AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Despite increasing pressure from lawmakers and environmental groups, the University of Maine said Tuesday it must keep its proposal for an offshore wind project secret because disclosing details will harm the university's chances for a $46 million federal energy grant.
Lawyers for the university and Maine Aqua Ventus, the umbrella company that includes the university and its partner groups, made the argument in a filing with the state public utilities commission.
UMaine's filing is a response to requests made by Norwegian company Statoil and environmental groups. Some lawmakers have also said that recent revelations about the LePage administration's efforts to explicitly derail Statoil's proposal further demonstrate the need for the university to release the proposal.
"Because of the high profile nature of what the governor has done to Statoil ... I think the (university) should go above and beyond to be transparent," said Democratic Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland.
Gov. Paul LePage's administration has pressed for legislation to reopen the competitive bidding process to allow the university to submit a bid, causing Statoil to put its project on hold. The administration opposed Statoil's project because ratepayers would subsidize the high energy costs and said giving the university a shot at a contract was vital in allowing it to compete for an offshore wind project.
The Associated Press reported Sunday that the Republican governor's administration had been working behind the scenes to derail Statoil's proposal. According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Access Act, the administration initially floated "a much more aggressive effort to explicitly void" Statoil's agreement by limiting the amount that home and business owners would pay for the project to about half of what Statoil had proposed.
In letters to the commission earlier this month, Statoil and two environmental organizations requested that the UMaine proposal be revealed. The Democratic co-chairs of the state's energy committee also recently requested in a letter to the commission that some details be made public.
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