Lawsuits dropped as Maine WTE battle winds down

Dive Brief:

  • Lawsuits between USA Energy Group and the Municipal Review Committee have been "dismissed with prejudice," marking the end of a bitter chapter in a debate over the future of Maine's waste-to-energy market. USA Energy owns the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. and the MRC represents 187 communities which are moving on to various options after their contract ends with PERC in 2018, as reported by CentralMaine.com.
  • The settlement includes mutual non-disparagement agreements and an understanding of how the contract will end in 2018. MRC members will relinquish their right to call in shares in PERC. In turn, PERC will pay the MRC $600,000 and waive any past or future penalties for tonnage shortfalls.
  • PERC has not dropped its appeal of the state's decision to grant permits to the Fiberight biogas waste-to-energy project — which is supported by MRC and will service a number of member communities. Because of this, the deadline to obtain financial close has been delayed until May 1, 2017 while the permit process is resolved.

Dive Insight:

The MRC initially sued USA Energy in 2014, alleging that PERC had violated their partnership agreement by using municipal funds to pay for past lobbying efforts. USA Energy countersued and relations have continued to worsen as MRC sought to actively recruit member communities to leave PERC for the new Fiberight project. The resulting campaign to win the business of these communities dragged on into this past summer when PERC ran a negative radio campaign about Fiberight.

While this will be first facility of its kind in the country and the MRC has struggled to attract as much tonnage as originally hoped, the Fiberight project continues to move along. The 90-acre site was purchased earlier this fall, with construction slated to begin in the spring, ahead of a hard April 1, 2018 opening date. 

Fiberight's progress will be closely watched by PERC and others in the state. Local landfills are still a cheap option and Portland-based ecomaine has scooped up some of the communities that Fiberight had hoped to get. If this project is delayed, or unsuccessful, all of these players will be more than happy to compete for material from the 100 or so communities that have signed on to the Fiberight project so far.

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Filed Under: Corporate News Regulation Waste-to-Energy