November 29, 2023
The documents released by the Maine ethics commission detail the energy company's funding of the Stop the Corridor group and how a Virginia consultant working for NextEra funneled money to the Maine Democratic Party.
BY RACHEL OHM STAFF WRITER
NextEra Energy concealed its identity as a large donor to Democrats in the days before the 2018 election and funded a group that should have registered as a political action committee in 2019 when it worked to oppose the construction of a transmission line project through western Maine, according to documents released by the Maine ethics commission Wednesday.
The Florida-based company owns the Seabrook nuclear plant and aggressively tried to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect corridor, which would have introduced new competition to the energy market. But the extent of its role was not known until Wednesday.
The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices unanimously approved consent agreements with the Stop the Corridor group and Alpine Initiatives LLC Wednesday, settling years-long investigations into campaign spending by the two groups and levying some of the largest fines ever imposed by the commission.
The agreements say both groups should have registered as political action or ballot question committees. Stop the Corridor agreed to a $50,000 fine for not registering as a ballot question committee and failing to file three campaign finance reports.
Alpine Initiatives agreed to a $160,000 fine for failing to register as a political action committee and for not filing a campaign finance report.
Alpine Initiatives had been under investigation for a $150,000 donation it made to the Democratic Party just before the 2018 election that was called into question because of a lack of public evidence that the company conducted any other business and a suspicion that it was created to hide the identity of the actual donor. The donation was made just four days after the company was formed in 2018, and the company dissolved just 14 months later.
According to the consent agreement signed Wednesday, the Hawthorn Group LC, a Virginia consulting firm that was working for NextEra, helped set up the company and transferred $160,000 into its account the day before Alpine Initiatives donated to the Democratic Party...............................
....................According to the consent agreement with Stop the Corridor, NextEra paid $95,726 to the anti-corridor group between August 2019 and the end of March 2020. That money was spent with Bernstein Shur on political consulting and on the group No CMP Corridor.
From 2018 to 2020, Stop the Corridor worked with a coalition of volunteers and groups opposed to the NECEC, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Sierra Club and No CMP Corridor.
Many of its activities were not subject to campaign finance law, but the consultants working for the group also paid field workers to train volunteers on the technicalities of signature gathering for petitions as opponents worked to get a statewide referendum on the ballot in an attempt to stop the project.
Stop the Corridor covered some of the costs associated with petitioning efforts such as travel, a website for volunteers to sign up to petition and printing. Those activities were reported by the No CMP Corridor PAC as in-kind contributions in their campaign finance reports.
“This reporting indicated that Stop the Corridor had engaged in paid activities to assist with petitioning, but it did not disclose any information about the sources that paid for Stop the Corridor’s assistance,” the agreement signed Wednesday said.
PLAYING THE NAME GAME
Paul McDonald, a Bernstein Shur attorney representing Clean Energy for ME, the company behind Stop the Corridor, and NextEra, spoke at length at Wednesday’s meeting about NextEra’s desire to not be publicly identified during its work with Stop the Corridor or in the consent agreements..................
.........NextEra was at risk of losing tens of millions of dollars a year if a new source of lower-cost Canadian hydropower came into New England. Supporters of the 2021 ballot question to block the project spent roughly $24 million and NextEra was the primary donor, pitching in $20 million.
NextEra also was accused of moving too slowly to upgrade a key circuit breaker at Seabrook that was needed to increase capacity in the grid and allow for the corridor to bring in the Canadian hydropower. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ultimately ruled that NextEra had to move forward with the upgrade.
Mainers will pay $30 less per month on average for electricity in 2024
The standard-offer rate for Central Maine Power customers will decrease by 35%; Versant Power customers will see a 24% drop. The decreases are the result of a big drop in natural gas prices.
In an economy dominated by inflation, Maine’s electricity customers got welcome news Wednesday as state regulators approved sharply lower rates for next year – about $30 per month on average – that reflect falling natural gas prices.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a 2024 standard offer rate – the default supply for nine of 10 home and small-business customers who don’t contract for electricity with competitive energy providers – of 10.84 cents a kilowatt-hour for Central Maine Power customers. That’s down 35% from current rates.
An average Maine home using 550 kilowatt-hours a month would pay $59.57 for its energy supply under the new rate, down from $91.30.
For Versant Power’s residential customers, the PUC approved a 2024 rate of 11.29 cents, which is 24% less than current prices. The PUC already had approved on Tuesday a 2024 residential rate of 10.76 cents a kilowatt hour for Versant Powhttps://www.pressherald.com/2023/11/29/electricity-prices-for-maine-down-sharply-in-2024-as-natural-gas-prices-fall/er’s Bangor Hydro District, a 30% drop.
Continue reading at https://www.pressherald.com/2023/11/29/electricity-prices-for-maine...
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