Canadian officials plan trip to drum up ferry service support

Nova Scotian officials intend to visit Maine in June to talk to Portland and state officials about ways they can support renewed ferry service between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Portland. Nova Star Cruises expects to start its second year of operation in better shape than its first, but Canadian subsidies are still required for the service to continue; the government approved another $13 million this year after $28 million for the inaugural season. Nova Star officials say advance bookings are up and they expect to hit passenger and revenue goals this year. But Canadian officials are hedging their bets, announcing that they will consider alternate proposals for ferry service if Nova Star doesn’t meet performance benchmarks. Those proposals could include a different vessel, different operators and perhaps a change from Portland to Bar Harbor as the Maine destination. Read the story.


Economist nominated to energy commission

Gov. Paul LePage nominated an economist from Tennessee to fill the final vacancy on the powerful Maine Public Utilities Commission. Bruce Williamson, a senior economist at the Institute for Nuclear Security at the University of Tennessee’s Howard Baker Center for Public Policy, was a research associate at the Institute for Energy Analysis in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the late 1970s, before working for worldwide telecom companies for more than a decade. He has been at the Institute for Nuclear Security for two years. If approved, Williamson will join two other LePage appointees on the commission, Mark Vannoy and Carlisle McLean. The commission is instrumental in steering state energy policy, and ultimately, influencing what Mainers pay for electricity and natural gas. Read the story.

Wind power developer eyeing new markets

SunEdison, developer of the proposed 22-turbine Weaver Wind project near Ellsworth, released a statement Monday saying it was withdrawing its power-purchase plan from the Maine Public Utilities Commission and would try to sell its electricity elsewhere in New England. “The Weaver project would have saved Maine ratepayers up to $35 million over the contract term,” said John Lamontagne, a SunEdison spokesman. “SunEdison had hoped the PUC would execute the negotiated contract to deliver clean energy at a very competitive price to Maine homes and businesses, but it became clear to us that the Maine PUC was not going to approve the power-purchase agreement.” SunEdison had received preliminary approval for a power-purchase contract with the PUC in December, but that decision was reviewed in February against a backdrop of falling oil process. Critics say the commission was bowing to pressure from Gov. Paul LePage, who favors natural gas expansion rather than renewable energy projects to meet Maine’s energy needs. Commissioners refute the allegations. Read the story.

ORPC expands to Ireland

A tidal power company that’s running demonstration projects in Maine and Alaska is establishing an office in Ireland, where the company sees an opportunity for community-based projects that could open the door to the broader market in Europe, officials said Thursday. Portland-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. is setting up a subsidiary, ORPC Ireland LLC, in County Donegal at the Business Centre at Letterkenny Institute of Technology. The company aims to establish small projects of 1 to 5 megawatts in northwestern Ireland, where County Donegal is home to the country’s largest fishing port and miles of rural coastline reminiscent of eastern Maine. Read the story.


Portland in the running to host global trade forum

Three officials from the U.S. State Department were in Maine this week on a scouting mission to determine if Portland should host an international forum for delegates from eight Arctic nations, possibly including Secretary of State John Kerry. It would be the first-ever such meeting in the United States outside of Alaska and would draw between 150 and 200 people, including government officials, climate scientists and leaders of indigenous people who live in the Arctic. The Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials meeting is scheduled for Oct. 4-6, 2016. The State Department will soon decide whether the meeting will take place in Portland or somewhere in Alaska, said Dana Eidsness, director of the Maine North Atlantic Development Office. Read the story. Read the story.

Magazine seeks to create North Atlantic identity

Two Icelandic journalists were in Maine last week recruiting support for an ambitious Web-based magazine that aims to foster a common identity for people who live on the coasts of both sides of the North Atlantic – a 2 million-square-mile area populated by fewer than 9 million people. Maine is identified as the only portion of the United States in this area, which includes the provinces of Atlantic Canada, Baffin Island, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Scotland, the coast of Norway and the western coast of Denmark. The magazine, whose impetus comes from a melting polar ice cap and the creation of new shipping lanes, will focus on business, culture, current affairs and tourism. Read the story.


Credit union for ag businesses forming

Concerned about a lack of lending options for farmers and other food-producers, a group is working to set up a financial institution to provide farmers, artisan cheese-makers and craft brewers with stronger financing roots. The Maine Harvest Credit Project’s goal is to establish a credit union that the backers believe would fill a gap in available financing, offering farm mortgages in the $100,000 to $500,000 range and equipment loans of $25,000 to $100,000. Scott Budde, the project director who will be the chief executive officer of the credit union when it opens – likely in early 2017 – said farmers, food producers and the like are an underserved sector because few banks are likely to have loan officers who really understand the food economy and unique nature of a farm’s business operations. Budde identified food producers as an underserved community and got a grant for a yearlong study of the needs of farmers and small food-producers, especially in New England. Read the story.


Boutique hotel with newspaper theme set to open

The Press Hotel, a boutique, 110-room hotel in the former Portland Press Herald newspaper building, is scheduled to open Tuesday. The hotel, which has incorporated a journalism theme throughout the building, will offer basic rooms at $278-$323. The facility includes a floating staircase, gallery space, health and fitness center, conference rooms, a standalone bar and a 100-seat bar and restaurant. The $16 million Press Hotel opens at the tail end of a boom in hotel construction and renovation that has added more than 450 rooms to downtown Portland, a 50 percent increase in less than two years. Read the story.


Nets restricted in elver harvests

Maine fishing regulators are putting emergency restrictions on certain kinds of fishing nets to make sure the state doesn’t exceed catch limits on baby eels. State Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher says elver fishermen are prohibited from using fyke nets other than those that are used in commercial fishing and subject to daily reporting requirements. Fyke nets are bag-like nets held open by hoops, and they can catch significantly more elvers than typical dipnets. Keliher says the state is issuing the rule based on information from the Passamaquoddy American Indian tribe that it is issuing “sustenance licenses” that allow fyke net use. He says the tribe lacks a way to accurately track the catch of sustenance license holders. Read the story.