At eleventh hour, governor submits bill to delay pot sales

House Republican Leader Ken Fredette and Gov. Paul LePage joined forces Thursday on a last-minute effort to delay the launch of Maine’s new adult-use marijuana market until January 2019, a move that frustrated some members of a committee that has spent months trying to finalize regulations to govern the state’s recreational pot industry. Fredette and LePage want state lawmakers to kill the legislative committee bill that would set up Maine’s regulatory framework for recreational cannabis, saying it’s too big, complex and controversial for lawmakers to debate in a single day. The full Legislature is scheduled to return and vote on the bill Monday. Instead, LePage submitted a Fredette bill that calls for legislators to extend the existing moratorium on the commercial aspects of the marijuana law from February 2018 to January 2019. Read the story.


Davis gets committee endorsement for PUC post

A man with nearly 40 years of experience in the paper industry was endorsed by a legislative committee Wednesday to join the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Randall Davis of Smithfield won the recommendation of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee in a unanimous vote. His confirmation faced no public opposition at the hearing. Davis is currently the energy manager at Sappi North America’s Somerset paper mill. He has worked for Maine’s largest papermaker for 38 years, and has spent the past six years managing electric and natural gas contracts and other energy matters to maximize revenue at the mill. Read the story.

Biomass operators seeks partner for development

The owner of four biomass plants in Maine is looking for a partner to co-locate next to its facilities as a strategy to improve the plants’ commercial viability. ReEnergy Biomass Operations, a company based in New York, owns biomass plants in Fort Fairfield, Ashland, Startton and Livermore Falls. It has filed a request for proposals for a partner with commercial technology to co-locate at one or several of the plants. The intent is, within three years, to increase the profitability of the biomass plants, and either manufacture bio-based materials from wood, or convert the heat and steam from the energy process into other high-value products. Read the story.


UNE gets grant to develop commercial seaweed

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the University of New England a three-year, $1.3 million research grant to develop new technologies for seaweed production. The grant is part of a new DOE program called Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources, or MARINER, that aims to develop the tools to enable the U.S. to become a leading producer of macroalgae, or seaweed, to help improve U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness, the Biddeford-based university said in a news release. Seaweed can be used as a raw material for transportation fuels, chemicals, foods and other commercial products without competing with food crops for land and water. Read the story.

 Oyster farms proposed in Greater Portland

Scarborough is holding a scoping session on a proposals to open oyster farms. The session “will discuss a proposed aquaculture lease application to raise American/Eastern oysters using suspended culture techniques in three proposed locations,” according to a statement from the Department of Marine Resources. Matthew Hassler and Robert Willette are seeking leases on two proposed locations in the Nonesuch River in Scarborough and a third in the Spurwink River on the border of Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth. The seesion is set for Monday, Oct. 23, at 6 p.m. at the Scarborough Municipal building. Read the story.


L.L. Bean installs largest electric vehicle charging station in Maine

L.L. Bean is completing construction at its flagship retail store on what will be Maine’s largest charging station for electric vehicles, with an opening planned for late fall or early winter. Bean is converting a section of a parking lot on Justin’s Way into a cluster of 16 charging plugs. Eight will have the special connector that fits vehicles made by Tesla, now the top-selling U.S. brand. Eight other plugs will be for all other makes. Charging will be free. Bean says it’s responding to customer demand and is anticipating that more shoppers will want to be able to plug in as electric cars become increasingly popular. The company said the move reflects its corporate ethos of community leadership and promoting sustainable business practices. Read the story.

Mainers get reprieve from federal ID rules

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted Maine an additional one-year waiver for complying with the Real ID Act, allowing federal agencies to continue to accept Maine driver’s licenses and identification cards through Oct. 10, 2018, state officials said Thursday. Mainers were in danger of no longer being able to use their driver’s licenses to pass through airport security or to gain access to federal facilities next year because the state’s licenses do not comply with federal standards, such as digitized photos that can be used with facial recognition technology. Federal officials had issued a previous compliance waiver to Maine on June 15, which expired at midnight Oct. 10. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap submitted a request for a one-year renewal on Sept. 15, and Maine had been operating on a grace period extension while the request was being reviewed. Read the story.


Food sovereignty regulations worry slaughterhouse operators

Maine’s five state-inspected meat-processing facilities could be shut down by the federal government unless the Legislature amends a new food sovereignty law before Nov. 1.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said it will override Maine’s ability to run its own meat inspection program unless the state clarifies the law. Maine’s Department of Agriculture is concerned that the law would keep it from inspecting any meat slaughtered and processed in a town that is food sovereign, negating an agreement it has with the USDA to meet federal standards. The prospect that meat-processing facilities could close, even temporarily, has sent food producers across Maine into a state of near panic and confusion. The cause of the problem is the food sovereignty bill that Gov. Paul LePage signed into law in June despite opposition from his chief agricultural advisers. Read the story.


Portland hotel sold to investment trust

The Residence Inn Portland Downtown/Waterfront hotel has been sold to a large real estate investment trust based in Virginia for an undisclosed sum. The buyer, Richmond-based Apple Hospitality REIT Inc., is a publicly traded company that owns and operates 236 hotels in 33 states, according to its website. The seller was New Hampshire- and Florida-based Norwich Partners, which develops and invests in commercial real estate, primarily hotels in New England and Florida, according to Holliday Fenoglio Fowler L.P., a Boston-based commercial real estate broker that represented Norwich in the sale transaction. Read the story.


Two Maine communities bidding for Amazon headquarters

Amazon Corp. is looking for a place to put a second headquarters, and the town of Scarborough is getting into the race. The town plans to submit the Scarborough Downs racetrack site as a contender for the Seattle-based retail giant’s new facility, which would eventually employ up to 50,000 people. A town official acknowledged that even with the property’s new buyer on board, Scarborough Downs is an extreme long shot. The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority also submitted a proposal to Amazon on Wednesday afternoon, offering the former Navy base in Brunswick as the site for its headquarters facility. Both communities touted available land, proximity to airports, rail, highways and population centers. Read the story.


SBA lending increases in 2017 U.S. Small Business Administration lending increased significantly in Maine during the federal government’s 2017 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, the SBA reported Tuesday. The 16 percent increase in total SBA loan value over the previous fiscal year was led by a 48 percent jump in the value of 504 loans, which allow businesses to acquire fixed assets such as equipment for expansion or modernization. In all, the SBA approved 73 loans under the 504 loan program in Maine, with a total value of nearly $39.8 million, during fiscal year 2017. The SBA also approved 303 loans under the 7(a) loan program in Maine, with a total value of more than $68.5 million, during the 2017 fiscal year. That’s a 3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, it said. The 7(a) loan program is the SBA’s flagship loan-guarantee program for business startups and expansions. Read the story.