Good morning from Augusta. The fight over Central Maine Power’s $1 billion proposal for a transmission line from Quebec to Massachusetts by way of western Maine has played out in TV advert volleys and small-town votes, however it moves to the Legislature on Friday.
Opponents are planning a rally ahead of a hearing on a bipartisan invoice that would throw a wrench into the controversial project’s allowing course of — assuming the Maine Public Utilities Fee green-lights the corridor supported by Gov. Janet Mills later this month.
Democrats and Republicans need the state to research emissions reductions which were some extent of rivalry earlier than it permits the line. The fight over the corridor by way of western Maine that may transmit Hydro-Quebec energy to Massachusetts has gotten super-charged in the previous couple of months — notably after Mills, a Democrat, backed the project last month.
Mills obtained elected behind a fairly aggressive plan on local weather change and since taking office, she has laid out a objective of getting all of Maine’s power provide from renewable sources by 2050, though that doesn’t assault the state’s highest-in-the-nation reliance on heating oil.
In that vein, the governor’s foremost argument for the project revolved round emissions reductions. She cited a 2018 research for the utilities fee discovering that the corridor would scale back emissions yearly in New England by the equal of taking 767,000 automobiles off the roads and touted a $250 million, 40-year advantages package deal that includes ratepayer aid.
All of these things are questioned by skeptics, led on the policy entrance by the Natural Assets Council of Maine, which commissioned a assessment alongside different groups final yr that stated the terms of the contract with Massachusetts don’t preclude Hydro-Quebec from diverting hydropower from other markets to fulfill the new deal, which might offset emissions reductions.
Central Maine Energy and Hydro-Quebec have rejected that, saying the provincial-owned utility has surplus hydropower that can fulfill Massachusetts’ needs. The utilities commission is scheduled to determine on the project later this month and state and federal permitting processes would come next.
The bill up for a public listening to earlier than a legislative committee on Friday would make the Maine Division of Environmental Safety research emissions reductions — in New England, Quebec and elsewhere — from the project. It’s sponsored by Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell, who spent more than 20 years as head of the Pure Assets Council of Maine, alongside six other Democrats and three Republicans.
Opponents of the project will show up to rally for the bill at the moment, highlighting the messy politics of the line. An opposition group referred to as Say NO to NECEC — a reference to the project’s formal identify, the New England Clear Power Join — will rally at the State Home at midday in favor of Carson’s bill and to urge the utilities commission and other regulatory businesses to reject the wanted permits.
The project is making unusual allies all over the place. Mills was skeptical of the project during her 2018 marketing campaign, however she has ended up on the similar aspect as her predecessor, Republican Paul LePage, who supported the corridor earlier than a prior New Hampshire route was officially taken off the desk. The Pure Assets Council of Maine is reverse different environmental teams including the Conservation Regulation Foundation and alongside fossil-fuel and biomass turbines.
A number of towns oppose the corridor, including Wilton, which took a powerful non-binding vote early this month. Farmington, the largest town in Franklin County and the governor’s hometown, will take an identical vote at its city assembly on March 25. This makes it clear why legislators are coming together to oppose the project and represent a menace to it now.
Mills indicators supplemental price range
The governor on Thursday signed three bills into regulation, including her $7.5 million supplemental finances. The bipartisan-backed spending package deal, which Mills stated “honors the state authorities’s obligations and makes necessary coverage possibilities that may assist us fight the opioid epidemic, consists of repealing the state’s two-year limits on Medicaid-funded methadone and suboxone for opioid habit.
It also consists of $2.5 million in catastrophe aid funds for communities hit arduous by the October 2017 windstorm; $1 million for the state’s bicentennial celebration next yr; $400,000 to lease accessible voting machines; and $320,000 for Workplace of the Public Advocate case help for ratepayers defending themselves towards Emera Maine and Central Maine Power billing.
Mills also signed LD 251, which amends the Maine Condominium Act by extending the lien interval for not paying assessments, and LD 39, which renames the Interstate 295 bridge that crosses Fundamental Road in Waterville after a U.S. Army Specialist Wade A. Slack, who, at 21, was killed in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan.
