ENERGY

Deal pushes CMP transmission project forward

Massachusetts utilities have inked an agreement to bring hydropower from Quebec through Maine via a new 145-mile transmission corridor. The agreement, signed Thursday, is a necessary step for Central Maine Power’s controversial New England Clean Energy Connect transmission project. The Augusta-based company wants to build a transmission corridor to bring renewable power from Hydro-Quebec to markets in Massachusetts, where regulators have adopted strict clean-energy goals. Key to that proposal is the agreement with Massachusetts electric distribution companies to buy the power at a rate that makes the project financially feasible. The distribution companies will now seek approval from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities for the 20-year power contracts. Read the story.

UMaine wind project suffers setback

Longstanding efforts to establish an offshore wind energy industry in Maine suffered a setback Tuesday when state utility regulators voted to reopen a previously negotiated power contract to test a patented technology for deep-water floating wind farms. Since January, supporters of the Maine Aqua Ventus project had expressed concern that action by the Public Utilities Commission to alter a power-rate contract set in 2014 could doom the University of Maine-led venture just as it’s reaching the critical stages for financing and permits. But the UMaine professor heading the project, Habib Dagher, expressed confidence that Maine Aqua Ventus could answer questions raised by the PUC commissioners and keep the project moving ahead. Dagher said federal Department of Energy officials assured him that a crucial $40 million grant earmarked for the project wasn’t put at risk by the PUC’s action. Maine Aqua Ventus previously had contended that reopening the terms would put at risk $165 million worth of public and private investment. That included the nearly $40 million that was awarded by the DOE in 2017. Mainers also approved an $11 million bond for the project in 2010. Read the story.

MARIJUANA

Court: Employers can’t be forced to pay for medical marijuana treatments

Maine’s highest court ruled Thursday that federal laws prevent an employer’s workers compensation fund from being forced to pay for medical marijuana treatments. The court, in a 5-2 vote, said its ruling should be considered narrowly, based on a case in which a paper company employee wanted his employer’s worker’s compensation fund to pay for his use of medical marijuana to treat pain from a back injury. The worker, who suffered a total disability, filed a claim six years ago, seeking to have the company, Twin Rivers in Madawaska, pay for his medical marijuana after his use of prescription painkillers provided him no relief. The company refused, saying that the federal Controlled Substances Act barred it from paying for marijuana. The Maine Workers Compensation board had sided with the worker, Gaetan Bourgoin, but the company went to court to try to overturn that ruling. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT

Maine rentals among least affordable in U.S.

Maine’s rental market is among the least affordable in the nation, according to a report released Wednesday that places it alongside high-housing-cost states such as California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Hawaii. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual report showed the gap between an average renter’s wage and the wage needed to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment. In Maine, that gap was $7.29 per hour. The study, which used federal housing and U.S. Census data for its calculations, pegged the average Maine renter’s wage at $11.44 per hour, while the hourly wage needed to rent a two-bedroom apartment is $18.73 per hour – the ninth-highest in the nation. Read the story.

Yarmouth train depot slated for restoration, redevelopment

A historic train depot in Yarmouth is under contract. The nonprofit group Maine Preservation announced Monday that Ford Reiche will buy the 1906 Grand Trunk Railroad Depot on Main Street and convert it to commercial office space. His previous preservation works include the Halfway Rock Light Station off the coast of Harpswell and the Charles B. Clark House in Portland. The Yarmouth Village Improvement Society has owned the building for five decades and worked with Maine Preservation to sell it. The asking price was $165,000. Sarah Hansen, real estate manager for Maine Preservation, declined to disclose the purchase price. She said the parties have not set a closing date yet but hope the deal will be finalized by the end of the summer. Read the story.

MARINE INDUSTRIES

Regulators consider new reporting rules for lobstermen

Federal regulators are considering potential changes to the way lobster fishing is monitored. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking public comment on a recommendation to require all federal lobster permit holders to report on catches for each fishing trip. It’s also looking at expanding its own offshore sampling program. NOAA is looking for more data to inform its regulation of the fishery. About 20 percent of the 5,000 lobstermen in Maine hold federal licenses. Read the story.

Harbor commissioners appealing pilot fee ruling

The Board of Harbor Commissioners for Portland Harbor is appealing a court ruling that it improperly raised pilot fees. Board members voted in November to increase the minimum rate to pilot large vessels in and out of Portland Harbor to $1,077, almost 50 percent more than the 2016 rate. That fee increase was challenged in court by Bay Ferries Ltd., the Canadian company that operates The Cat ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The May increase would have increased the ferry’s cost by $96,000 a year and would have constituted a financial hardship, the company said in court filings. In his ruling June 1, Superior Court Justice Lance Walker said the board had not examined the Pilots’ financial records to see if a rate hike was justified and vacated the board’s November decision. The appeal was filed June 6. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Magazines under new ownership

The assets of publishing company Maine Media Collective, which include magazines Old Port, Maine and Maine Home+Design, have been sold. State 23 Media, a newly formed company, acquired all print, event and digital media assets from Maine Media Collective, according to a Wednesday news release. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. In April, a former employee of the company accused former publisher Kevin Thomas of making unwanted sexual advances in 2010, including forced kissing, and exhibiting hostility toward her after those advances were rebuffed. Thomas later issued an apology, and the company lost sponsors and canceled events as a result of the incident. Read the story.

DECD commissioner to step down

George Gervais, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, intends to leave his post this week. Gervais was confirmed in May 2011, and is the longest-serving DECD commissioner in state history. He was thanked for his service by Gov. Paul LePage who lauded Gervais for increasing Maine trade and tourism industries. Gervais had been working with the department since 2008, serving as development program manager and business development specialist, assistant commissioner, and acting commissioner before becoming commissioner. His resignation is effective June 22. Read the story.

Top KeyBank executive dies

Sterling Kozlowski, the New England regional sales executive and Maine Market president for Key Bank who was known for his devotion to community service, has died. He was 58. The Falmouth resident, one of Maine’s most high-profile banking executives, died Saturday, his wife, Marylee Kozlowski said Monday. Kozlowski had a history of community service since coming to Maine in 2010. He served on the board of the economic development group FocusMaine, was a member of the Senator’s Circle of support for the Mitchell Institute, and directed the bank in supporting several inititaives t upport small businmess. In 2014, the Spurwink mental health agency named Kozlowski its Humanitarian of the Year. Read the story.

South Portland company merges with international partners

A South Portland company that was sold to a Dutch company last year now has a new partner from Canada. Grow-Tech Inc., which makes seed and cutting media for professional horticultural applications, was sold to Dümmen Orange, a floricultural company, last June. Grow-Tech announced Thursday that it will merge with sister companies Quick Plug in the Netherlands and Omni Growing Solutions in Canada to form Quick Plug Global. All three brands will now use the Quick Plug name. Read the story.

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