Commission Handling Dozens of Petitions to Opt Out of Expedited Wind Development

Link to Original Article and Audio Stream

 | Maine Public Radio | FEB 22, 2016

Susan Sharon reports on wind development in Maine’s Unorganized Territory.

Townships and plantations in Maine have until June to opt out of being an “expedited permitting area” for wind development. Already there are nearly two dozen petitions that have been received by the Land Use Planning Commission.

Another 18 petitions are in circulation. But the agency is also hearing from large landowners who want to prevent the removal process from going forward without a formal review.

This is the first time since the Wind Energy Act was passed by the Maine Legislature in 2008 that residents of the Unorganized Territory can take steps to remove themselves from expedited wind permitting areas of the state. Last year lawmakers agreed to give them a six-month window to do so. The clock began ticking in January, and planning manager Samantha Horn Olsen of the Land Use Planning Commission says so far, the numbers are about what was expected.

“There are several hundred townships and plantations in the jurisdiction and so the number could be higher, however there places that are being considered for wind energy development where people are more likely to be interested and then others where that might not be so much of an issue,” she says, “and so you may not see people be interested in filing a petition.”

Getting a township or plantation removed from the expedited area does not ensure that a wind project won’t be developed, but it does mean that developers have to get zoning approval before they apply for a permit, something that is not currently required.

To qualify for removal, petitioners need to collect at least ten percent of residents’ signatures, based on the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election. In some places that might only be a handful.

Chris O’Neil of the group Friends of Maine’s Mountains has been trying to get the word out that there’s a June 30 deadline for what he calls a “unique opportunity.”

“We estimate that about 70 areas should take action on this,” he says. “Looking at the spreadsheets and the maps really lets you know that almost everywhere wind development wants to go there are people who live fairly close by.”

The process also gives stakeholders, such as landowners who object to removal, the opportunity to request a formal review.

And Patrick Strauch of the Maine Forest Products Council says he’s aware of several large landowners, members of his organization, who are concerned about how a land use designation change would affect their property and its future potential uses. They are now requesting formal review.

“The landowners have looked at the petitions that have been filed and figured out where there are areas they want to contest those petitions and that’s just the path we’re following that we set up through the legislative process,” he says.

Their request for review requires the Commission to confirm the residency of the petitioners, take comments and possibly hold a public hearing. Horn Olsen says it also requires the Commission to see if the petition for removal meets two fundamental criteria.

“The first one is that the removal of the place will not have an unreasonable, adverse effect on the state’s ability to meet the state goals for wind energy development,” she says. “And the second criterion is that it’s consistent with the principal values and the goals of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.”

The Wind Energy Act was designed to cut through multiple layers of bureaucracy in a specific zone. But O’Neil says it neglected to give people who live in the area a voice. And he says it’s possible disputes over the the process for removing townships from expedited wind development will wind up in court.

Judge rules Penobscot Nation reservation does not include river’s waters

December 15, 2015 | by Kevin Miller | Portland Press Herald

Link to original article

But U.S. District Judge George Singal clarifies that Penobscot tribal members’ sustenance fishing rights extend throughout the main stem of the Penobscot River.

A federal judge has ruled that the Penobscot Nation's reservation does not extend to the waters of the Penobscot River, but the tribe's members can conduct sustenance fishing on the river's main stem. This is the East Branch.

A federal judge has ruled that the Penobscot Nation’s reservation does not extend to the waters of the Penobscot River, but the tribe’s members can conduct sustenance fishing on the river’s main stem. This is the East Branch. 2014 Press Herald File Photo/Gregory Rec

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Penobscot Nation’s reservation ends at the shoreline of tribal islands, siding with the state in a jurisdictional dispute over the waters of the Penobscot River.

But in a mixed ruling, U.S. District Court Judge George Singal reaffirmed tribal members’ sustenance fishing rights throughout the main stem of the Penobscot.

Singal rejected arguments from the Penobscot Nation and federal agencies that the tribe’s reservation boundaries extend “from bank to bank” of Maine’s second-largest river. Instead, Singal sided with Attorney General Janet Mills in ruling there was “no ambiguity” in the definition of the reservation as laid out in the landmark Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980 negotiated between the state, federal government and tribes.

“The Settlement Acts clearly define the Penobscot Indian Reservation to include the delineated islands of the main stem, but do not suggest that any of the waters of the main stem fall within the Penobscot Indian Reservation,” Singal wrote. “That clear statutory language provides no opportunity to suggest that any of the waters of the main stem are also included within the boundaries of the Penobscot Indian Reservation.”

