know about climate change and the contribution of carbon intensive fossil fuels, especially coal, we should not be building new carbon intensive facilities unless and until we are able to capture and sequester that CO2.”

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The Conservation Law Foundation works to solve the environmental problems that threaten the people, natural resources and communities of New England. CLF’s advocates use law, economics and science to design and implement strategies that conserve natural resources, protect public health, and promote vital communities in our region. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization. It has offices in Boston, Massachusetts; Concord, New Hampshire; Providence, Rhode Island; Montpelier, Vermont; and Brunswick, Maine.