ENERGY

CMP ratepayers won’t pay for customer billing lapse

A senior executive at Central Maine Power Co. told state regulators that the company won’t ask to have ratepayers cover the costs of providing electricity to thousands of new customers who weren’t billed for their service. The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram reported Sunday that about 3,400 new electricity customers weren’t billed for months because of delays the company had in setting up new accounts. The company captured those customers’ electricity use on their meters, but it decided to start billing only for the most recent 30-day period after the accounts were finally set up. The company initially indicated that it might seek to have the lost revenue covered by other customers under a formula that the Maine Public Utilities Commission and CMP use in annual rate-setting decisions. But in testimony to the commission Monday, an executive said the company will not go that route. Read the story.

Hydro-Quebec says project will bring clean energy

Hydro-Quebec officials say opponents of a transmission line through western Maine are wrong when they say the company’s plan to send hydropower to Massachusetts won’t provide abundant clean energy to New England. The utility’s officials said Thursday that the company has enough capacity to ensure that the electricity sent south is clean and produced with none of the carbon emissions blamed for global warming. Hydro-Quebec signed contracts in June with three Massachusetts utility companies to provide hydropower to help Bay Staters reach their clean energy goals. Central to that plan is the construction of a 145-mile transmission corridor through Maine to deliver that hydropower to Massachusetts markets. The line has been controversial with environmentalists and others who say the project isn’t guaranteed to deliver clean energy, and it will spoil pristine parts of the North Woods. Read the story.

Northern Maine customers looking at higher electric bills

Electricity customers in northern and eastern Maine are looking at rate increases of nearly 16 percent next year. The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday approved a rate of 8.37 cents per kilowatt-hour as the standard offer for electricity starting Jan. 1 for consumers who live in Emera Maine’s Bangor Hydro District. The current rate is 7.22 cents per kilowatt-hour. The standard offer is the default price of electricity that customers pay unless they choose a different generator to supply their electricity. The new rate will amount to about a $6 per month increase in the typical residential bill. Read the story.

LABOR

Restaurant owner offers free food for successful job referrals

In an effort to find workers, Moe’s Original Bar B Que of South Portland is offering a free meal every day for a year to anyone who refers a successful candidate. “We’ve struggled” to find people, said Dewey Hasbrouck, the owner of Moe’s, which also has a location in Bangor. “The unemployment rate is so low that it’s tough.” Maine’s unemployment rate in October was 3.4 percent and has been below 4 percent for 35 consecutive months. Hasbrouck said he’s put help-wanted ads on Craigslist and touted the need for workers on Moe’s Facebook page, but came up empty. Moe’s needs help in the kitchen and in the front of the house, Hasbrouck said, probably two or three workers right now. Read the story.

TOURISM

New owners promise improvements at Desert of Maine

The new owners of the Desert of Maine – a landmark attraction in Freeport – are promising big changes that they say will seek to build on the legacy of previous owners. Mela and Doug Heestand of Freeport said they purchased the 40-acre property from Gary and Ginger Currens on Wednesday. They are planning to renovate the facility and reboot its marketing to draw more out-of-town visitors to the campground and desert tours. Located two miles west of Interstate 295 in Freeport, the Desert of Maine at 95 Desert Road features a campground, a gift shop, an old barn, and lots of dunes. Read the story.

TRANSPORTATION

State to get $26 million for traffic improvements

Maine will get more than $26 million in federal funds to pay for road and street improvements and traffic light upgrades. The funding comes from a competitive grant program called the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, formerly called the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant. Roughly $11 million of the grant will help pay for a $22 million Maine Department of Transportation project to repair and improve key roads in Kingfield, Woodstock and Fryeburg in western Maine. Waterville will get $7.3 million toward a $9.2 million project to change the traffic flow and improve the city’s downtown road system. The final $8.2 million will be spent to support a $16.5 million MDOT project to update 104 of the 804 traffic lights statewide. Read the story.

RETAIL

Company challenges new Westbrook Market Basket

A mysterious company is trying to derail a new Market Basket supermarket location that is part of an ambitious commercial complex in Westbrook on a former quarry site near the Maine Turnpike. Westbrook Property Holding, a limited liability company registered less than four months ago, has sued the city of Westbrook and the development company behind the complex in a bid to overturn municipal approval of a shopping center with a Market Basket as an anchor tenant. In a lawsuit filed in a Cumberland County court, Westbrook Property Holding accuses the city’s Planning Board of violating the city’s zoning ordinance and the company’s due-process rights. Neither city officials nor the development’s backers are certain who is behind Westbrook Property Holding. Waterstone Properties, the developer, called the suit “frivolous.” Read the story.

AQUACULTURE

Oyster hatchery eyed for former Navy facility

The town of Harpswell is negotiating a lease with Running Tide Technologies Inc. of South Portland, which wants to open an oyster hatchery in one of the few structures remaining on the site of a former Navy facility. According to the lease application, the company would lease a 1-acre site on Mitchell Field, home of a former Navy fuel depot transferred to the town in 2001 that includes a garage and concrete pad. Running Tide would refit the garage to use as a hatchery, and the concrete pad would be used to store equipment. The town has maintained the 119-acre former fuel depot primarily as recreational land. Town selectmen have only discussed the project during closed-door sessions and have not released that information to the public. Read the story.

MARIJUANA

Commission to advise marijuana regulations nearly full

An assistant attorney general and a longtime member of the state’s former alcohol enforcement bureau will join the state’s new Marijuana Advisory Commission. Assistant Attorney General John Risler of Rockland was named to the commission by outgoing Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport. Thibodeau also named Frank Lyons, a 23-year veteran in the former Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, to the commission. Two legislative seats are still needed to fill the 15-member panel created to review state recreational and medical marijuana laws and integrate the state’s adult-use and medical cannabis laws, rules and programs. The commission will make recommendations to the Legislature, but will have no direct regulatory power. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Benefits company donates $300,000 to girls’ leadership program

Unum, a Portland-based employee benefits provider, has donated $300,000 to a girls’ leadership program spearheaded by former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. The gift to the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute will be matched by the Harold Alfond Foundation’s $1.4 million challenge grant to the institute. The gift from Unum will be divided into two parts: $150,000 in an unrestricted donation, and a separate $150,000 matching grant to encourage other corporations to support the institute’s work. Read the story.

Illinois distributor buys Deering Lumber

Deering Lumber in Maine has been purchased by an Illinois distributor of specialty building materials. The purchase of Deering Lumber’s three locations in Maine gives its purchaser, U.S. LBM Holdings, five locations in the state. Deering Lumber, headquartered in Biddeford, serves custom home builders and remodelers in southern Maine and coastal New Hampshire. It also has locations in Springvale and Kennebunk. Deering Lumber will continue to be led by President C.D. Armstrong, according to a news release announcing the sale. Read the story.

Brunswick printer to merge operations with MaineToday Media

Alliance Press, a Brunswick printing operation, is expected to close next year in a consolidation move by owner Reade Brower. Its work will be handled by Brower’s affiliated printers in Lewiston and South Portland. Brower, who owns six of the seven daily newspapers in Maine and 25 weeklies, said Alliance will merge with MaineToday Media sometime in early 2019. The majority of Alliance workers will be moving to jobs at the MaineToday Media print shop in South Portland, where a new press has been installed. Read the story.