CMP ratepayers in line for increases related to storm recovery

The October windstorm that knocked out power to an unprecedented number of Mainers could initially cost the typical Central Maine Power customer a total of about $16 in one year. CMP executives held a conference call Thursday before filing a 141-page response to the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which initiated an investigation last month of how CMP dealt with the storm that knocked out power to more than 400,000 customers. CMP estimated recovery costs would total about $69 million, of which $13 million would initially be passed onto rate payers. That equates to about $1.30 per monthly bill for each customer if the amount is recovered over one year, or $0.65 per customer for two years. A portion of the $32 million in replacements costs for poles, transformers and other equipment could be passed onto rate payers later. Read the story.

Fuel mix-up causes vehicle damage

The owner of the Mobil gas station on Pleasant Street in Waterville blamed the fuel mix-up that left several of his customers with damaged vehicles on an error by the distributor who delivers fuel to the station. A delivery person from Downeast Energy mistakenly put diesel fuel into the super octane grade tank and super octane in the diesel tank, according to Muhammad Ismael, owner and franchisee of the station operated with the On the Run convenience store. He guessed that the delivery person might not have paid close enough attention. Ismael stressed that once the mistake was identified Jan. 11, the store ceased selling the product and started cleaning the tanks immediately. State officials said this kind of mix-up rarely happens. About 10 customers of the station reported engine problems. Read the story.


Caregivers sue to block new pot rules

The owners of a Belfast medical marijuana shop are going to federal court in an attempt to stop Maine from implementing new medical marijuana regulations next month. Caregivers Justin Olsen and Nancy Shaw of New World Organics say the rules violate patient privacy and force caregivers to divulge confidential patient information to the state. The caregivers and two of their unnamed patients – an injured combat veteran and a woman undergoing cancer treatment – filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor. Olson and Shaw believe a new rule that allows a warrantless search of a caregiver’s grow, which is often located on their personal property, or a patient’s house, is an unconstitutional search and seizure. Read the story.

Maine joins effort to allow banking services for pot businesses

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is calling on Congress to enact federal legislation to allow banks to serve state-licensed marijuana businesses without penalty. Mills joined with attorneys general from 19 other states, including seven of the eight that have legalized adult-use cannabis sales, to support legislation like the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act. Introduced last year by Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter, it would create a safe harbor for banks that work with state-licensed medical and recreational businesses. Many banks refuse to work with businesses that earn their profits on a product that is classified as an illegal substance under federal law, fearing they could end up subject to charges. She said Maine needs to do away with cash-based transactions that carry with them a lack of accountability and that sometimes lead to violent crime. Read the story.


Despite headwinds, Southern Maine real estate markets continue to grow

Southern Maine’s real estate market is riding high on the strength of rising home values, booming tourism, a tight market for industrial properties and renewed interest in office construction. That was the consensus among presenters at the 2018 Maine Real Estate and Development Association forecasting conference, held Thursday in Portland. The event drew a record 900 professionals and 100 exhibitors who came to discuss trends and factors affecting sales, leasing and construction in Maine’s industrial, office, residential, retail and hospitality sectors. ome sectors performed better than others in 2017, according to the presenters. The residential market performed the best, with the state’s median home price increasing by about 6 percent from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the commercial market experienced a slowdown in activity as more investors held onto their properties, which drove down the volume of sales. Concerns for the immediate future of Maine’s real estate industry include rising interest rates, the continued delay of legal recreational marijuana sales, and the development of additional hotel rooms in Portland despite relatively flat occupancy rates. Read the story.


Mercy receives $5 million pledge toward construction

Mercy Hospital in Portland has received $6 million from the Northeast Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas to help build a new hospital at Mercy’s Fore River medical campus and create a permanent endowment for the hospital. The Sisters of Mercy’s Mercy Endowment Foundation has fulfilled a $5 million pledge to the hospital’s $20 million Fore River capital campaign and announced that it will transfer the foundation’s remaining balance of $1 million to the Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems Foundation for the establishment of a permanent endowment for Mercy Hospital, the hospital said in a statement Thursday. EMHS is the parent company of Mercy Hospital. Read the story.

Maine Med employees start moving into Westbrook facility

Maine Medical Center employees began moving into One Riverfront Plaza in Westbrook last week, several months after the company purchased the long-vacant building. Up to 500 employees should be working in the building by mid-April. The medical center purchased the downtown building, which overlooks the Presumpscot River, in June for $10.75 million. The office building, vacant since November 2015, will house Maine Med’s integrated Information Services employees along with other administrative functions currently spread across eight office locations throughout Greater Portland. A hospital spokeswoman said the employees are moving into the building in phases so services aren’t disrupted. Read the story.


LePage asks ‘antibusiness’ harbor commissioners to step down

Gov. Paul LePage has asked four of the five members on Portland’s Board of Harbor Commissioners to resign because of an “antibusiness” decision to increase minimum fees charged by harbor pilots to guide ships into port. In a Dec. 15 letter to the four commissioners, LePage said increasing pilot fees, from roughtly $750 to $1,200, amounted to a tax increase on business and sent the wrong message to vessels coming into Portland Harbor. He also said he will support a bill exempting some ferries from using pilots. LePage said the parties should have consulted his administration for help instead of increasing fees. Three of the four targeted commissioners told the Press Herald they would not step down; the fourth couldn’t be reached. Read the story.


Investor, directors’ action raise uncertainty of Jay mill’s future

A major investor in Verso, owner of the paper mill in Jay, has sold more than $21 million worth of shares in the first two weeks of January, just months after expressing frustration with returns on the investment. Then on the heels of those transactions, Verso Corp. revealed Tuesday that its Strategic Alternatives Committee is looking at the possibility of selling the entire company outright, or merging with another. The announcement of the shares selloff came months after the company formed the committee to look at what it called transaction alternatives, including potentially selling individual mills, to enhance its profitability. Verso said the committee expanded its transaction possibilities to include “a potential sale or merger of the entire company.” It cautioned, however, that there were no assurances that a review of the possible options would result in a sale of the company or its mills or a merger with another company. About 400 people now work at the Androscoggin mill. When Verso emerged from bankruptcy in summer 2016, it employed about 560. Read the story.


Maine misses cut for Amazon’s second HQ has released a list of 20 regions in the United States and Canada that the online retail giant is considering as possible sites for its second headquarters. The list, released Thursday, includes major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston and Atlanta, as well as smaller communities including Pittsburgh, Raleigh and Nashville. Two long-shot proposals to locate the headquarters in Maine also did not make the final list. The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority had offered the former naval air base in Brunswick, and the town of Scarborough suggested building an Amazon campus at the Scarborough Downs racetrack. Read the story.