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LEWISTON, Maine - Mercy hospital in Portland is offering early retirement to 99 employees. Spokesman Wayne Clark says the goal is to improve the hospital's financial position and reduce its workforce as it prepares to consolidate operations at its Fore River campus.

"That's our vision for a strong community hospital with a focus on primary care and preventive care," Clark says.

Clark says the shift to one campus will likely take two to three years. Mercy currently has more than 1,500 employees.

Friday is the deadline for the Maine Public Utilities Commission to receive bids for a controversial contract to bail out the state’s ailing biomass energy plants.

The contract could tap over $13 million in taxpayer funds to assist an industry that some worry can no longer compete on a level playing field. And the potential beneficiaries of the bailout continue to reward the legislators who backed it.

MPBN file

It’s been six years since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has inspected the former DeCoster Egg Farm in Turner, one of the largest producers of brown eggs in the United States. It’s a farm with a long legacy of health, safety and labor violations.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine is in the top 10 states for economic output for the first quarter of the year.

The Portland Press Herald reports Maine's economy grew 2.3 percent during the first three months of 2016.

The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis says on Wednesday that construction, health care and the retail trade all expanded in the state during the first quarter. Durable goods manufacturing also grew.

Natural Resources Defense Council

Environmental groups in Maine, Canada and around the country are sounding the alarm about a massive pipeline project they say would threaten East Coast fisheries, imperil marine mammals and exacerbate climate change.

In a new report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the groups warn that TransCanada’s proposed 2,800-mile Energy East pipeline poses a greater threat than its Keystone XL project, rejected by President Barack Obama last year.

An environmental group is taking Maine regulators to the Maine Supreme Court over a three-year spending plan for efficiency measures in the state.

The Conservation Law Foundation says the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a budget that was lower than state law requires.

PORTLAND, Maine - The state of Maine is receiving more than $10.5 million in federal money to help fund replacement of the bridge the connects Beals Island and the town of Beals, in Washington County, with the mainland at Jonesport. 

Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot says the existing bridge was built in 1958.

PORTLAND, Maine - A new report from the National Employment Law Project suggests that raising Maine's minimum wage would help small businesses be more competitive with national chains. 

The Project's Yannet Lathrop says, on average, large businesses in Maine pay a little more than $10 an hour, while small businesses pay closer to $13 an hour.

CAMDEN, Maine - A Camden-based internet service provider wants to fast-track development of broadband wireless networks in rural Maine in exchange for a five-year service commitment.

Expansion of broadband has been a hot topic in rural parts of Maine, where leaders say it is needed to grow business and access to education.

Now, Redzone Wireless says it has committed $1 million for a funding program for rural municipalities to increase high-speed internet. It calls the program "Fast for 5.''

Gov. Paul LePage is proposing a three-year “grandfather” period to allow Maine residents who have installed solar panels to recover some of their upfront investment through a practice called net metering. After that, he wants to end the program. The governor’s new proposal is drawing swift criticism from the solar industry.

Under net metering, residential solar generators can get a credit on their electric bill for excess electricity that they put back into the power grid. Over time, those credits can help cover the cost of the original investment, for, say, solar panels.

Maine’s unemployment rate has crept upward to 3.7 percent in June. That’s two-tenths of a percent higher than the previous month, but lower than the national average.

Still, some economic analysts say Maine’s job creation effort still has a long way to go.

The news of the slight uptick in unemployment was not a surprise to Mark Sullivan at the progressive Maine Center for Economic Policy, who said Maine was one of only six states where unemployment increased in a month of strong national job growth.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has joined a federal lawsuit to block Anthem's plan to acquire Cigna Corporation for $48 billion. Mills says both are significant insurance providers in Maine.

"Probably more than half the people of Maine who are employed by the largest employers and in the small market, more than half are covered either by Cigna or Anthem, mostly Anthem," Mills says.

Mills warns that the merger would reduce competition and could result in insurance rate increases for Mainers.

PORTLAND, Maine - More homes sold in Maine in June this year, than in the same month last year - and for more money.

The median home sales price in Maine in June was $198,000 - up about 5.5 percent from last year. And the number of homes sold increased by almost 10 percent.

But while some counties are seeing a brisk market ahnd increasing prices, most of the counties where sales increased the most also saw drops in prices.

fiberight.com

Emboldened by approved state licenses and support from the Hampden Planning Board, the chief executive of a trash-to-energy company now says the Bangor area isn’t big enough for two major waste disposal operations.

LEWISTON, Maine - A spokesman for industrial energy consumers in Maine is calling the decision by the Public Utilities Commission to expand natural gas pipeline capacity "historic." 

Attorney Anthony Buxton says New England is the most oil-dependent region of the country which he says is a detriment to the economy and to the environment. 

But Buxton says if four other New England states agree to follow the Maine PUC's lead, there could be light at the end of the end of the tunnel.

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