But Singal rejected the state’s interpretation on the fishing issue and, seeking to clarify what he said was ambiguous language, said the tribe has a “retained right to sustenance fish in the main stem, as it had done historically and continuously.” Under the state’s erroneous interpretation, Singal wrote, tribal members would only be allowed to fish from land.

“There is no evidence that the Maine Legislature, Congress, or the Penobscot Nation intended for the Settlement Acts to change and further restrict the already long-accepted practice of Penobscot Nation members sustenance fishing in the main stem, such that tribal members would need to have at minimum one foot on an island and could no longer sustenance fish from boats in the main stem,” Singal said.

This ruling doesn’t address a dispute over water-quality standards in the waterways that pass through tribal lands. A separate lawsuit on that issue that the state filed against the federal government is pending.

Tribal leaders were evaluating the ruling Wednesday evening and plan to “huddle up” with attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice, which helped argue the tribe’s case, to discuss next steps, which could include an appeal.

Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis described the ruling as “a mixed bag.” Francis was gratified Singal upheld the tribe’s sustenance fishing rights “from bank to bank” but disappointed that the judge did not believe those waters are part of the reservation. That is concerning, Francis added, because the tribe needs to understand how to manage a resource that members depend on for sustenance.

“Obviously it’s not the greatest decision for the tribe,” Francis said. “We are trying to understand how the existing statute and the decision fit together.”

Mills said the case, which has been watched closely by American Indian organizations around the country, could have had “potentially enormous” ramifications for river users. While the tribe’s attorneys argued that the case was primarily about sustenance fishing rights, lawyers for the state said Penobscots’ interpretation of their boundaries could allow the tribe to exclude fishermen from the river, charge fees for access or even regulate industrial and municipal discharges into the Penobscot.

“The state respects that federal Judge George Singal has digested thousands of pages of filings by all the parties and intervenors,” Mills’ office said in a statement. “In this very thorough 64-page ruling the judge decided very clearly that the reservation itself does not include the main stem of the Penobscot River. The river is, as the state argued, held in trust for the benefit and use of all. The State is equally pleased that the court recognized the historical right of individual tribal members to engage in sustenance fishing along the river, a right which the state has always accorded and never denied.”

The case stems from a 2012 letter from then-Attorney General William Schneider, although the underlying tensions over tribal jurisdiction and fishing rights date back decades.

Responding to reports that tribal game wardens were stopping and summonsing non-tribal sportsmen on the river, Schneider advised the Maine Warden Service and Maine Marine Patrol that the Penobscot reservation does not include the main stem of the river.

“Like private landowners, the Penobscot Nation may also restrict access to their lands, here islands, as it sees fit,” Schneider wrote. “However, the river itself is not part of the Penobscot Nation’s Reservation, and therefore is not subject to its regulatory authority or proprietary control. The Penobscot River is held in trust by the State for all Maine citizens, and State law, including statutes and regulations governing hunting, are fully applicable there.”

The Penobscot Nation filed suit in federal court 12 days later, claiming that any attempt to enforce state law against tribal members who are sustenance fishing in the river “threatens to violate the federal law right of the Nation’s members to be free from state authority over such activity.”

The case is emblematic of the growing rift between Maine’s tribal governments and the LePage administration as well as ongoing tensions over the 35-year-old settlement agreement. In May, the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe withdrew their representatives to the Maine Legislature and accused the state of attempting to perpetuate a “guardian-to-ward relationship” with the sovereign tribal nations. Mills, meanwhile, is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over water quality standards in waters that pass through tribal areas.

Sunlight Media Collective Releases Documentary on the Battle Over Contested Penobscot River Territory

Indian Island, ME: On Friday, Sunlight Media Collective released

♦───♦♦♦───♦

The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory,

♦───♦♦♦───♦

a documentary film that explores the conflict between the state of Maine and the Penobscot Nation over contested river territory. Spanning from the 1700’s to the present-day legal battle of Penobscot Nation v. Mills, the film illustrates the Penobscots’ centuries-long fight to retain their territory and their inherent, treaty-reserved sustenance fishing rights for future generations. Featuring first-person accounts, the film tells the urgent, inspiring story of a struggle for justice and cultural survival in the face of an astonishingly open abuse of state power.

The documentary release closely follows a meeting between Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis and President Obama, where they discussed the Penobscot Nation v. Mills case. The Penobscot Nation is suing the state of Maine in response to a decision by former Attorney General William Schneider that the Penobscot Indian reservation, which includes more than 200 islands in the Penobscot River, does not include any portion of the water— a decision that amounts to territorial theft by the state. Oral arguments for the case are scheduled for October 14th at the US District Court in Portland, ME.

