Good morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “When the price of your ingredients [and] your labor goes up, your business model will fail unless you follow that with your margin at an acceptable level,” said Kerry Altiero, owner of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, on the effects of rising costs. “I think any business that practices the ostrich technique is going to be in trouble.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
The referendum aiming to stop the Central Maine Power Co. corridor highlights likely challenges for future renewable projects. CMP and its affiliates spent more than $62 million over the past two years, but they could not sway public opinion in favor of the 145-mile transmission line. In the short run, Massachusetts is trying to determine how it can meet its renewable energy goals, which effectively rely on hydropower from Canada. There are possible alternatives, but each has their own drawbacks too.
That is due in large part to Question 1 creating a blueprint for opponents of large renewable energy projects to whip the public against them. While opponents of the CMP corridor had grassroots activists and environmentalists on their side due to the utility’s poor reputation here, they received backing to the tune of roughly $30 million from energy companies operating in the region that stood to lose out from the corridor’s construction.
Where those companies stand on future energy projects will likely depend on their own incentives. NextEra Energy, which poured more than $20 million into the anti-corridor effort, was a vocal opponent of offshore wind just a few years ago, with its CEO calling it “terrible energy policy.” Last week, it put in a proposal to develop offshore wind in New Jersey.
Large power projects, including hydropower, offshore wind and other alternatives, will be critical for New England states to meet renewable energy goals. This will require new large-scale projects, which could generate opposition from competing energy companies or locals concerned about environmental effects. (Such a concern has already come up around offshore wind, leading Gov. Janet Mills to sign a law banning new projects in state waters. Her administration is gunning for a research site in federal waters.)
The CMP corridor is not dead yet, though. Several lawsuits currently before the courts will determine its ultimate viability. Mills, a Democrat and a vocal supporter of the project, said people are exhausted by the messaging around the question, and trusted both the courts and the Department of Environmental Protection would weigh their separate issues fairly.
The Maine politics top 3
— “House hands Joe Biden infrastructure win as Democratic deadlock ends,” The Associated Press: “Simply freeing up the infrastructure measure for final congressional approval was like a burst of adrenaline for Democrats. Yet despite the win, Democrats endured a setback when they postponed a vote on a second, even larger bill until later this month.”
Maine’s holdout congressman did not echo a conditional pledge from fellow centrists to vote for the larger bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was balancing conflicting demands from progressives to pass the infrastructure bill and the larger spending bill at once and from centrists to vote on the smaller bill first. The deal was inked when all Democrats voted for a rule governing the spending-bill vote and five centrists promised to vote for the bill if fiscal estimates come back as Democrats expect. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District did not join that smaller group, however, with a spokesperson saying he wants to review the final bill text and the fiscal score before making a commitment.
— “Border communities don’t expect much commercial impact with reopening of US border to Canadians,” Alexander MacDougall, BDN: “Although the U.S. is allowing fully vaccinated Canadians entry, the Canadian government still requires its citizens returning home to produce a negative polymerase chain reaction, known as a PCR test, taken no more than 72 hours prior to return, as it does with U.S. citizens who wish to travel to Canada. That process is costly and the results may not be available within the required timeframe. As long as the measure stays in place, local day trips to Maine by Canadians are unlikely to resume to pre-pandemic level.”
— “Hate crimes and human trafficking are on radar for Maine’s new US attorney,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “As [U.S. Attorney Darcie] McElwee looks toward carrying out Biden administration priorities in Maine, she noted that the FBI has documented a rise in hate crimes since the pandemic. In addition, Maine is seeing a spike in complaints about strangers contacting teenage girls online with sexual messages. Maine also continues to be a source for guns in southern New England and New York, where gun laws are stricter, according to McElwee. Those gun purchases often are related to drug trafficking, she said.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper and edited by Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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