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

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.

Action time! Next steps on LD 1168!

LD 1168 was voted “Ought to Pass” by the 127th Legislature’s Judiciary Committee by 6 – 3

LD 1168 prevents eminent domain from being used by a private entity, or in certain Public-Private Partnerships (P3) on behalf of a private entity, by amending the Public-Private-Partnership for Transportation Projects Law[1], and the law that restricts eminent domain use[2].

Video of the work session and vote for LD 1168 is located at:

http://youtu.be/-JkymA9rCmE

(thank you Eric Tuttle for videotaping and uploading!)

This was a bipartisan vote with Republicans, Democrats, and one Independent voting in favor.

 

What happens now?

Any day now, the bill will go before the Senate for possible discussion and a vote. We are encouraged that all the Senators present on the Judiciary Committee voted for the bill, which puts us on good footing going into the Senate vote. Still, please contact your Senator and encourage them to vote “ought to pass” on LD 1168. The vote could happen any day, so call your Senator right away!

If the bill passes the Senate, it will go before the House. We will need a lot of support from all of you to educate your Representatives about the importance of this bill in protecting Maine people from eminent domain takings by the State on behalf of private entities for a transportation facility. Since the bill may be voted on in the Senate anytime now, please start calling your Reps immediately! We especially need support from those of you in Southern Maine.

 

Here is contact list for all Senators and Representatives:

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

LD 1168’s bill summary states, “This bill prohibits the use of the power of eminent domain for the development, operation, management, ownership, leasing or maintenance of a transportation facility as a public-private partnership project. It also prohibits the use of the power of eminent domain by a private business entity when the entity is involved in a public-private partnership.”

To view the entire bill, visit: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?snum=127&paper=SP0415&PID=0

We highly recommend watching Eric Tuttle’s video of the LD 1168 work session because the discussion that unfolded amongst the Judiciary Committee may help you talk to your Senator or Representative. Again, that link is: http://youtu.be/-JkymA9rCmE

We encourage folks to thank Senator Paul Davis, Rep. Ralph Chapman, and these members of the Judiciary Committee for their support: Senator Dave Burns, Senator Chris Johnson, Rep. Barry Hobbins, Rep. Jeff Evangelos, Rep. Phyllis Ginzler, and Rep. Charlotte Warren.

Again, here is contact list for all Senators and Representatives:

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

(thank you again Eric Tuttle)

 

Here are some updated talking points

  • LD 1168 safeguards landowners’ rights. Eminent domain is an important tool for State and Local Government to have in order to promote the health, safety, and welfare of its residents; however, eminent domain is a serious power that overrides individual property rights in favor of community rights. Therefore, State and Local Government Entities should use eminent domain only as a last resort, for vetted transportation projects that can be demonstrated to be in the public’s best interest, not for corporate profit.
  • LD 1168 makes it clear that the public interest is the priority interest of concern to State and Local Government when exercising eminent domain power for transportation projects, not expanding corporate or state coffers.       Although private entities may be subcontracted by the State or Local Government Entity to fulfill a contract, no public entity should use its eminent domain power to act on behalf of a private entity’s transportation development interest, or to further the economic interests of another country that could be the primary beneficiary of the transportation infrastructure.
    • The proposed East-West Corridor, for example, would allow local territory to be used as a pass-through connecting New Brunswick and Quebec, with primary economic benefits accruing to Canada and profits accruing to foreign investors.
    • In general, since foreign investment and/or ownership is sometimes part of a private project, state and local eminent domain power should not be used to further these financial interests.
  • At this time, the P3 law enables new transportation infrastructure development by private entities using taxpayer money and access to eminent domain.   LD 1168 amends the P3 to protect farmland, water, and wildlife habitat from eminent domain takings and resulting impacts that are not based in public interest. Everyone needs good food and water to live a healthy life. The growth rate of Maine’s young farmers is much higher than anywhere else in the country, 40% versus 1.5%.[3] Maine farmers shouldn’t feel threatened by private entities to give up their livelihoods and future food security. Multi-generational farms and the next generation of farmers need as much support as possible. Transportation infrastructure increases risks to water quality, and is likely to result in fragmentation of farmland and wildlife habitat.
  • Additional protection from eminent domain for transportation projects will help maintain regional stability. When a private entity can access the power of eminent domain for a private transportation project, or unsolicited P3 for a transportation project, as we have learned through experience with the East-West Corridor proposal, many members of the public experience needless trauma, declined economic activity and real estate sales (also known as condemnation blight), and even flight from the region.
  • This bill closes previously unaddressed loopholes and shortcomings in our law that became apparent when the East-West Corridor proposal came to the table. These are lessons that stretch well beyond the East-West Corridor proposal.

