Environmental and Energy Law Update

A blog from the attorneys of Verrill

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MPUC Issues Order Setting Forth “Discrete Electric Generating Facilities” Safe Harbor

Today, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) issued an Advisory Ruling establishing a safe harbor for the determination whether a generation facility is a Discrete Electric Generating Facility for the purposes of qualifying for the MPUC’s Net Energy Billing and Distributed Generation Programs. This safe harbor helps clarify when...

MPUC Adopts Safe Harbor for Determination of “Discrete Electric Generating Facilities,” a Qualification for Net Energy Billing and Distributed Generation Programs

Yesterday, all three Maine Public Utilities Commission Commissioners agreed to adopt a new standard for the determination of what facilities qualify as “discrete electric generating facilities” under the MPUC’s Distributed Generation and Net Energy Billing rules. This has been an issue of significant concern among developers given the ambiguity...

Maine Law Court Holds Citizen's Initiative Cannot Block CMP's NECEC Transmission Line

Yesterday, the Maine Law Court deemed unconstitutional a ballot initiative to overturn the Maine PUC’s approval of the transmission line known as the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC). The Court’s holding in Avangrid Networks, Inc. v. Sec’y of State , has potentially wide-ranging implications for Maine’s administrative and...

Verrill Helps State’s Largest Solar Project Obtain Principal Environmental Permit

The 100-megawatt Three Rivers Solar Project in Hancock County, Maine has obtained its combined Site Law and Natural Resources Protection Act permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Three Rivers Solar will become the largest solar project in the state, twice the size of the next largest facility...

Maine’s COVID-19 Response Impacts Utility Services and Other Business Activities

Like many states, Maine is quickly imposing a wide range of measures designed to protect the public in response to the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19. Almost daily, Maine Governor Janet Mills and other state agencies have announced new measures. On Sunday, March 15, Governor Mills issued a Proclamation...

Recent Maine Legislation Triggers Amendment to PUC Consumer Protection Rules

Last year, the Maine Legislature enacted three bills requiring amendments to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Rules in Ch. 815: Consumer Protection Standards for Electric and Gas Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Utilities . Last month, on February 5, 2020, the PUC issued an Order amending Ch. 815, effective February...

Maine PUC Issues Distributed Solar Procurement Announcement

The Maine PUC, in partnership with its consultant Enel X, has issued a procurement announcement for the first block of distributed generation under Maine’s distributed generation law passed last summer . The procurement is open to projects of 5 MW AC or less. In total, the Maine PUC may...

Maine PUC Issues Report Analyzing the Costs and Benefits of “Public Power” in Maine

Last week, the Maine PUC submitted to the Maine Legislature its Report , authored by London Economics International (LEI), on the costs and benefits of requiring the State of Maine to take over Central Maine Power and Emera Maine and hire a private contractor to operate Maine’s electric grid...

Maine Solar Boom: Over 1.5GW of Distributed Solar Capacity in the Queue

According to the latest interconnection queues for distributed generation projects published by Maine’s two investor-owned utilities, CMP and Emera Maine , more than 1.5GW of solar capacity is currently proposed for interconnection to Maine’s electric grid. Almost all of the projects are less than 5MW in size, the capacity...

First Circuit Acts on Appeal by South Portland Pipeline Company

On January 10, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit acted on the Portland Pipe Line Corporation’s (PPLC) appeal of the district court order upholding a South Portland zoning ordinance that prohibits the bulk loading of crude oil onto marine vessels. Portland Pipe Line Corp. v...

Maine Energy Storage Commission Issues Report to Legislature

The Commission to Study the Economic, Environmental and Energy Benefits of Energy Storage to the Maine Electricity Industry has issued its report to the Legislature. The Commission unanimously agreed on the benefits of energy storage, making the following four findings: Energy storage has the potential to reduce costs and...

Jim Cohen Addresses Maine Chamber Symposium About Risks of Public Power

On January 6, 2020, longtime Verrill partner and energy lawyer Jim Cohen appeared at a legislative symposium hosted by the Maine Chamber of Commerce and spoke on the topic, “ Creation of a State-Run Power Authority: Promises vs. Realities .” Cohen’s presentation outlined the substantial risks associated with Maine...

