Former Maine wind energy official takes reins of natural gas company

I’ve been lying to you.

Most days, I launch into the Daily Brief with something like “Good morning from Augusta, where…” even though most of the time I’m writing from home. The point of that opening was to put your focus (and mine) in the State Capitol and whatever’s going on.

Daily Brief co-author Mike Shepherd leveled with you yesterday when he wrote that he was sitting on his couch at the time. Well today, if you must know, I’m in my dining room. The coffee is hot and my cat seems to enjoy this old Pink Floyd song I’m listening to.

Anyway, OVER IN AUGUSTA there will probably be a bit of a crowd gathered this afternoon when the Department of Health and Human Services hosts a public hearing on a new rule it will implement in the coming weeks that will impose an asset test on applicants for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps. That means peoples’ assets — like bank account balances, boats and ATVs — will be counted before they can receive the benefit.

But Mike already told you about that yesterday (from his couch) so let’s move on. — Christopher Cousins

It’s been a long while since we’ve reminded you, but if you’re not already receiving the Daily Brief in your email inbox every morning (it’s free!) you can sign up for that service by clicking here. Tell your friends! 

Former PUC chairman Adams hired as CEO of Summit Natural Gas

A once-controversial figure in Maine politics got a new gig on Monday, when the parent company of Summit Natural Gas of Maine announced that Kurt Adams, the former chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, would be its new CEO.

According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, he’ll lead the company’s operations, which include pipeline networks in the Kennebec Valley region and the Portland suburbs. It hasn’t been easy for the company, which has faced two lawsuits from contractors, paid fines from regulators and slowed its project in southern Maine earlier this year.

Adams, who chaired the PUC from 2005 to 2008 after a stint as Democratic Gov. John Baldacci’s chief lawyer, was no stranger to flak as a top official at First Wind, which managed wind energy projects in Maine and other states until it merged with solar giant SunEdison Inc. last year.

At First Wind, Adams was a target of anti-wind activists, particularly in 2010, after the Maine Center for Public Reporting reported it appeared that he accepted an ownership interest at the company while he was still Maine’s chief energy regulator. First Wind argued that was wrong and Attorney General Janet Mills found that there was no conflict of interest. — Michael Shepherd

Trio of drug-fighting panels to be named on Thursday

In August, Gov. Paul LePage held a drug summit in Augusta to discuss strategies to fight the spread of illegal drugs in Maine. The upshot of the summit was that the problem would continued to be studied by three task forces: One to study treatment options, one to focus on prevention methods and one to examine law enforcement practices.

According to a recent newsletter from the Maine Medical Association, each task force will include about a dozen members who will be named on Thursday by U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty, Attorney General Janet Mills and Commissioner of Public Safety John Morris.

Each task force meeting will be open to the public, according to the newsletter, and there will be time for public comments regarding any new findings or proposed initiatives. — Christopher Cousins

Wear red, support the troops

Gov. Paul LePage and First Lady Ann LePage are scheduled to appear together later this morning at a news conference where they’ll announce their participation in “RED Shirt Friday,” a national push to demonstrate support for military personnel by wearing red. On Fridays.

The “RED” in Red Shirt Friday stands for “Remember Everyone Deployed.”

“This is just one simple way we all can physically show our appreciation at the end of each and every week,” said Ann LePage in a written statement. — Christopher Cousins

Portland firefighters’ union supports Ethan Strimling for mayor

The Portland Firefighters IAFF, Local 740 and the Maine State Federation of Firefighters endorsed mayoral challenger Ethan Strimling to be the city’s next mayor. Monday’s announcement to that effect comes about a month before the Nov. 3 election.

Local 740 President John Brooks said in a written statement that the endorsement means members of the union will be actively campaigning for Strimling, including in door-to-door canvassing of neighborhoods in Portland.

Strimling, a former state lawmaker, is one of two challengers for incumbent Mayor Michael Brennan, a former state senator who was first elected to Portland’s highest office in 2011. The other challenger is Tom MacMillan, who is chairman of Portland’s Green-Independent Party Committee.

Brennan said in a press release that he plans to announce some endorsements later this morning at Fort Sumner Park in Portland.

All three candidates will face off in a debate at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

The cold heart of the State House

It’s cold in them thar halls.

No, we’re not talking about the 1951 comedy play about some hills where it’s cold. We’re talking about the State House.

If you’re like me, you reached a milestone in the past week or so when you turned up the heat at home for the first time this fall. That’s not an option at the State House, where an ongoing repair to the heating system means the heat won’t be on until probably the end of the week.

“In the meantime, please turn off your heating and cooling units as they will just be blowing cold air,” reads a Monday memo to employees from Grant Pennoyer, executive director of the Legislative Council.

I’ve heard some stories about rosy-cheeked employees with chattering teeth sitting at their desks wrapped in blankets. I’ve also heard that a frost-encrusted Luke Skywalker and his Tauntaun were seen patrolling, cold and desperate, between the House and Senate chambers on the third floor. In addition to heat, they were probably looking like funding, like everyone else on the third floor.

Thanks to Senate staffer Jamie Logan for having the presence of mind to snap a photo. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

photo courtesy of Jamie Logan



Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.