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

To view Maine’s existing eminent domain restrictions law, visit: http://legislature.maine.gov/statutes/1/title1ch21.pdf

 

If you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat about all this, please feel free to contact Chris Buchanan or Jane Crosen:

 

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

[1] Maine Revised Statutes Title 23, Part 5, Chapter 410, subchapter 5, subsection 4251. Public-private partnerships; transportation projects

[2] Maine Revised Statutes Title 1, Chapter 21, subsection 816. Limitations on Eminent Domain Authority

[3] In Maine, More Hipsters Choosing Life on the Farm, Jennifer Mitchell, MPBN 12-11-14

Updates on LD 1168 & STEWC Testimony

Note to readers: There are two email postings listed first, and then STEWC’s Testimony on LD 1168 is listed last.
On Mon, May 4, 2015 at 9:33 AM, Chris Buchanan <chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net> wrote:
Hi all,

I hope everyone enjoyed the beautiful weekend!  I was up in Sangerville yesterday and everything seemed so alive.  I love seeing the yard sales starting up again.  I hope everyone’s appreciating the sunshine as much as I am!
I wanted to follow up on the previous email about LD 1168 with the reminder that you may still submit written testimony to the Judiciary Committee and call, meet, or email them about the bill before the work session on May 12.
You may build off of the suggestions I made to them in my testimony, use the talking points, or speak from your heart about your own experience with eminent domain, especially the misuse of eminent domain for a transportation project.
Attached are the same resources I’ve sent before, hoping that it’s helpful.
Also, for those of you who read my testimony and noticed that I referenced MDOT’s statewide outreach coordinators who are supposedly being employed by us (taxpayers) to receive ideas, I was intending to attach the MDOT handout as well but the file is too large, so please give a shout if you want to take a look.  You can also find it on the MDOT website.
peace, Chris
On Fri, May 1, 2015 at 10:51 AM, Chris Buchanan <chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net> wrote:

Hi everyone,

Thanks to those of you who submitted testimony and/or came to the State House yesterday to testify on LD 1168 to prevent eminent domain from being used by a private entity through a public private partnership.
My sense was that the committee listened closely to our testimony and is interested in doing something with this bill during the work session.  This is a stark contrast to the mostly unresponsive and seemingly disinterested tranportation committee on LD 506, in my opinion.
The work session will be May 12 at 5pm in the Judiciary Committee, Room 438 of the State House.  During the work session, members must ask members of the audience to comment, there is no open public comment.  I am going to make an effort to meet with a couple committee members before the work session and I am hoping they invite me to provide additional information.
I have asked members of the group, “Maine Matters,” to videotape the session.  It is the time they deliberate and make a decision, and therefore important to record for accountability and learning purposes.
Here is the link where everyone’s testimony will be posted on LD 1168.  They are behind, so it’s not up yet.  I will attach my testimony on behalf of STEWC for those of you interested and encourage others to do so. The only testimony against the bill before the committee was by Nina Fisher of the MDOT.
Have a great weekend everyone and hope to see many of you at the steering committee meeting next week!
Remember anybody can post relevant info about the Corridor to this list, (except for articles unless you provide a description) by emailing your info directly to: stop_the_east_west_corridor@lists.riseup.net
no corridor, no compromise!  Chris

Stop the East-West Corridor

www.stopthecorridor.org

Testimony in Favor of LD 1168                                                               April 30, 2015

 

Dear Senator Burns, Representative Hobbins, and Honorable Members of the Judiciary Committee,

 

Thank you for hearing our comments today on LD 1168. My name is Chris Buchanan, I live in Belgrade, and I am testifying in favor of LD 1168 as the Statewide Coordinator of Stop the East-West Corridor. Stop the East-West Corridor, or STEWC, is a resource and communication hub for a decentralized coalition of Maine residents and organizations who share a multitude of concerns about the private or public-private East-West Corridor proposal that has been introduced to communities around the State and in New Brunswick by Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue and Cianbro Project Manager Darryl Brown.

