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DISCLAIMER: This blog is published for general information only - it is not intended to constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by any person as legal advice. While we welcome you to contact our authors, the submission of a comment or question does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and you.


Energy Startups: Opportunities, Challenges, & Considerations

In a presentation during Maine Startup & Create Week, Verrill Dana partner Jim Cohen, a utilities and energy lawyer with more than 25 years of experience, moderated a panel focused on the question, “How can tech disrupt energy?” With innovation and new technologies being developed in the industry, and consumers seeking more affordable and cleaner options, Jim led a discussion with panelists Ryan Nesbitt of Arcadia Power; Ben Polito of Pika Energy; Kat Joyce of Bernstein Shur; and Ben Sampson of GE Ventures.

Beginning with a general foundation and overview of the energy space, conversations flowed into the collaboration between utilities and new energy startups, as well as how to increase focus on consumer engagement to achieve a balance between attention and sustainability in the marketplace.

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How Can Tech Disrupt Energy?

On Wednesday, June 21, as part of Maine Startup & Create Week, Verrill Dana partner Jim Cohen, a utilities and energy lawyer for more than 25 years, will moderate a panel entitled “How Can Tech Disrupt Energy?” Panelists include Ben Polito, president of Pika Energy; Ryan Nesbitt, co-founder and president of Arcadia Power; and Ben Sampson, director of Energy Ventures at GE Ventures.

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2017 Maine Legislature to Consider a Variety of Energy Bills

On Friday, January 6, Maine Governor Paul LePage released his biennial general fund budget for 2018-19. The Governor’s proposed biennial budget and briefing document can be found here. The main priority in the Budget is reducing Maine’s top income tax rate from 10.15 percent to 7.15 percent this year, and then implementing a flat tax of 5.75 percent by 2020.  The Budget also purports to make changes to how General Purpose Aid to Education is distributed to public K-12 schools, eliminate State support for General Assistance, eliminates the cap on public charter schools, elevates information services and cybersecurity to a new Cabinet-level Department, tightens eligibility requirements for Medicaid, creates a new statewide public defender system, allows municipalities to assess municipal service fees on large not-for-profit entities, and eliminates 500 state government jobs (300 of which are currently vacant).

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Maine PUC Proposes Net Metering Rule Changes

The PUC has issued a proposed rule that would change Maine’s net metering compensation for rooftop solar (and other distributed generation). Under Maine’s current rule, customers that generate power are given a credit equal to the full retail rate of electricity.

The proposed rule would gradually reduce the portion of a generating customer’s electric bill that the customer is able to “net” against, and, over time, require the customer to pay a higher portion of their bill, regardless of how much energy the customer generates and delivers to the grid.

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Natural Gas: Where Do We Go From Here?

With cold weather approaching, natural gas production expected to rise and expansion projects underway, Verrill Dana and Pierce Atwood will host their fourth annual, Natural Gas: Where do we go from here? on Thursday, October 6 at The Woodlands in Falmouth, Maine. 

The all-day event, co-chaired by Verrill Dana attorney William Harwood, will feature keynote speaker, Patrick Woodcock, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office and lunchtime speaker, Former Maine Public Utilities Chair, Tom Welch. Panel discussions will cover:

  • “Gas vs. Renewables – Allies or competitors?” - Featuring Verrill Dana attorney Jim Cohen
  • “Safety – Are we doing enough?” - Featuring Verrill Dana attorney Katie Gray
  • “Pipeline Expansion – Do we still need it?” 

 Find more details on the event and the full agenda on Verrill Dana’s website.


D.C. Circuit Flips USFWS for Issuing ITP to Ohio Wind Power Project with 6 M/S Cut-in Speed

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has invalidated the issuance by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) of an incidental take permit (ITP) under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act for take of Indiana bats by the 100-turbine Buckeye Wind project in Ohio.

The Circuit Court held that USFWS violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to consider a reasonable range of alternatives because it did not consider an alternative proposed by project opponents that the wind power project curtail operations with cut-in speeds of 6.5 meters per second. The ITP was issued based on the condition that the project curtail operations at 6 meters per second, the alternative proposed by Buckeye Wind.

In its NEPA analysis USFWS had considered alternatives including no action, curtailment at 5 meters per second, curtailment at 6 meters per second (Buckeye Wind’s proposal), and nighttime shutdown of all turbines at all wind speeds. USFWS argued that consideration of curtailment at 6.5 meters per second was not necessary because the agency does not need to consider “an infinite array of potential protective measures.”

However, the Court held that USFWS needed to consider at least one economically feasible alternative that was more protective than Buckeye Wind’s proposal of 6 meters per second. The lesson here apparently being that a project applicant subject to NEPA should start with a lowball proposed alternative rather than the industry standard (e.g. 6 meters per second curtailment of wind turbines for protection of bat species), because a court will invalidate a NEPA analysis that does not consider a more protective and economically feasible alternative to what the applicant has proposed.

The D.C. Circuit’s remand of Buckeye Wind’s ITP is the second time in as many months that it has flipped an agency approval of a wind power project based on a NEPA violation. In July the Court sent Cape Wind back to the drawing board when it held that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management violated NEPA by relying on inadequate geophysical and geotechnical surveys.


Verrill Dana Hosts E2Tech Networking Event

On Tuesday, July 26, more than a hundred professionals gathered outside in Verrill Dana’s courtyard in Portland, Maine for the E2Tech Summer Networking Reception.  Attendees included numerous area businesses, government officials, professionals, and non-profit leaders from across the state within the energy and environmental sectors.  Verrill Dana partner Kelly Baetz, of the firm’s Environmental Group, is a board member of E2Tech.  Verrill Dana partner Jim Cohen, of the firm’s Utilities and Energy Group, welcomed guests to the event.

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