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New test for developers in Maine: climate change

Huge development around Moosehead Lake would create 500,000 tons of CO2 over 50 years, environmentalists say.

Moosehead lake: Plum Creek Timber Co. is proposing to clear 14,000 acres of forest to build some 2,300 apartment units and homes around this Maine lake. The final hearings are scheduled for this week.

Melanie Stetson Freeman - staff

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A plan to build thousands of new homes next to a lake in Maine's north woods faces an environmental test that may one day challenge developers nationwide: What's the carbon footprint of a new subdivision or land development?

At hearings last month, Maine environmentalists unveiled for state regulators what is being called a first-in-the-nation study of the greenhouse-gas emissions expected from a huge development planned for Maine's Moosehead Lake. Some observers call it a new front in an emerging battle between environmentalists and developers that started in California two years ago.

"What we're asking in the [Maine] case, for the first time, is to consider the net carbon impacts of a major proposed development," says Michael Stoddard, deputy director of Environment Northeast, the Boston environmental research group that did the study.

So how much carbon does a development emit? Environment Northeast estimates that the plan to clear 14,000 acres of forest to build about 2,300 apartment units and homes could generate up to 500,000 metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions over 50 years, if emissions of vehicles traveling to the distant site are included. The US emits some 12,000 times that amount in a single year.

The developer, Plum Creek Timber Co., disputes the analysis.

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