File Photo

Power plan action sought

File Photo

Emera lineman at work.

BAR HARBOR — Opponents of Emera Maine’s plans to run new power transmission lines and build a new power substation on the outskirts of downtown are pushing the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to open a formal investigation.

In an Oct. 2 filing with the PUC, attorney Arthur Grief says that advisory committee meetings meant to find alternative locations have become sporadic, that Emera representatives have not followed through on their promise to answer a number of questions, and that Emera has unintentionally misrepresented some of the basic facts of the case.

“Complainants wish to emphasize that they feel that these have been innocent misrepresentations,” Grief writes. “However, they feel that the time has come for the PUC to open a formal proceeding at which formal discovery can be posed to Emera.”

Along with the filings, Grief submitted a list of 42 questions which he says were raised early in the community advisory process and which Emera promised to answer by September. Among them are whether the transmission lines could be buried as part of the Route 3 reconstruction project, what Emera is doing to measure noise and electromagnetic frequency levels around nearby substation locations, and what the projected electrical load growth is for Bar Harbor over the next 30 years.

Beginning formal proceedings now would allow Grief and others who are signed on to the 10-person complaint against Emera to formally ask their questions and create a record, Grief says. Doing so now would allow for a hearing on the matter by the nine-month complaint deadline, he says.

The formal, 10-person complaints against Emera’s substation and transmission line plans were filed in May of this year. A total of 75 rate-paying households signed on.

Emera spokesperson Susan Faloon says that her company supports having the PUC open a formal process.

“We have been leading a very collaborative advisory committee process through the summer, and we welcome PUC involvement. While we have been committed to working openly and informally with stakeholders to find a solution everyone can support, there is an urgency to making these reliability improvements. We trust that the PUC process is fair and will give appropriate weight to the reliability needs of the Bar Harbor community,” she says.

Faloon says that her company’s intentions all along have been to answer any and all questions, and that there has been no effort to keep residents in the dark.

“We did not intend to leave any questions unanswered,” she said.

Under Emera’s plans, upgraded transmission lines would run from Burns Corner in Town Hill along a portion of Knox Road and down Crooked Road to Route 3 and into town. The lines would end at a new substation on a three-acre lot on Woodbury Road.

Some residents of Town Hill and a number of residents of the Woodbury Road area responded poorly last winter when they learned of Emera’s plans. Many Woodbury Road area residents were upset to see the lot cut clear of trees and said they only learned of the plans long after they were approved.

Emera officials responded to neighbors even before formal complaints were filed by holding informational meetings. Emera then set up community advisory groups to discuss alternative locations for the new transmission lines and substation. Grief and other complainants were pleased with this development and asked the PUC to hold off on any action.

Complainants are now asking the PUC to begin a formal process. Under the PUC’s guidelines, the process is to be resolved by February, 2015.

As part of the recent filing, Grief lists several areas where he says the Emera innocently misrepresented the facts. Among these are the fact that Emera repeatedly represented that if the transmission lines didn’t run on Crooked Road, they would only trim tree growth around the route. Early last month, however, he says, Emera indicated they would replace the poles either way.

He also writes that Emera has described the proposed Woodbury Road substation as both a switching station and a distribution station in various filings. Correct characterization is critical, he says.

Emera also allegedly indicated that the current transmission line to Jackson Laboratory runs through the Edgewood Street substation, which is slated to be removed. But complainants traced the line and discovered that it does not, he says.

Emera officials also said at a meeting in June that they had received a 10-person complaint concerning power reliability in Bar Harbor, but in fact there was no such complaint, Grief writes. Emera officials later said that they had received generic complaints, not formal ones, he says.

Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

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