 

We have also received permission from the Maine Association of Planners to express their support for LD 1168. They are unable to provide testimony due to resource constraints.

 

We are grateful for Senator Davis’s leadership and commitment to the desires of his constituents to provide protection from eminent domain for a transportation project like the East-West Corridor. The Corridor is unfounded in public planning or public need, and is in fact hugely unpopular. Abbot, Charleston, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Garland, Monson, Parkman, and Sangerville, eight communities, have now passed a local ordinance, be it a moratorium, referendum, local-self governance, or land use ordinance, to develop local protection. These actions clearly demonstrate a sense of vulnerability and the need for adequate state policy.

 

As it stands, the only existing legal statute that may authorize development of the Corridor is the Public-Private-Partnership law for Transportation Projects, Title 23 §4251, which is why we continue to address the shortcomings in this law.

 

Eminent domain powers for significant transportation projects should be limited to government agencies acting on behalf of the public.   While LD 1168 effectively seeks to provide this protection, I have been informed by Maine Department of Transportation legislative liaison Nina Fisher that the Department wants to maintain eminent domain authority for private entities under the Public-Private-Partnership Law (Title 23, §4251).   Although we disagree for several reasons and ask this committee to make the changes outlined by LD 1168, we also want to offer the Committee the option to simply eliminate unsolicited proposals from 23 §4251, ensuring that all PPPs are solicited by the Department.

 

Maine’s Sensible Transportation Policy Act (STPA, Title 23 §73) is the guiding law for transportation planning, development, and maintenance in our State. However, the PPP law created a parallel legal pathway for significant transportation development that sidesteps the STPA. Although 23 §4251 sec. 4-I states that a PPP “must comply with…applicable…state…laws…”, sec. 3 states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law…”. The PPP is an explicit provision of law that defines a different process. Also, the two laws blatantly contradict each other in both their reporting requirements (transparent vs. confidential), and public input process (lengthy public input to the Department vs. one public hearing before the Transportation Committee). The PPP also allows leveraging of up to 50% public taxpayer subsidy, and eminent domain powers to private entities for solicited and unsolicited proposals. If the legal pathway for unsolicited proposals were eliminated, only proposals initiated by the Department could access the extensive powers listed above, including eminent domain.

 

The Department’s Deputy Commissioner, Jon Nass, expressed concern about eliminating unsolicited proposals in his testimony before the Transportation Committee earlier this session on LD 506, stating that, “Unsolicited, industry based ideas are key to the PPP law. MaineDOT appreciates good ideas regardless of where they originate.”

The suggestion that eliminating a legal pathway for unsolicited proposals is the same as eliminating private-sector ideas is simply inaccurate and misleading. No proposed or existing laws prohibit consideration of private-sector ideas. On the contrary, the Department has regional outreach coordinators responsible for receiving unsolicited ideas from all over the State, outlined in their brochure, enclosed. Regardless of its origin, the Department may pursue a viable idea that is grounded in Department planning and supported by stakeholders through the PPP statute by soliciting proposals. Eliminating unsolicited proposals in the PPP will ensure that eminent domain may only be used on projects that have gone through an appropriate accountability process with Department oversight.

 

Several of these points are also clearly stated in Rep. Ralph Chapman’s letter to the Transportation Committee for the work session on LD 506, which is enclosed in your packet.

 

If the Department remains concerned about eliminating unsolicited proposals from 23 §4251 for the reasons they have expressed, we suggest simply adding the language, to 23 §4251 sec. 2 stating, “Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit the department from receiving ideas, or to prohibit or otherwise affect programs that do not meet the criteria of this subsection.” Enclosed in our testimony is a draft to reflect these suggestions.