 

The case is taking place in the context of a larger state battle over river jurisdiction and water quality standards. In February, the federal EPA ruled that Maine must improve its water quality standards to protect Penobscot sustenance fishing rights. Governor Paul LePage has called the ruling “outrageous” and threatened to relinquish state regulatory responsibilities to the federal EPA if they did not reverse the ruling.

 

The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory chronicles the Penobscot’s struggle to maintain their centuries-long stewardship to ensure a healthy ecosystem for all of Maine, a struggle exemplified by these contemporary legal battles. According to Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis, the Penobscot v. Mills case “is really not about controlling the river system, or controlling individuals within the system. It’s really about our ability to manage a subsistence resource that we have a responsibility for, for multiple generations.”

 

Funded by Broad Reach Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory is available for free on the Sunlight Media Collective website (www.sunlightmediacollective.org), and DVDs are available by order. To schedule a screening, please email sunlightmediacollective@gmail.com.

 

The Sunlight Media Collective is a collaboration between Penobscot and non-native filmmakers. The film is just one example of an up-swell of activism and work on issues affecting the Wabanaki tribes. In October, Upstander Productions will also release a short documentary entitled First Light, on the recently completed Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

♦───♦♦♦───♦

Screenings of The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory currently scheduled:

October 21st, Belfast Free Library, Belfast, 6:00PM

October 24th, Gates Auditorium, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, 1:30PM

♦───♦♦♦───♦

For more information, contact sunlightmediacollective@gmail.com.

 

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Escalation in Penbscot River Battle: ACT NOW

flotilla 5-23-15Defending Water for Life in Maine and Stop the East-West Corridor are fully committed to supporting the Penobscot Nation in their fight to maintain their River.  Below is an urgent update and call to action from Penobscot historian, activist, and founder of Dawnland Environment Defense, Maria Girouard:

From: Maria Girouard <sacredhomelands(at)gmail(dot)com>

Date: Mon, Sep 7, 2015 at 8:15 AM 

Dear Friends and Allies of the Penobscot River,
Last week, Maine Governor Lepage escalated the river dispute between Penobscot Nation and state government by calling on our elected officials in Washington to “intervene” (…interfere…) in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to protect Penobscot fishing rights and ensure a clean, healthy river for all. (letter attached)
I’m sharing an essay (also attached) so you can decide whether Lepage is acting on your behalf.  For those who feel compelled to help Penobscots and the beautiful River we all love, addresses for our Washington delegates are provided below.  I encourage you all to raise your voices. They heard from Lepage, now they should hear from the People.   And if you’d like to send words of appreciation or a thank you note along to the Environmental Protection Agency for protecting the health of the Penobscot River, that address is provided below as well. 🙂   Please feel free to share this communication far and wide to help sound the alarm about the looming threat of industrialization and accompanying territorial theft at the hands of state government.  There is a quote attributed to Elie Wiesel: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  I implore you to please do something…. for the Water, for the Grandchildren.
Kci Woliwoni (“Great thanks”)
Maria
Senator Susan M. Collins
413 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Angus S. King
133 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D 20510
Congressman Bruce L. Poliquin
426 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Congresswoman Rochelle M. Pingree
2162 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 201515
To send words of appreciation or a thank you note along to the Environmental Protection Agency for protecting the health of the Penobscot River:
Mr. H. Curtis Spalding
Regional Administrator
USEPA REGION 1 – New England
5 Post Office Square
Mail Code: ORA
Boston, MA 02109-3912
Email:  Spalding.curt@Epa.gov
A million thanks to you for caring!  ><)),>  ~ ~ ><)),>  ~~ ><)),>
Due to file size constraints the File Attachments mentioned are archived at:
0831 Governor Letter to Senators and Congressmen  ‘Clean Water Act’
 
Escalation of an Age-Old Conflict Update from the trenches

Stop the East-West Corridor gets a boost from Revised Transportation Law

The bill that is expected to prevent future development of Cianbro’s East-West Highway and Industrial Corridor idea passed into law unsigned by the Governor on June 26. The bill revises the controversial public-private partnership law for transportation projects to clarify that P3’s must comply with Maine’s Sensible Transportation Policy, which has guided Maine Transportation Policy and the Department of Transportation since 1991. The bill, LD 1168 was sponsored by Senator Paul Davis, R-Piscataquis, and broadly supported by opponents to the East-West Corridor, environmentalists, sportsmen and women, and small business owners. Opponents say that requiring Cianbro’s East-West Corridor proposal to meet the criteria outlined in the Sensible Transportation Policy Act will be impossible for the developers.

