April 06, 2020

Senate candidates air views on energy options

MACHIAS – Two years ago, Kevin Raye of Perry had zero opposition for his State Senate District 29 seat. Today, as the Nov. 7 general election nears, he has three opponents.

The four candidates lined up together for the first time in this campaign to present their faces and issues to the public Thursday evening at the University of Maine at Machias.

Besides Raye, the Republican incumbent, they are Democrat Tom Finlay of East Machias and two independents, Dana Kadey of Princeton and Nancy Oden of Jonesboro.

They dissented, they agreed and they played off each other. They took questions on tax reform, higher education and whether the much-debated liquefied natural gas facilities are appropriate for Washington County’s future.

Three different companies have proposed LNG terminals on Passamaquoddy Bay – one on the Passamaquoddy reservation at Pleasant Point, one in Robbinston and one in Calais.

Raye favors LNG development, particularly the plan proposed for Pleasant Point.

“I’m open to it, as long as the safety and environmental conditions are in place,” he said. “This is where I live, and I do not see LNG as the boogeyman that [Nancy Oden] says it is.”

Oden does not have any conditions under which she would consider LNG acceptable for Washington County.

“I do not support LNG,” she said. “It’s ludicrous. It would be horrible and disastrous. It would make us like the New Jersey coast, with all sorts of infrastructure and industry.”

Kadey put up three conditions that, if met, would for him justify LNG locally: safety precautions with bonding to back it up; environmental restrictions, including offloading the gas three miles out to sea; and the imposition of a certain percentage of money – say, 1 percent – designated for Washington County’s economic coffers on all the gas that comes off the ship by the day.

Finlay cut off the conversation about LNG.

“Nothing we say here today will affect what happens in Passamaquoddy Bay,” he said. “It’s all up to FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission].”

A fallback for the county’s new energy source, Finlay described, would be placing seven underwater turbines 150 feet below the water’s surface near Dog Island, off of Eastport. The idea is espoused by Bob Judd of Lubec, who has researched such a project.

“This could be the salvation of Washington County,” Finlay said. “We could be the center of kinetic energy systems and involve the Washington County Community College.”

All of the candidates embraced the development of local energy alternatives to bringing in LNG.

Raye supports efforts to build wind and tidal power.

“The truth is, we need all of these energy sources [including LNG],” he said.

Kadey reiterated the theme of his campaign: lowering Maine’s tax burden. He noted that without high taxes, “the people of Washington County who are already so used to scratching and digging for a living will be able to produce lots of alternative energy.”

Oden suggested that more emphasis on a back-to-the-land lifestyle within Washington County could see the development of wind, solar and tidal energy projects.

“Let’s put people working on our own local, sustainable energy products,” she said. “Let’s do more with serious recycling centers for Washington County, too.”

Correction: Coverage of the Washington County candidates’ debates in Friday’s paper contained errors. State Sen. Kevin Raye, R-Perry, supports all three LNG proposals for Passamaquoddy Bay, not just one. Also, House District 32 candidate Harold Prescott lives in Whiting, not East Machias.

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