 

We urge you to vote ought to pass on LD 1168, or consider this alternate proposal. Thank you very much for your time. I would be happy to answer questions or discuss details with members of this committee at any time.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

Chris Buchanan

Statewide Coordinator, Stop the East-West Corridor www.stopthecorridor.org

(207) 495-3648

chris(at)defendingwater(d0t)net

Meeting with MDOT & LD 1168

Letter to STEWC email notification list from Chris Buchanan on 4-9-15

Hi everyone,

As many of you know, our bill to close the loophole in the PPP law, LD 506, was unanimously defeated in the Transportation Committee last week, which is a bummer.  But, we’re not done with advocating for better state policy!

We are now asking for your support on LD 1168.  Below and attached are the talking points that we’ve written up for LD 1168 to help people draft testimony.

The public hearing has not been scheduled yet, but this bill will be heard before the Judiciary Committee.

Now is the time to start calling, emailing, and meeting with members of the Judiciary Committee to earn their support.  Note, the Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee is Senator David Burns, so folks in Washington County, we hope you’ll make an effort to get in touch with your Senator!  Judiciary Committee contacts are attached and at this link.

As before, it will be very powerful to receive testimony from municipalities, so while we have time, please share a copy of the bill with your selectboard or council and ask for their support!

You may also begin preparing and submitting testimony.  Emailing testimony, we’ve learned, will get to committee members but may not be part of their official packet, or a part of testimony listed online.  So, it’s best to show up in person and give them 20 copies, or to mail 20 copies, if you want your testimony as part of the official packet.  Info on submitting testimony is attached and will be sent out again.

MDOT.  I met with Nina Fisher from MDOT yesterday, to discuss LD 1168 and understand why they killed LD 506.  Nina said that the MDOT is going to try to kill LD 1168 because they don’t feel like the PPP has any legs without eminent domain powers.  She provided an example of a possible train spur project to Limestone that would need eminent domain, and would be a private entity.  However, Nina said she was going to talk to the executive office about advocating for a clause in the PPP that would eliminate an east-west highway from being a project that could be used by the PPP.  She said she wasn’t sure the governor was ready to do that, but he may be.  If he is agreeable, MDOT would use LD 1168 as the vehicle for making that change to the PPP law, as opposed to advocating to completely kill the bill.

Regarding LD 506, Nina said that the clause in the PPP law, subsection 4i which states, “I. The proposal and the transportation facility must comply with all requirements of applicable federal, state and local laws and department rules, policies and procedures,” means that both solicited and unsolicited proposals must follow the Sensible Transportation Policy Act, go through the normal public hearing process, etc.  She believes that providing the unsolicited proposals clause provides a way to encourage private entities to approach the MDOT with ideas that may be good ideas.  I told her it didn’t seem necessary to me, and that the MDOT was asking for trouble with this loophole, as we have seen with the EWC, but she insists that the MDOT wants to maintain the clause.  Instead, as described above, she offered to discuss the possibility of prohibiting the EWC in the PPP law.  She agreed that the EWC would not pass muster under MDOT scrutiny, and she did not think, even if the Commissioner at MDOT changed and was a super pro-East West Corridor person who gave the EWC a green light, that the legislature would agree and pass it.  She said she thought that legislators perceived that supporting the EWC was toxic, thanks to all of the work of all of you, the people of Maine.

I say, congratulations to everyone on that major accomplishment, which is also very apparent to me!

For those who want to discuss my meeting with Nina more, please feel free to call.

Again, attachments are: 1) LD 1168 talking points, 2) Judiciary Committee contact info, 3) How to Submit Testimony to the Judiciary Committee

Here are the talking points on LD 1168:

LD 1168, An Act to Prohibit the Delegation 

of Eminent Domain Power to Private Entities,

sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis (R-Piscataquis)

 

Concept:

 

LD 1168 prevents eminent domain from being used by a private entity, or in certain Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) on behalf of a private entity, by amending the Public-Private-Partnership for Transportation Projects Law[1], and the law that restricts eminent domain use[2].