Maine Adopts Amended Net Energy Billing Rules, New Commercial NEB Tariff Rate

Recent legislation amending the net energy billing (NEB) rules to include a tariff rate program specifically for commercial customers and directing the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to procure distributed generation, has prompted a flurry of PUC rule changes in the past months. See P.L. 2019, ch. 478 (LD...

Beneficial Electrification and Natural Gas Bans in New Buildings, Affordable Sustainability

Electric Cars
Transmission and distribution (T&D) utility customers have often been understood to care most about two things: reliability and cost—usually, but not necessarily in that order. Climate change and the public’s interest in mitigating it, have begun to change that conventional thinking. The ongoing beat of public climate change advocacy...

The 7th Annual Maine Natural Gas Conference

Flame Graphic
This past Thursday, October 3, 2019, representatives of regional natural gas distribution companies, energy regulators and attorneys, and renewable energy advocates gathered to discuss the current and future roles of natural gas in our energy industry. Topics ranged from gas-fired generation of electricity, potential future uses of natural gas...

Recent Maine Legislation Bolsters Solar, Distributed Generation

Solar Panels
This past legislative session in Maine saw a flurry of renewable energy legislation, including two laws reforming and expanding the net energy billing (NEB) program. This blog briefly charts these two developments in the NEB program. P.L. 2019, ch. 16 (LD 91) ends annual, step-down of kWh credits for...

Maine Public Utilities Commission Approves Weaver Wind Power Contract

On July 12, 2019, the Maine Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved a long-term contract for the purchase of power from Weaver Wind, a 72.6 MW wind power project in Hancock County Maine. The expected commercial operational date for Weaver is no later than December 2020. Chairman Philip Bartlett remarked...

Dynamic Pricing Triggers EV Owners’ Load Shift to Early Morning Hours

Supplying electricity during peak demand, the period of highest customer demand for electricity (typically around 4 – 7 p.m.), increases the costs of supply – both for transmission and distribution utilities and customers. Dynamic pricing is one potential remedy to this economic challenge of electricity supply. A recent study...

Draft Adult Use Marijuana Rules Released

Yesterday, the Department of Administrative and Financial Services Office of Marijuana Policy released a preliminary draft of the Adult Use Marijuana Rules . The preliminary draft includes comprehensive provisions on business licenses for marijuana establishments, which include cultivation, testing, and products manufacturing facilities, and marijuana stores. In addition to...

Maine Supreme Court Decides Seaweed Is a Plant, Not a Fish

After deliberating for a year and a half in Ross v. Acadian Seaplants , the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has unanimously held that rockweed, a type of seaweed that grows on rocks in the intertidal area all over the North Atlantic, is owned by the intertidal property owner, not...

The Latest: Governor Reported to Hire Burgess as Maine’s Energy Director

Reports are circulating that Governor Mills may have selected Dan Burgess as the Director of the Governor's Energy Office. Burgess is a native of Newport and University of Maine alum. Burgess has been at the forefront of several renewable energy initiatives over the past decade. He has most recently...

MPUC Approves Term Sheet for Three Rivers Solar Power, LLC’s 100 MW Solar Project

Today, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a term sheet for a long-term contract for Three Rivers Solar Power, LLC's 100 MW solar project. The Three Rivers Solar project will be located in Hancock County, Maine. It is a ground-mounted solar photovoltaic project, with an expected commercial operations date...

U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Review Zero Emissions Credit Schemes

In two related cases, Petitioners are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down state generator subsidies that Petitioners argue distort competitive wholesale power markets that are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the Federal Power Act (FPA). Both cases concern "zero emission...

Governor Mills Lifts Wind Power Moratorium

On Thursday, Governor Mills issued an Executive Order lifting a moratorium on new wind energy permits. Former Governor Paul LePage issued the moratorium in January 2018 and created a Maine Wind Energy Advisory Commission to study the economic impact of wind turbines on tourism and local communities. Controversy surrounded...
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