AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday announced two initiatives to help customers affected by the sudden closure of Thibeault Energy in Brunswick.

In addition, Brunswick-area legislators are proposing a bill to increase consumer protection from sudden oil company closures.

In one of the initiatives announced by LePage, five credit unions will offer 12-month, zero-interest loans of up to $2,000 for customers who lost money when the oil company closed.

Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union, Down East Credit Union, Five County Credit Union, Lisbon Community Federal Credit Union and Midcoast Federal Credit Union will write checks directly to the customers’ new oil companies. The loans are available on a first-come, first-served basis until April 1 and require no credit check.

Low-income customers may be eligible for additional assistance from the Maine State Housing Authority’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. MaineHousing will hold a special screening for former Thibeault Energy customers on Saturday, Feb. 12 to see if they meet the income requirements for LIHEAP. The screening will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Curtis Memorial Library on Pleasant Street in Brunswick.

Cumberland County residents who cannot attend the screening should contact the People’s Regional Opportunity Program in Portland at 553-5900. Sagadahoc County residents should call the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program at 207-859-1500.

Legislators, meanwhile, are looking at existing state law, which gives oil companies several ways to back their delivery contracts. They can choose to reserve 75 percent of the prepaid oil, purchase a bond for 50 percent of the prepaid funds, or obtain a letter of credit for the purchases. 

According to Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick, the lawmakers’ new proposal would eliminate two of those options and require companies to buy a security bond for the full amount that customers have pre-paid.

“(The proposal) strengthens the law so that in the future this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

The announcements came after a meeting Tuesday about the now-defunct oil company. The session, which was closed to the public, was attended by legislators and representatives from MaineHousing, the attorney general’s office, the Office of the Energy Independence and Security and others.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]

This report was updated on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011.

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