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.”
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.
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.
Letter to STEWC email notification list from Chris Buchanan on 4-9-15
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
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%. 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.
 Maine Revised Statutes Title 23, Part 5, Chapter 410, subchapter 5, subsection 4251. Public-private partnerships; transportation projects
 Maine Revised Statutes Title 1, Chapter 21, subsection 816. Limitations on Eminent Domain Authority