LINCOLN – A boiler explosion last month at the Lincoln Paper and Tissue mill has forced the company’s owners to furlough 200 workers indefinitely, the company’s president said Wednesday.

President Keith Van Scotter blamed costs associated with last month’s boiler explosion for laying off roughly half of the workforce. He told WABI-TV that furloughs were necessary for the “survivability of the business.”

Gov. Paul LePage said the administration will do everything it can to help, including assisting workers and investing in the building. LePage blamed part of the problem on a “multimillion-dollar fine” levied by a federal agency that he deems to be excessive. He didn’t elaborate on the “very aggressive penalty.”

“We need rational policies from the federal government that prevent wrongdoing, but does not put hardworking Mainers out of work,” LePage said.

No one was injured in the Nov. 2 explosion that hampered the plant’s ability to create pulp used in paper products.

The layoffs came from the paper-making and pulp-making operations, while the company’s three tissue machines remain in operation at full capacity, the company said.

Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette will attend a meeting Thursday scheduled by Lincoln Paper and Tissue officials.

“Our staff will do everything possible to help those affected and help them through this difficult time,” she said.

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