Good morning from Augusta. Gov. Janet Mills will deliver a virtual State of the Budget address on Tuesday.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m blown away. This is transformational for all the programs at Maine,” University of Maine soccer coach Scott Atherley said of the university’s planned $110 million overhaul of its athletic facilities. “This will impact recruiting, scheduling, player development and community engagement.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
A Canadian energy project that is still an idea will be debated for the first time in the Maine Legislature. There has been little said in Maine of the Atlantic Loop, an idea supported by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. It would create new transmission lines linking Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador with the Maritime provinces. By expanding the distribution of Quebec hydropower, it would sharply reduce Nova Scotia’s reliance on coal. A report on the project is expected next month.
But this project may not just affect Canada. One map produced in September by Emera, the Nova Scotia-base company that used to operate the power grid in parts of northern and eastern Maine, shows the project could pass through Maine to complete the link. Other maps show it skirting Maine just north of the Aroostook County border.
Any Maine link would likely include with the Central Maine Power corridor, which workers recently began constructing in rural Somerset County after winning needed permits. While CMP and Hydro-Quebec are still facing lawsuits and a referendum threat on that, the project could increase Hydro-Quebec’s position in this regional debate. Some in Canada wonder if the Atlantic Loop would hinder Newfoundland and Labrador’s bid to export power.
Gordon Weil, a CMP critic and a former Maine public advocate, has said the project could give Maine a valuable alternative to the New England grid while cautioning that it could give Hydro-Quebec an opportunity to consolidate power. He still advised Gov. Janet Mills in a Portland Press Herald column in September that Maine should get involved in the project before it is finalized.
A bill from Rep. Chris Kessler, D-South Portland, would compel the state to do just that. It would require Mills to request to participate in the planning of the project and to develop policies surrounding it. It is undergoing a public hearing in the Legislature’s energy committee today at 9 a.m.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Susan Collins defends her vote to convict Trump as ‘impartial justice,’” Christopher Burns, BDN: “That came in response to a Wednesday letter signed by 38 Maine Republican Party officials who wrote that the party’s grassroots are ‘almost universally outraged’ by the impeachment trial. Their letter made no mention of censure, and they thanked Collins for her support of the party, county committees and individual candidates.”
The Maine senator defended her vote to convict the former president and highlighted her success compared to other Republicans in the state. Collins is one of several Republicans across the country to face rebuke from a state party over the impeachment vote. But she is in a unique position of being the only Republican senator reelected last year in a state that also favored President Joe Biden over former President Donald Trump.
“Unfortunately, the other races in Maine did not go as well,” Collins wrote. “Democrats won in the presidential race and the two congressional races, and they maintained control of the State Senate and State House.”
She also highlighted her work campaigning for Republicans, including state Senate candidate William Guerette, who faces Democrat Craig Hickman in a special election in Kennebec County next month. The Maine Republican Party recently sent out fliers with Collins’ image to campaign for Guerette. In her letter, the five-term senator advised members of the party’s executive committee “to consider ways that you can help as well.”
— Maine is subjecting COVID-19 vaccine providers to more scrutiny,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “It was welcome news to representatives of pharmacies, hospitals and independent physicians, who were confident any new metrics would demonstrate their capability to handle more doses. Experts said while gauging the speed at which providers are giving shots is valuable, the state should also consider the amount of time it takes for people to be vaccinated and equity factors.”
— “Federal judge puts key Maine referendum law on hold amid GOP lawsuit,” Andrews, BDN: “U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock said in a 76-page ruling that state law requiring petition circulators to be residents of Maine act as a “severe burden” on signature gatherers and are “not justified” by the state’s interest in overseeing elections. The decision came as the judge required the state to stop enforcing the law as the case moves forward.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Michael Shepherd and Caitlin Andrews. 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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