 

“We’ve been following this for over 3 years,” said Stop the East-West Corridor’s statewide coordinator Chris Buchanan. “We have read Cianbro’s proposal and attended most of Peter Vigue and Darryl Brown’s presentations, and we’ve been honest with people about what they say. Most people don’t like the idea.”

 

“This law makes it necessary for Cianbro, or any other private development corporation, to have public support before moving forward with a significant transportation project that profits them.” The bill created a reporting requirement so that both lawmakers and the public are informed annually by the Department about contracted public-private partnerships. “We believe that is important for transparency and accountability,” said Buchanan.

 

“The need for state legislation has been clearly demonstrated by the actions taken by local communities to enact local laws designed to protect their community from the proposed East-West Corridor when adequate state policy has been sorely lacking. Eight communities have overwhelmingly passed some form of local ordinance, be it a moratorium, referendum, local-self governance, or land use ordinance. These communities so far include: Abbot, Charleston, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Garland, Monson, Parkman, and Sangerville,” Buchanan said.

 

“It is remarkable that so many local residents are taking the initiative to protect themselves. It is telling how many people feel threatened and left vulnerable by Maine’s existing state laws. LD 1168 creates some protection for people who don’t want the highway part of Cianbro’s Corridor plan,” Buchanan said.

 

Over the past three years, Stop the East-West Corridor has focused on developing resources, advocating for transparency, and supporting a statewide coalition of decentralized local resistance to the proposed East-West Corridor. The website, stopthecorridor.org, describes members as, “A coalition of Maine residents.”

 

###

Roadblock for East-West Highway/Corridor passed by the Maine Legislature

View original article by Jym St. Pierre on Maine Environmental News

A bill intended to slow down, if not stop, the East-West highway and utility corridor proposed by Cianbro corporation executives has been passed by both houses of the Maine Legislature.

The original bill, LD 1168, would have prohibited the use of eminent domain for the development, operation, management, ownership, leasing or maintenance of a transportation facility as a public-private partnership project. It also would have prohibited the use of eminent domain by a private business entity involved in a public-private partnership.

Grassroots activists, led by the Stop the East-West Corridor (STEWC), have been working for legislation to better regulate potential public-private partnership transportation projects. They negotiated a compromise with the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) to clarify language in state statute that stipulates public-private partnership projects must comply with the Maine’s Sensible Transportation Policy Act.

According to Chris Buchanan, Statewide Coordinator of STEWC, “This bill closes previously unaddressed loopholes and shortcomings in our law that became apparent when the East-West Corridor proposal came to the table.”

On Friday, June 12, the Maine House gave its final blessing to the bill. On Monday, June 15, the Maine Senate concurred.

Even though MDOT under the LePage Administration supports the bill, Gov. Paul LePage is expected to veto it just because he can.

HELP KILL THE EWC! Action needed now on our bill.

Help protect Maine people and the environment from unnecessary new transportation infrastructure

(like the East-West Corridor)

 

Call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to vote, “ought to pass” on LD 1168 today!

 

Click here for a CONTACT LIST for all Senators and Representatives: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WBJaw1Hvmr0n0DSVVS_CBXA1ug1_lLw0-L26MbrPVdE/pubhtml?usp=gmail

 

Please take notice: LD 1168 has changed from a focus on eminent domain to a focus on improving the P3 law. There are several reasons for this. Primarily, we want to achieve some protection THIS SESSION. Please contact us to discuss.

 

New Talking Points for LD 1168

 

LD 1168 as amended makes some significant improvements to the public-private partnership law for transportation projects (P3) to improve protection of the public interest.  This amended bill was a joint effort between Stop the East-West Corridor, the Department of Transportation, and Sen. Paul Davis.

 

LD 1168 clarifies that P3s must be in accordance with the Sensible Transportation Policy Act (section 73).  The P3 should comply with the STPA because it is the guiding statute dictating appropriate transportation development in Maine, with guidelines for protecting the public interest in significant transportation development. That means more safeguards for water resources, farmland, wildlife, natural resources, rural character, tourism, state and municipal resources, and taxpayer money from unnecessary transportation infrastructure like the East-West Corridor.

 

LD 1168 calls for an annual reporting requirement, which enables some public participation and accountability to lawmakers on authorized P3 projects.  Right now, P3 projects only require legislative authorization at a draft stage, and then never need to be seen again.  Since P3 projects may use up to 50% taxpayer money and other state resources, ongoing legislative and public oversight is critical.