 

Talking points:

 

  • Eminent domain is an important tool for State and Local Government to have in order to promote the health, safety, and welfare of its residents; however, eminent domain is a serious power that overrides individual property rights in favor of community rights.  Therefore, State and Local Government Entities should use eminent domain only as a last resort, for vetted transportation projects that can be demonstrated to be in the public’s best interest.

 

  • The law must be clear and the law must reflect that the public interest is the priority interest of concern to State and Local Government when exercising eminent domain power for transportation projects.  Although private entities may be subcontracted by the State or Local Government Entity to fulfill a contract, no public entity should use its eminent domain power to act on behalf of a private entity’s transportation development interest, or to further the economic interests of another country that could be the primary beneficiary of the transportation infrastructure.
    • The proposed East-West Corridor, for example, would allow local territory to be used as a pass-through connecting New Brunswick and Quebec, with primary economic benefits accruing to Canada and profits accruing to foreign investors.
    • In general, since foreign investment and/or ownership is sometimes part of a private project, state and local eminent domain power should not be used to further these financial interests.  

 

  • Maine’s farmland and fresh water must be protected.  Everyone needs good food and water to live a healthy life.  The growth rate of Maine’s young farmers is much higher than anywhere else in the country, 40% versus 1.5%.[3]  Maine farmers shouldn’t feel threatened by private entities to give up their livelihoods and future food security.  We need to support multi-generational farms and the next generation of farmers as much as possible.  New transportation infrastructure development increases risks to water quality, and is likely to result in fragmentation of farmland and wildlife habitat.

 

  • Additional protection from eminent domain for transportation projects will help maintain regional stability.  When a private entity can access the power of eminent domain for a private transportation project, or unsolicited public-private-partnership for a transportation project, as we have learned through experience with the East-West Corridor proposal, many members of the public experience needless trauma, declined economic activity and real estate sales (also known as condemnation blight), and even flight from the region.

 

  • This bill closes previously unaddressed loopholes and shortcomings in our law that became apparent when the East-West Corridor proposal came to the table.  These are lessons that stretch well beyond the East-West Corridor proposal.

[1] Maine Revised Statutes Title 23, Part 5, Chapter 410, subchapter 5, subsection 4251. Public-private partnerships; transportation projects

[2] Maine Revised Statutes Title 1, Chapter 21, subsection 816. Limitations on Eminent Domain Authority

[3] In Maine, More Hipsters Choosing Life on the Farm, Jennifer Mitchell, MPBN 12-11-14

TESTIMONY GUIDELINES Judiciary 2015 Judiciary Committee contacts 127th 2015 LD 1168 Talking Points

 

Maine Voices: The real road to nowhere would be the east-west corridor

It’s time the state realizes this would be the surest path to environmental and economic degradation.

BY CHRIS BUCHANAN | SPECIAL TO THE PRESS HERALD | April 2, 2015

Link to Original Article.

BELGRADE — The proposed east-west transportation, communications and utility corridor has raised important questions regarding the state’s transportation policy.

Two bills have been introduced by Maine legislators to ensure the proper role for the state in transportation planning, maintenance and development, without increasing regulations or stymying infrastructure that is desired by local people. The bills would create an equal playing field for all significant transportation proposals that may be governed by the state’s law on public-private infrastructure projects.

L.D. 506, An Act to Improve Public-Private Transportation Partnerships, introduced by Rep. Ralph Chapman, D-Brooksville, and co-sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, will be the subject of a Transportation Committee work session Thursday.

The bill’s summary states: “This bill changes the law governing public-private partnerships to develop transportation facilities by removing the Department of Transportation’s authority to receive unsolicited proposals and to limit those proposals solicited by the department to those in accordance with the Sensible Transportation Policy Act.”

Davis is the sponsor of L.R. 373, An Act to Prohibit the Delegation of Eminent Domain Power to Private Entities. The proposal prevents eminent domain from being used by a private entity for transportation projects, or on behalf of a private entity in certain public-private partnerships.

The need for state legislation has been demonstrated by the efforts of communities to protect themselves from the proposed East-West Corridor. Eight towns – Abbot, Charleston, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Garland, Monson, Parkman and Sangerville – have passed a local regulation, be it a moratorium, referendum, local self-governance or land-use ordinance.

