Wider impact

On Oct. 2, Emera Maine filed a request with the Maine Public Utilities commission to increase distribution rates 12 percent, approximately $10.1 million per year. The new electrical substation in Bar Harbor was cited a one of the expenses justifying that substantial rate increase. Rate payers in other towns, including Eastbrook and Orrington, have filed complaints.

It’s fair for the public to ask how much it has cost to build the new, enclosed substation on Prospect Avenue and Route 3 in Bar Harbor, especially since some of the cost will be borne by all Emera Maine ratepayers.

State law prohibits localizing expenses to a single town’s ratepayers in most cases, as that would put rural communities at a huge disadvantage. And Bar Harbor residents were grateful that Emera Maine was willing to engage in the community process concerning where to route transmission wires and where to site the substation.

“The Prospect site is on a road that is a gateway to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, which together are an economic engine for the region as well as the state,” Rep. Brian Hubbell wrote to the Public Utilities Commission. “Given the gateway issue and the proximity to neighbors, visual and sound mitigation were not just desirable, they were necessary.”

But clear communication about just how much that mitigation cost and how much the company will be asked to swallow as a business expense is vitally important.

“In this case, it appears that Emera Maine put aside the interests of the vast majority of its customers in its efforts to satisfy the concerns of a small group of its customers in Bar Harbor,” the commissioners wrote in their 2015 decision denying Emera’s request to include the entire $7.4 million distribution portion of the substation cost in rates.

“There is no evidence in the record that the company either (1) considered the magnitude of the incremental costs; or (2) attempted to get some financial support from the local community,” they wrote. “Had the company done either or both of these things … a finding that the incremental costs were prudent and should be borne by all of Emera Maine’s customers might have been supportable.”

Bar Harbor is important to the region and the state. But it’s also important to keep in mind that thousands of our neighbors are being asked to help pay for the improvements and investments that we urgently requested, and sometimes take for granted.



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