Bowers Wind loses final appeal

A long-embattled, $100 million wind project planned for Penobscot County has lost its final appeal before the state’s highest court, ending a six-year effort by Boston-based First Wind to build wind turbines near Bowers Mountain. In a decision handed down Thursday, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the ruling of the state’s Board of Environmental Protection. It was the first such project to be rejected by regulators. The project would have brought 16 wind turbines, generating 48 megawatts of electricity, to an area already designated for wind power generation. A spokesman for First Wind’s parent company, Sun Edison, said the company was considering its next step. Read the story.

Statoil approved for oil exploration near Georges Bank

Norwegian energy giant Statoil has received approval to explore for oil in an area next to the Georges Bank and the entrance to the Gulf of Maine, raising environmental concerns on both sides of the border. In a move opposed by fishermen, Canadian authorities have granted the company an exploratory lease for the area 225 miles southeast of Bar Harbor and bordering on the eastern flank of Georges Bank. Environmentalists fear drilling could leave the ecologically sensitive Gulf of Maine susceptible to a catastrophic oil spill. It would be the closest that exploratory drilling has come to Maine since the early 1980s. Five wells were drilled on the U.S. side of Georges Bank in 1981 and 1982, before U.S. and Canadian moratoriums were put in place to protect the fishing grounds. Final approval was granted Monday afternoon as a deadline passed for federal and provincial authorities to veto a Nov. 12 recommendation by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, an intergovernmental entity responsible for regulating petroleum activities near the province. Read the story


Landmark variety store closes in anticipation of new space

Joe’s Super Variety – formerly Joe’s Smoke Shop – closed its doors this week to prepare for a reopening in new space at the same Congress Street location in Portland. The store will be back, “bigger and better, improved and more efficient,” possibly by the middle of next year, said David Discatio, one of three brothers who run the 70-year-old landmark shop in the Longfellow Square neighborhood. The brothers are in the process of removing inventory and getting the store ready for demolition, which will allow for the construction of an eight-story building with 139 market-rate units. The variety store will occupy space on the bottom floor of the building. Read the story


Program taps businesses to share highway costs

A new state initiative that gives road projects a higher priority if developers help pay for them will be used to fund construction of an interchange on Interstate 95 in Waterville. The $4.81 million interchange will be a half-cloverleaf at Trafton Road near the Sidney town line. Expected to go out to bid next summer, the project is the state’s first under a new Department of Transportation program called the Business Partnership Initiative. It is geared toward projects that help local economic development efforts, and splits a project’s cost among three parties: the state, local government and business. The process can be started by a municipality or a business. Read the story

Maine to see modest bump in highway funding

Legislators in Washington are scrambling to complete work on a five-year, $305 billion transportation bill that would slightly increase funding for Maine highway and transit projects, the first bump in federal funding in four years. One early estimate by a transportation think tank estimates that Maine would receive successive increases during the life of the bill, starting with a $9 million increase in the first year to $187 million, followed by roughly $4 million more in each successive year, eventually increasing to $204.4 million by budget year 2020, according to the Eno Center for Transportation. A spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation said a core team of department staff is expected to meet with the transportation commissioner on Friday, when they hope to learn more details about what Maine would receive. Read the story


Consumer spending prioritizes necessities

Mainers’ reputation for frugality is reflected in new data that show the state’s consumers focus on paying for heating oil, groceries and other necessities and skimp on discretionary items such as clothing and travel. Maine spent 3.5 percent more per person on household expenditures than they did in 2013, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Per capita, Mainers spent $41,148 last year, up from $39,779 the year before. But the growth in Maine was below the national spending increase of 4.2 percent. Nationally, Americans spent $37,196 per capita in 2014, up from $35,977 in 2013. And in New England, per-person spending was $46,008, up 4.1 percent from 2013. Mainers spent more last year than the year before on health care, gasoline and heating oil, but less on clothing, shoes and travel, the figures show. Read the story

Maine-themed gift box company opens

Three local entrepreneurs are hoping to capitalize on people’s affinity for Maine with a new business they launched on Black Friday. People who have traipsed through the woods at summer camp or vacationed on the coast tend to remember the state fondly. It’s that memory that the trio sees as the opening for its CrateFull of Maine – a gift crate of 17 Maine-made products, including items like evergreen soap from Chase Street Soap Co., a minimalist wallet from FlowFold, a pint glass from Sebago Brewing Co., and blueberry honey from Swan’s Honey in Albion. The retail value of all the items is north of $200, but a crate costs $99, according to Nathan O’Leary, one of three local entrepreneurs behind the project. The partners have a relatively small goal of selling between 50 and 75 units for Christmas delivery, but have the ability to sell upwards of 250 if the concept takes off. Read the story


Embattled ferry cleared to leave Portland Harbor

The Nova Star ferry has been cleared to depart Portland Harbor after Monday’s ruling by a federal magistrate judge that the ship may be released from custody. The vessel will head south to warmer waters, said Edward MacColl, an attorney for the ship’s owner, Singapore Technologies Marine. The 528-foot ship was seized and placed under arrest by the U.S. Marshals Service on Oct. 30 while claims seeking payments of more than $3 million were sorted out in U.S. District Court in Portland. The Singapore shipbuilder has posted a $750,000 surety bond, an amount that substantially exceeds the sum of remaining claims. The ruling Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rich III essentially released the ship on bail. The service, which started in April 2014, carried far fewer passengers than expected, and cost Nova Scotia taxpayers $41 million (Canadian) in just two years. In October, the province severed its relationship with the ferry operator, Nova Star Cruises, and awarded the ferry contract for next summer to a Canadian operator, Bay Ferries. Read the story


Falmouth equipment company acquires Swedish rival

Southworth International Group, a Falmouth provider of ergonomic handling equipment, has acquired a Swedish company that makes similar equipment. Southworth acquired Thursday the stock of Marco Group AB, a leading manufacturer of hydraulic lift tables, based in Ängelholm, Sweden. The purchase price was not disclosed. The president of Southworth International Group said in a statement that the acquisition is strategically important for his company, which employs 83 in Falmouth. Read the story

Global shaper hub launched in Portland

The Treehouse Institute has been selected to launch a Global Shapers Hub in Portland, part of a worldwide collaboration to engage young people in solving communal problems. The first 20 Maine participants in the hub have also been selected, according to a release from the World Economic Forum. Adam Burk, executive director of the Treehouse Institute and organizer of TEDxDirigo, was selected to lead the initiative, which aims to bring together people under the age of 30 who work to improve the world through public/private cooperation. Read the story