AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A bill that would bail out Maine's struggling biomass and logging industries is expected to go before the full legislature in the coming days.
There is little argument that Maine's logging industry is in trouble. It's been hampered by closures of paper mills and biomass power plants and production cuts at wood pellet plants, but the solution to help the loggers and the biomass power plants is a bitter pill to swallow for some.
Republican Representative Beth O'Connor of Berwick was one of two lawmakers on the Energy Committee who voted against it.
"It's wasted money the biomass industries are very inefficient as we speak," she said.
The bill would provide a total of 13.4 million in subsidies to the states biomass power plants in the form of guaranteed power contracts for the next 2 years. Under legislation supported by the majority of the members on the Energy committee, taxpayers would pick up the tab. That's why O'Connor's upset. Because Re-Energy which owns four of the six remaining biomass power plants in Maine has a parent company Riverside Holdings, claiming to be worth $33 billion.
"If this is such a good investment their company should be investing in this particular industry," she said.
But lawmakers who support the bill say this is a necessary stop-gap measure to ensure we don't lose hundreds more jobs in an already struggling industry that is a cornerstone of Maine's rural economy.
"If we need to keep the people working in the woods and we need to help that process over the next year or two I think we should stay at the table we should find a way to do that. We should keep Maine loggers working we should keep Maine trucks on the road," said House Majority Leader, Jeff McCabe, a Democrat from Skowhegan.
The legislation, loggers argue would buy time for their industry to adjust. the question lawmakers are arguing over, is who should pay for that time.