In addition, local people of all political persuasions have formed organizations in opposition to the proposed corridor. One such group, started by grandmothers from Charleston – Grandmothers Against the East-West Corridor – gets together every fourth Friday to lead a silent vigil in front of the Pittsfield headquarters of Cianbro Corp., which proposed the private highway. All this is an example of how many people feel threatened and left vulnerable by existing state laws.

Over the past three years, Stop the East-West Corridor has focused on developing resources, advocating for transparency and supporting decentralized local resistance to the proposed East-West Corridor.

We are all Maine residents working together to help support people with a variety of concerns who are still unable to find answers to their questions from private or public officials.

It is time to ensure that we don’t have any more unfounded proposals that waste taxpayers’ time, money and resources the way the East-West Corridor is doing. The bills introduced by Sen. Davis and Rep. Chapman go a long way to address this problem and deserve the support of all the people of Maine.

Cianbro has been mostly quiet about its progress. However, Cianbro President Andi Vigue voiced continued support for and commitment to the corridor in a WABI-TV 5 news broadcast on June 16, 2014, and in May 2014, Maine Magazine published a feature piece with a photo of Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue in Wesley, where the corridor would “cross Route 9.” Like an inexplicable dark cloud on the horizon that never goes away, the corridor proposal lingers.

That the East-West Corridor is not in the public’s best interest was well documented in the state’s 1999 east-west highway feasibility studies. These studies explored the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of a new public toll highway from Calais to Coburn Gore, along with several other options.

In the end, the state concluded that the new-build option would create the most environmental impact, would not significantly increase manufacturing, would not stop people from moving away and was likely to create a negative bypass effect on rural downtowns, especially in Washington County, which is primarily served by east-west roads.

The price tag for construction at that time was $1.2 billion, although the total costs – incorporating all the negative factors, not just money – were estimated at $439,239 in 2015 and $229,691 in 2030 per job created.

Therefore, the state concluded that the costs outweighed the benefits; in other words, that a new public toll highway would have an overall negative economic impact. Instead, the state decided to improve Routes 9 and 2, a plan that the Maine Department of Transportation is still pursuing.

Why then are we still having to mobilize against this ill-conceived proposal for the East-West Corridor? It is time for reasonable state laws that prioritize the public interest in planning state transportation infrastructure.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Buchanan of Belgrade is statewide coordinator of Stop the East-West Corridor. For more information about the group, visit: www.stopthecorridor.org.

New bills to preserve State control over transportation development, and eminent domain

Op-Ed by Chris Buchanan | March 25, 2015

The proposed East-West Transportation, Communications, and Utilities Corridor has raised important public policy questions regarding the state’s transportation policy. Two bills have been introduced by our Maine legislators to ensure the proper role for the state in transportation planning, maintenance, and development, without increasing regulations or stymying infrastructure that is desired by local people. The bills would create an equal playing field for all significant transportation proposals that may utilize the Public-Private-Partnership law.

LD506, An Act to Improve Public-Private Transportation Partnerships, introduced by Rep. Ralph Chapman (D-Brooksville) and cosponsored by Senator Paul Davis (R-Piscataquis), will be heard by the Transportation Committee on Thursday, March 26. The bill’s summary states:“This bill changes the law governing public-private partnerships to develop transportation facilities by removing the Department of Transportation’s authority to receive unsolicited proposals and to limit those proposals solicited by the department to those in accordance with the Sensible Transportation Policy Act.”

LR 373, An Act to Prohibit the Delegation of Eminent Domain Power to Private Entities sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis prevents eminent domain from being used by a private entity for transportation projects, or in certain Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) on behalf of a private entity.

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 lacking. Eight communities have passed a 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.

In addition, local people of all political persuasions have formed groups in opposition to the proposed Corridor. One such group started by Grandmothers from Charleston, “Grandmothers against the East-West Corridor,” get together every fourth Friday to lead a silent vigil in front of Cianbro’s Pittsfield headquarters. All this is telling how many people feel threatened and left vulnerable by Maine’s existing state laws.

