Emera Maine sale approved

ELLSWORTH — Two weeks after an initial proposal was rejected by state regulators, officials at Canadian company ENMAX Corp. announced on Tuesday that they had successfully closed on a deal to buy Emera Maine for $1.3 billion.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) initially rejected the deal, worrying that the risks to ratepayers outweighed the benefits. But the three commissioners had said they were open to approving the deal if changes were made.

“We now have a revised stipulation before us that addresses the concerns I identified,” said Commission Chairman Philip Bartlett at a hearing last Tuesday, March 17. Bartlett had initially voted against the proposal, but last week, all three members of the commission voted in favor of the revised deal.

While the changes “do not remove all risk,” said Bartlett, “They do significantly reduce the risk to Emera customers, while also increasing the benefits.”

Commissioner R. Bruce Williamson, who had voted against the first deal, said on Tuesday that “All my concerns have been met … I find the process has been fair and open.”

Emera’s name will change after the acquisition, but the company will keep its Bangor headquarters. In a press release, the company said its employment levels “will not be affected by this transaction.”

Under Maine law, the commissioners are required to assess whether the benefits to ratepayers of the proposed arrangement “are greater than the costs,” said Bartlett at a meeting earlier this month. The proposal includes $8.1 million in shareholder rate credits for Emera Maine and other customers, $5 million for low-income ratepayer relief and a freeze on distribution rate increases until October 2021, which Emera said in a press release is expected to save customers up to $30 million.

“Today is an exciting step for our company,” Mike Herrin, president and chief operating office of Emera Maine, said in a release. “Emera Maine and ENMAX share a commitment to safety, service, reliability and community. I’m proud of the Emera Maine team and we look forward to continuing our commitment to safely deliver for our customers.”

Emera Maine is the state’s second-largest utility, serving 159,000 customers in Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Washington counties. The company was formed after Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., which Emera Inc. bought in 2001, merged with Maine Public Service Co. in 2010. ENMAX, headquartered in Alberta, Canada, serves 674,800 customers around the region, according to a statement on its website.

In a press release, ENMAX noted that the acquisition of Emera Maine will increase the company’s regulated rate base by 50 percent. “The acquisition will support ENMAX’s continued provision of stable, high-quality dividends to its shareholder, the city of Calgary,” according to the release.

Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Kate covers the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. She lives in Bar Harbor and welcomes story tips and ideas. She can be reached at [email protected]

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