Natural Gas Facility Could Bring Needed Jobs to North Country

Feb 17, 2014

A $100 million natural gas facility may soon come to Groveton, a northern New Hampshire town just across the Vermont border. The plant would employ over 80 people in an area that desperately needs an economic boost. 

Over 300 people lost their jobs when the Wausau Paper Mill closed in Groveton at the end of 2007, and that was on top of two other devastating mill closures in the region. At least 10 percent of the Wausau mill workers lived in Vermont. So when Evan Coleman, COO for Massachusetts-based Clear Energy, came to the small border town to propose a liquefied natural gas production plant, he got a warm welcome. Coleman says the large former mill site is ideal.

“There’s an existing meter and regulation station for the gas, the community itself is used to heavy truck traffic at all hours of the day because of the mill, as well as there’s existing buildings that we can use from the former mill site,” Coleman said.

And, Coleman added, there are plenty of residents with mechanical skills hungry for work. Coleman says Clear Energy will hire 40 plant workers and another 44 truckers at no less than $19 per hour, with no previous training necessary—just a high school degree. Clear Energy is promising about $100,000 a year in charitable giving, and $ 1.7 million in annual property taxes. And that’s not the only regional benefit, says Jon Freeman, President of the Northern Community Investment Corporation.

“The 84 jobs of course is outstanding and thrilling for everybody involved, but that business, because they are providing an energy that many businesses around them can utilize, is going to strengthen businesses all across the two states,” Freeman said.

Some communities have been wary of hosting natural gas plants, citing health and safety concerns. But Groveton already has a gas pipeline running through it from Canada across the Vermont border to Portland, Maine. The gas would be converted to liquid in Groveton and distributed to users such as electric generating plants. Jim Tierney is a selectman for Northumberland, which includes Groveton, and he says the facility would not harm the environment or people.

“They actually had in the safety video … in the container they had with the liquid natural gas in it, they put out a lit cigarette in the liquid natural gas,” he said.

Tierney says he has not heard any opposition to the plan. Coleman, of Clear Energy, says its LNG would replace about $80 million worth of fuel that had been coming into the United States through the Port of Boston from foreign countries. 

If all goes according to plan, the doors to the new plant could open by spring of 2015.