 

LD 1168 clarifies that the department may not confer eminent domain power to a private entity.  According to the Chief Deputy Attorney General, Linda Pistner, this potential abuse of eminent domain power is currently unclear in Maine State law, so we are fixing that.

 

 

To view Maine’s existing P3 law, visit: http://legislature.maine.gov/statutes/23/title23sec4251.html

 

To view Maine’s Sensible Transportation Policy Act (section 73), visit:

http://legislature.maine.gov/legis/statutes/23/title23sec73.html

 

To view an amended version of LD 1168, see the attachment.

 

Click here for a CONTACT LIST for all Senators and Representatives: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WBJaw1Hvmr0n0DSVVS_CBXA1ug1_lLw0-L26MbrPVdE/pubhtml?usp=gmail

 

Thank you for your concern and your support!

 

 

Questions? Contact:

 

Chris Buchanan                                                             Jane Crosen

Statewide Coordinator, STEWC                                 Eastern Outreach, STEWC

Maine Coordinator, Defending Water for Life         jcrosenmaps(at)gmail(dot)com

chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net                                           (207) 326-4850

(207) 495-3648

 

 

For more information about Stop the East-West Corridor and the East-West Corridor proposal in general, please visit: www.stopthecorridor.org

LIKE us on Facebook: Stop the East-West Corridor

The Historical Continuum: WE ARE ALL PARTICIPANTS IN AN AGE-OLD CLASH OF CULTURES

By Maria Girouard – Penobscot historian.

canoe on penobscot, JfR

Panawapskewi (“Penobscot people”) are the indigenous people of this territory, and have nurtured a relationship with and maintained a presence on the Penobscot River for thousands of years. We are an ancient riverine people who have survived enormous losses as a result of colonization – displacement of our ancestors, destruction of our fisheries, degradation of the Water, deforestation of traditional hunting grounds, and disruption in our traditional form of governance.

A Colonial Agreement: In exchange for Penobscot alliance in the revolutionary war, colonial government agreed to protect Penobscot territory from encroachment and to preserve Penobscot aboriginal territory for their perpetual use so that traditional sustenance lifeways could be maintained. (Perpetual: meaning forever, never to be changed). This agreement is recorded in the 1775 Congressional Resolves. Following the war, there was a large war debt.   Abundant Penobscot resources proved too tantalizing to resist.

Treaties were negotiated: Treaties are nation-to-nation agreements negotiated between sovereigns. The Treaty of 1796 and the Treaties of 1818 and 1820, ceded portions of Penobscot territory but the river and the fisheries were never relinquished. Historical records reveal multiple pleas on deaf ears about destruction of the fisheries and decimation of hunting grounds leading to Penobscot starvation.

Treaties were broken: An 1801 petition to colonial government declared, The Penobscots “feel themselves and their Tribe greatly wronged and injured by a Mr. Winslow and his two sons of Portland erecting a sawmill at the Falls in Penobscot … when the government secured to their Tribe and their descendants the aforesaid island with other islands in the Penobscot River with all their natural rights and privileges, the Fishery was esteemed the most important advantage attached to their island and which no individual could deprive them of – they would therefore humbly request your excellent and honor in your wisdom to prevent an Evil so great as would be the total ruin of the tribe.”

In the 1940s, Penobscot Elder Florence Nicola Shay spoke out against the state and broken treaty promises – “The treaties are merely useless pieces of paper today as all promises have been broken… we are a segregated, alienated people and many of us are beginning to feel the weight of the heel that is crushing us to nothingness. We are still in slavery, we are dictated to, and we are made to feel that we do not own our own souls.”

A major turning point in tribal-state history: In the 1970s Penobscot & Passamaquoddy tribes sued the State of Maine for theft of aboriginal territory which had left them displaced and impoverished. The 1794 Trade and Non-Intercourse Act, a federal law aimed at curbing massive land grabs, had been ignored. The law required any and all land transactions with an Indian person or tribe be ratified by Congress. Since Maine had become a state in 1820, no land transactions were ratified; therefore, all were null and void. Following a tumultuous decade riddled with overt racial hostility and fear-mongering played out in the press, the State of Maine, the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy tribes negotiated a settlement agreement resulting in the federal 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. The Settlement Act was intended to stop the further taking of Indian Territory and to strengthen tribal sovereignty and tribal-state relations, but like all agreements that preceded it, it, too, was broken and little was settled.