In the present day in A-town
After a busy week, most lawmakers are in for a sluggish Friday. The Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs will hear shows on funding for agriculture, conservation and forestry departments, packages and commissions as part of the ongoing public hearing on Mills’ $8 billion biennial price range.
The Legal Justice and Public Security Committee is scheduled to determine whether to advocate passage of four totally different county jail funding payments. Two payments — LD 691 from Rep. Tina Riley, D-Jay, and LD 678 from Rep. Stephen Stanley, D-Medway — name for the state to fund no less than 20 % of the value it takes to run all 15 of Maine’s county jails.
The third bill, LD 755 from Riley, would remove a part of the state’s county jail funding components that may otherwise cap state funding if the county tax assessment on correctional providers will increase. The fourth, LD 460, from Stanley, calls to regulate that same statute, but as an alternative of adjusting the funding method, the invoice would require the state to reimburse the county jail the distinction, if its annual value exceeded that yr’s collected assessment.
— As he prepares to depart, the chief of Maine’s college system advised lawmakers that the system is stronger despite speedy fiscal problems. Chancellor James Web page, who will retire at the finish of the faculty yr, listed achievements Thursday in his annual tackle to legislators. He urged them to embrace Mills’ finances proposals that might add $10 million for the college system subsequent yr, saying the added money would ensure progress on initiatives comparable to a burgeoning early school program and would forestall the want for major tuition will increase. He didn’t mention a $three.2 million shortfall in the current finances. Employees are recommending that the university pull $1.four million from its reserves at the University of Maine at Augusta, $494,277 at its Machias campus, and $425,000 at its regulation faculty in Portland to make up for the shortfall.
— Maine’s senior senator touted a refueling unit based mostly in the city where she lives to prime Air Drive brass. During Thursday’s hearing earlier than a protection appropriations subcommittee she chairs, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins sang the praises of the Bangor-based 101st Air Refueling Wing to Secretary of the Air Drive Heather Wilson and Gen. David Goldfein, Air Pressure chief of employees, and pressed them for ongoing help. “The 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor has long been a workhorse unit for the Air Force, typically supporting more than 1,000 transient aircrafts annually and deploying personnel at a very high rate worldwide,” Collins informed the two Air Drive leaders. “What are we doing to make sure that a workhorse unit like this refueling wing has the resources it needs at a time when it’s still deploying individuals at a great rate?”
— The U.S. Senate joined the House in voting towards the president’s border emergency declaration, but not by sufficient to override a veto. Collins joined 11 different Republican senators, in addition to all Democrats and independents, in a 59-41 vote to cancel President Donald Trump’s February proclamation of a border emergency, which he invoked to spend $3.6 billion extra for border limitations than Congress had permitted. Trump now says he will veto the invoice and move ahead with plans to use federal funds taken from different appropriations to construct his promised border wall.
A present to ourselves
As we speak is Maine’s 199th birthday. Pleased birthday to us.
All the time the planners, we’ve been pondering what sort of present can be most applicable for next yr’s bicentennial. After much deliberation, the greatest concept appears to be to take Massachusetts again and make it part of Maine.
People there speak humorous, drive badly, govern corruptly and are means too filled with themselves. But in the 199 years since Maine spurned them, they’ve improved their schooling system and managed to provide you with an honest financial system and well being care community. And — in the end — their skilled sports teams are persistently good.
Additionally they understand the proper use of “wicked.”
Annexing Massachusetts could possibly be the answer to Maine’s most pressing challenges, including “what do you give to a 200-year-old on her birthday?”
We’d have to find tourists from one other state to hate all summer time, however that should not be onerous. This yr’s Massholes could possibly be subsequent yr’s Connecticuthroats? Or ought to that be Connecticutworms? Here is your soundtrack. –– Robert Long
In the present day’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Alex Acquisto and Robert Long. When you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or have been forwarded it, click on here to obtain Maine’s main publication on state politics by way of e mail on weekday mornings. Click on here to subscribe to the BDN.