Energy: Legislative Campaign to Oppose State Takeover of Electric Utilities
During the 2019 session of the Maine Legislature, Verrill took a leading role on behalf of our client Emera Maine in opposing significant legislation authorizing the State of Maine to take over and operate the assets of Emera Maine and Central Maine Power, Maine’s two investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities. If this bill were to pass, CMP and Emera Maine would cease to operate as investor-owned utilities. Our efforts to oppose the bill included developing and coordinating a coalition of stakeholders in opposition to the legislation; detailed research of similar efforts around the country; the preparation and distribution of fact sheets outlining our research and other data showing the challenges of a state takeover; the preparation and delivery of public testimony on the legislation; preparation of amendments to the bill; overseeing public polling and grassroots outreach efforts to oppose the bill; and the direct lobbying of legislators and state agencies. After nearly six months of work, the Legislature postponed action on the bill, and instead directed the Maine PUC to conduct a detailed study of the proposal and report back in 2020. Future efforts will focus on this study, and the potential for additional legislation on the proposal.
Energy: Maine's First Private Natural Gas Pipeline
Assisted a large pulp mill secure legislation to authorize building a private natural gas pipeline that tapped into the Maritimes interstate pipeline to lower the mill's energy costs. To meet the client's schedule, we had to submit after-deadline emergency legislation and get the bill through the legislature and signed by the governor in just over three weeks.
Energy: Omnibus Energy Legislation
Verrill represented Emera as part of Omnibus Energy Legislation authorizing the State of Maine to procure up to $75 million of natural gas capacity in New England. Our goal was to ensure that the risks on Maine electric consumers through the bill were minimized, which required us to work for weeks with a wide range of stakeholders in order to make necessary amendments to the original bill. As a result of the strong relationships we developed and trusted legal solutions we offered, many of our proposals were ultimately included in the final legislation, whereas many suggestions by other stakeholders were not.
Energy: Utility Ownership of Generation
We opposed legislation on behalf of Emera that would have prohibited affiliates of Maine T&D utilities from owning electric generation facilities in the state. Had the bill passed, Emera would not have been able to partner with First Wind to provide financing for a number of major wind energy projects.
Natural Gas Pipeline Expansion in the Northeast
Since early 2014, our firm has successfully represented a large interstate pipeline company before the Maine PUC in advancing two significant new interstate pipeline expansion projects. The larger of the two projects was designed to provide a firm and reasonably priced source of fuel for natural gas-fired generators providing electricity to consumers in Maine and New England. The Maine PUC is charged with implementation of the Energy Cost Reduction Act, a 2013 law (in which the firm was actively involved) that authorizes the State to direct execution of a contract for new natural gas pipeline capacity. The so-called energy cost reduction contract, or ECRC, will provide financing for up to $75 million per year upon a finding that the contract's benefits will outweigh its costs and that the contract is commercially reasonable and in the public interest.
After more than two years of extensive litigation, the Maine PUC selected our client's project in July 2016 as the best option for an ECRC, and directed Maine's transmission and distribution utilities to negotiate and execute of a contract for capacity on this project. The ECRC is conditioned on regional participation on the project, and will enable the development of additional pipeline capacity needed to increase the availability and supply of natural gas into New England.
Verrill has guided the project through every stage of this extensive MPUC litigation, including researching, drafting, discovery, witness examination, filing briefs, motions, and testimony, and developing a successful strategy.
Approval of Maine's First Private Natural Gas Pipeline
Favorable Net Energy Billing Legislation
In 2015, we helped Emera Maine work with multiple stakeholders to pass legislation requiring the Maine PUC to facilitate an examination of alternatives to net energy billing to support solar energy development in Maine. To accomplish this goal, we successfully argued to legislators and other government officials that they should not adopt a half dozen other bills that would have raised electric rates in order to subsidize the cost of solar generation in Maine.
Opposition to Legislation Adverse to Natural Gas Investment
For the past several years, we have represented Summit Natural Gas of Maine before the Maine Legislature, including successfully opposing legislative efforts that would have interfered with Summit's ability to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build natural gas pipelines in the Augusta, Maine region and in the region north of Portland.