Territorial takings are not a thing of the past: In August 2012, Penobscot Chief and Council received a letter from state government asserting an Attorney General’s opinion – that the Penobscot Indian Reservation did not include any portion of their ancestral River. An opinion with which Penobscot Nation could never agree. Interestingly, this new opinion was contrary to a previous Attorney General’s opinion (AG James Tierney, 1988) which stated that the Penobscot River was reservation territory (?!)

Penobscot Nation v. Mills, is a current U.S. district court case to protect Penobscot fishing rights. It has a large cast of characters! The Penobscot Nation, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, the United States Department of Justice, and 17 intervening towns and industries up and down the River. Until recently, the case had 18 interveners, but on April 1, 2015, in an amazing act of humanity, the Town of Orono filed a motion to withdraw from the case. After deliberation, their town council admitted to knowing very little about how they got involved; they concluded that their participation was unnecessary, and decided that they did not wish to be in contentious litigation against the Penobscots. The remaining interveners are: the City of Brewer, Town of Bucksport, Covanta Maine, LLC, Town of East Millinocket, Great Northern Paper Company, LLC, Guilford-Sangerville Sanitary District, Town of Howland, Kruger Energy (USA) Inc., Town of Lincoln, Lincoln Pulp and Tissue LLC, Lincoln Sanitary District, Town of Mattawamkeag, Town of Millinocket, Red Shield Acquisition LLC, True Textiles, Inc., Veazie Sewer District, and Verso Paper Corp. Led by Pierce Atwood attorney, Matt Manahan, these interveners are asking a judge to determine that the Penobscot reservation does not include any portion of the Water. The U.S. Department of Justice intervened on behalf of the Penobscots, viewing this as an attempted territorial taking by the State of Maine which they have a duty to protect against.

Confusing an already complex issue: Happening alongside Penobscot Nation v Mills, is a battle between the State and the federal Environmental Protection Agency over water quality in Indian Territory. Last summer, the State of Maine sued the EPA demanding jurisdiction over water quality in Indian Territory. In February 2015, the EPA agreed that according to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, the State of Maine did in fact have jurisdiction over water quality, but since Penobscots retained an inherent right to sustenance fish, the water quality in their reservation had to be sufficient to safely consume fish. The State has again sued the EPA and stated that they have no intention of complying with the order to clean up the Penobscot.

Gaining Support: Penobscot Nation has gained thousands of allies but could use more! This case has gained the interest and support of numerous social justice and environmental organizations who agree that Maine must cease and desist its aggression. Maine priorities should be elsewhere – not in continued territorial takings and suing for the right to pollute. Together, we are writing our Grandchildren’s history (and protecting their Drink). Let’s make it a history that will make both them and the ancestors proud!

Let your voices be heard: Call on our state to stop its hostilities and respect tribal fishing rights.

  • Attorney General Janet T. Mills, 6 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333
  • Governor Paul LePage, Office of the Governor, #1 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333
  • Find (and write!) your legislators at http://legislature.maine.gov/

 

 

 

 

“The Penobscots believe that the God of Nature gave them their fisheries, and no man alive has the right to take that away from them…” (historical petition to Massachusetts Colonial Government)

LD 1168 reconsidered, won unanimous “ought to pass” vote!

On Thursday, June 4, the Judicicary Committee reconsidered our bill, LD 1168, with amendments agreed to by STEWC, the Maine department of transportation, and Sen. Paul Davis, and voted unanimously “ought to pass” on the bill.
In a nuthsell, we chose to use our initial 6-3 win on the original eminent domain bill as a tool to negotiate for protections that actually have a very good chance of becoming law.  The Governor had vowed to veto the original bill, and it had a poor chance of getting past the House or Senate in the first place.  Instead, we focused on changes to the P3 law as follows:
  • We have clarified language in the P3 law that states that the P3 must be in accordance with the Sensible Transportation Policy Act (section 73).  We believe that this helps protect the public interest.  Also, some of the guidelines outlined in the STPA contradict EWC development.  We feel that this is a big accomplishment.
  • In addition, we tried to ask for legislative review and authorization of a P3 proposal at both the draft and final stages, because right now it is only authorized by the legislature at draft stage and never needs to be seen again.  We compromised on an annual reporting requirement to the transportation committee which enables some legislative oversight, accountability, and public input ongoing.  We believe that if a project went forward and turned out to be a bad project, this bit of transparency would make it much easier to introduce a bill to rescind the authorization of the project.
  • Finally, the bill clarifies that the department’s powers of eminent domain may not be conferred to a private entity, although the department would NOT accept the additional language, “or on behalf of a private entity.”  This last piece is not really a win for us, because the department taking land by eminent domain on behalf of a private entity is what we already assumed to be the danger.  We did not accomplish that protection, and we’ll need to keep fighting for that protection under a different administration in the future.
Now we are hoping LD 1168 flies through the Senate and the House and does NOT get vetoed by the Governor.  However if it does, we are likely to be able to override the veto and get these important changes to the P3 passed into law.  If we had stuck with the previous bill, that would not have been possible.
If Peter Vigue / Cianbro persists in refusing to publically withdraw the project, we can go after the eminent domain issue and the other problems with the P3 during a future administration where we have better chances at success.  In the meantime, we will focus on continuing the pressure in other ways.
NOW, please contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to vote ought to pass on LD 1168! Here is a contact list for all Senators and Representatives:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WBJaw1Hvmr0n0DSVVS_CBXA1ug1_lLw0-L26MbrPVdE/pubhtml?usp=gmail