Over the past three years, Stop the East-West Corridor has focused on developing resources, advocating for transparency, and supporting decentralized local resistance to the proposed East-West Corridor. We are all Maine residents working together to help support people with a variety of concerns, who are still unable to find answers to their questions from private or public officials. We appreciate that our state legislators are sponsoring these bills in response.

It is time for the state to ensure that we don’t have any more unfounded proposals which waste taxpayers time, money, and resources the way the East-West Corridor is. The bills introduced by Senator Davis and Representative Chapman go a long way to address this problem and deserve the support of all the people of Maine.

Although Cianbro has been mostly quiet about its progress, Cianbro President and COO Andi Vigue voiced continued support and commitment to the Corridor in a WABI-TV 5 news broadcast on June 16, 2014, and Maine Magazine published a feature piece in the May 2014 issue with a photo of Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue in Wesley where the Corridor would “cross Route 9”. Like an inexplicable dark cloud on the horizon that never goes away, the Corridor proposal lingers.

The fact that the East-West Corridor is not in the public’s best interest was well documented by the state in its 1999 Feasibility Studies of an East-West Highway. These studies explored environmental impacts and socio economic impacts of a new-build public toll highway from Calais to Coburn Gore, along with several other options. In the end, the state concluded that the new build option would create the most environmental impact, would not significantly increase manufacturing, would not stop out-migration of population, and was likely to create a negative bypass effect on rural downtowns, especially in Washington County that is primarily served by East-West roads.

The pricetag for construction at that time was $1.2 billion, although the total costs, incorporating all these factors and not just money, were estimated at $439,239 in 2015 and $229,691 in 2030 per job created. Therefore, the state concluded that the costs outweighed the benefits. In other words, there was an overall negative economic impact of that new build public toll highway. Instead, the state decided to improve Routes 9 and 2, a plan that the MDOT is still pursuing.

Why then are we still having to mobilize against this ill-conceived proposal for the East-West Corridor? It is time for reasonable state laws that prioritize the public interest in planning state transportation infrastructure.

Chris Buchanan is the Statewide Coordinator of STEWC and Maine Coordinator of Defending Water for Life, and lives in Belgrade. More info at www.stopthecorridor.org

Town of Sangerville testimony supporting LD 506

Darlene Simoneau March 26, 2015
Transportation Committee Clerk
100 State House Station,
Augusta, Maine 04333

Dear Senator Collins, Representative McLean and Members of the Transportation Committee,
We are writing in support of LD 506, An Act to Improve Public-Private Transportation Partnerships. As Selectmen from the Town of Sangerville, we are deeply concerned that the Public-Private Partnership Law, as it exists today, allows private entities to initiate proposals for new transportation infrastructure projects within the State of Maine. In Sangerville we have been threatened by the proposed construction of a so called, East/West Corridor, which, if constructed, would cut our Town in two. Faced with the threat of this unwanted project, in the spring of 2013, Sangerville passed a Moratorium against the construction of “Public and Public-Private Transportation and Distribution Corridors.” Later that same year we chose to enact a self-governance ordinance in an attempt to further protect ourselves from this undesired development.
The proposed changes that LD 506 would bring to the existing Public-Private Transportation Partnership Law would prevent private entities from using State resources to drive projects that are not developed through the existing State planning processes. We strongly feel that, the Maine Department of Transportation best represents the interests of the citizens of Maine, and that the responsibility for the development and control of future transportation infrastructure projects should lie with the MDOT, not with private corporate interests. Further, by requiring the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Law to follow the guidelines outlined in the Sensible Transportation Policy Act, the citizens of Maine would be assured that any future PPP project would move forward with transparency, accountability and public oversight. Finally, we are concerned that if PPP projects like the East/West Corridor were built under existing law, the State of Maine would lose control over such projects due to rights of foreign investors to bring suit to protect their rights to future profits. We would, possibly, be handing over valuable assets of the State of Maine and our ability to control them, to foreign investors.
We hope that you will support LD 506 and it’s attending changes to the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Law. Maine citizens deserve public policy and projects that are developed within the framework of our legitimate state government.
Respectfully,

William Rowe Thomas Carone Melissa Randall