PUC dismisses substation case

BAR HARBOR — A decision Tuesday by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) closed the books on a two-year regulatory and legal battle over an electrical substation Emera Maine had planned to build on Woodbury Road.

A group of 37 residents filed the complaint with the Maine Public Utilities Commission in May 2014, challenging the location and design of the substation. But the substation is now set to be built at another site, the former funeral home on Prospect Avenue, so the complainants and power company asked the PUC to dismiss the complaint.

“We dismissed the case today because the commissioners decided that the utility had worked very closely with the town and the complainants and have resolved the issue,” PUC Administrative Director Harry Lanphear said. “We take [these] complaints very seriously. When we get an issue like this, we direct the utility to try to resolve it.”

Attorney and Bar Harbor resident Arthur Greif was the lead complainant in the matter. In a memo in support of the motion to dismiss the complaint ahead of the commission taking up the case this week, he praised Emera for its work to find a reasonable alternative.

“Emera Maine undertook significant efforts to create and work with a Substation Advisory Committee that brought together the entire Bar Harbor community, including business people, Acadia National Park and local government officials, and citizens who lived both near and far from the proposed open air Woodbury station,” Greif wrote.

There are not as many homes in the vicinity of the Prospect Avenue site, he said in the memo. The neighborhood is less heavily wooded, reducing the risk of outages from downed tree limbs. He also cited the proximity of the original Woodbury site to Acadia National Park.

Emera wanted to wait for resolution on the PUC complaint before withdrawing their building permit from the town for the Woodbury location. Emera’s attorney Ed Bearor had a letter to the town ready, he said in October, asking for the permit to be withdrawn as soon as the PUC dismissed the complaint.

Emera holds a valid permit for the Prospect Avenue site for a substation with an extensive façade intended to reduce visual and noise impacts, which they hopes to complete by June of next year.

In filings with the PUC, Emera estimated the “additional costs incurred in the development of a new substation design and site” at $1 million.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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