STEWC’s Steering Committee agreed to have a press conference after the House vote, so we’ll be monitoring that closely.
The bill now only address the P3 law and the changes are underlined below:

Maine Revised Statutes

Title 23: TRANSPORTATION

Chapter 410: DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

4251. PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS; TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS

 

1.  As used in this subchapter, unless the context otherwise indicates, the following terms have the following meanings.

“Agreement” means a contract between the department and a private entity to create a public-private partnership that allows for private sector participation in the financing, development, operation, management, ownership, leasing or maintenance of a transportation facility and that sets forth rights and obligations of the department and the private entity in that partnership.

“Project” means the initial capital development of a transportation facility.

“Proposal” means a conditional offer of a private entity that, after review, negotiation, documentation and legislative approval, may lead to an agreement as provided in this subchapter.

“Transportation facility” means a facility that is or if developed would be within the jurisdiction of the department including a highway, bridge, railroad line, pier, airport, trail, ferry vessel, building or other improvement.

2.  This subchapter applies to a proposal or agreement for a private entity to form a public-private partnership when the department estimates that the initial capital cost of a project is $25,000,000 or more or when the proposal includes placing tolls on existing transportation facilities that were not previously subject to tolls. Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit or otherwise affect programs that do not meet the criteria of this subsection.

3.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the department is authorized to receive or solicit proposals to form a public-private partnership with respect to a transportation facility. Proposals must be reviewed in accordance with this subchapter. Upon approval of the Legislature as provided in this subchapter, the department may enter into an agreement. All proposals must comply with section 73.

4Standards for review. Before submitting a proposal to the Legislature for approval the department must find that the proposal meets the following standards.

The purpose of and need for the transportation facility must be consistent with the long-term planning of the department.

The private entity must have the financial, technical and operational capacity to discharge the responsibilities set forth in the proposal cost-effectively and responsibly as determined by the department. This capacity must include, but is not limited to, meeting department prequalification standards for professional engineering services and general contracting.

The proposed transportation facility must be owned, controlled, operated and maintained in a manner satisfactory to the department.

The proposal must be cost-effective in the long term.

The proposal must limit the use of state capital funding to less than 50% of the initial capital cost of the transportation facility and to the extent practicable minimize the use of transportation funding sources such as the Highway Fund, general obligation bonds supported by the Highway Fund, the TransCap Trust Fund under Title 30-A, section 6006-G and program funding provided by the Federal Highway Administration.

If the proposed transportation facility is to be supported by tolls or other user fees, the private entity must provide a traffic and revenue study prepared by an expert acceptable to the department and national bond rating agencies. The private entity must also provide a finance plan consistent with the traffic and revenue study that identifies the proposal costs, revenues by source, financing, major assumptions, internal rate of return on private investments and whether any government funds are assumed to deliver a cost-feasible project and that provides a total cash flow analysis beginning with implementation of the project and extending for the term of the agreement.

The proposal must demonstrate safeguards adequate to ensure that no significant additional costs or service disruptions would be borne by the traveling public and residents of the State if the private entity defaults or cancels the agreement.

The proposal must include a provision that any contractor performing construction work required by the agreement must furnish performance and payment bonds or irrevocable letters of credit in an amount equal to the cost of the construction work. Any action on such a payment bond or irrevocable letter of credit is subject to the requirements of Title 14, section 871, subsection 4.

The proposal and the transportation facility must comply with all requirements of applicable federal, state and local laws and department rules, policies and procedures.

The proposal must identify the law enforcement jurisdictions and responsibilities relative to the transportation facility.

The proposal must provide that all reasonable costs of substantially affected local governments and utilities related to the transportation facility are borne by the private entity or are otherwise provided for to the satisfaction of the department.

5Proposal and selection processes; solicited and unsolicited. The department may request proposals from private entities for a public-private partnership for a transportation facility or may accept unsolicited proposals pursuant to this subsection.

If the department receives an unsolicited proposal and determines that it meets the standards in this subchapter, the department shall publish a notice of the receipt of the proposal on the department’s publicly accessible website or through advertisements in newspapers. If a notice is published exclusively in newspapers, the notice must appear in 2 or more public newspapers circulated wholly or in part in the State and in one public newspaper circulated wholly or in part in the county where the proposed transportation facility is to be located if any such newspaper is circulated in that county. The notice must provide that the department will accept, for 120 days after the initial date of publication, proposals meeting the standards in subsection 4 from other private entities for transportation facilities that satisfy the same basic purpose and need. A copy of the notice must be mailed to each local government in the area affected by the proposal.

After the proposal or proposals have been received, and any public notification period has expired, the department shall rank the proposals in order of preference. In ranking the proposals, the department may consider factors that include, but are not limited to, professional qualifications, general business terms, innovative engineering or cost-reduction terms, finance plans and the need for state funds to deliver the project and discharge the agreement. The department shall undertake negotiations with the private entity submitting the 1st-ranked proposal. If the department is not satisfied with the results of the negotiations, the department may, at its sole discretion, terminate negotiations with that entity and the department may negotiate with the other entities in order of the ranking of their proposals. If only one proposal is received, the department shall negotiate in good faith and, if the department is not satisfied with the results of the negotiations, the department may, at its sole discretion, terminate negotiations.

The department may require that the private entity assume responsibility for all costs incurred by the State or local governments before execution of the agreement, including costs of retaining independent experts to review, analyze and advise the department with respect to the proposal.

6Tolls; fares. An agreement may authorize the private entity to impose tolls or fares for the use of the transportation facility. The following provisions apply to such an agreement.

The agreement must be consistent with the traffic and revenue study required under subsection 4, paragraph F.

The agreement must ensure that the transportation facility and any related toll facility are properly operated and maintained in accordance with department standards or standards generally accepted in the transportation industry.

The agreement must include provisions governing changes in tolls or fares.

The department may require provisions in the agreement that ensure that a negotiated portion of revenues from a toll-generating or a fare-generating transportation facility is returned to the department over the life of the agreement.

7Exercise of powers. If the department exercises its power of eminent domain for the development and construction of a transportation facility pursuant to this subchapter and section 73, the department must retain ownership rights and interests taken. The department’s powers of eminent domain may not be conferred to a private entity. The State may provide maintenance, law enforcement and other services with respect to a transportation facility owned by a private entity when the agreement provides for reasonable reimbursement for such services.

8Term of agreement. An agreement may not exceed a term of 50 years unless the Legislature, upon the recommendation of the Commissioner of Transportation, approves a longer term.

9Legislative approval. If the department determines that a public-private partnership proposal and draft agreement meets the standards of this subchapter, the department shall submit to the Legislature a bill that authorizes the agreement. The bill must include a statement that the proposal meets the standards in subsection 4, a summary of the substance of the draft agreement and a description of the nature and amount of state investment, if any, including effects on programmed capital work. Should legislative approval be granted, the department shall report to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over transportation matters by February 1st of each year as to the status of the project and any substantive changes to the proposal.

10Information in public record. Except as provided in subsection 10-A, information obtained by the department under this subchapter is a public record pursuant to Title 1, chapter 13, subchapter 1.

10-AConfidential information.  Information submitted to the department relating to a public-private partnership proposal under this subchapter is confidential and not a public record under Title 1, chapter 13, subchapter 1 if the private entity submitting the information designates the information as being only for the confidential use of the department and if:

The information is a trade secret as defined in Title 10, section 1542, subsection 4; or

Disclosure of the information would result in a business or competitive disadvantage, loss of business, invasion of privacy or other significant detriment to the private entity to whom the record belongs or pertains.

If legal action is filed to gain access to the information designated as confidential under this subsection, the private entity must defend its designation and the department shall release the information in accordance with the order of the reviewing court. Failure to defend the designation under this subsection constitutes a waiver of confidentiality by the private entity and the department shall release the information.

11Report of proposals. By February 1st, annually, the department shall provide to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over transportation matters a report summarizing all proposals that the department has determined meet the standards of this subchapter or that have been finally rejected during the previous calendar year.

12.  The department may adopt rules to implement this subchapter. Rules adopted pursuant to this subsection are routine technical rules as defined in Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A.