Simmons: Mills’ signing of bill into law has put $93M in Maine Yankee property back on Wiscasset’s tax rolls

Tue, 04/02/2024 - 7:30pm

Wiscasset Town Manager Dennis Simmons announced in a selectboard meeting April 2, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill both houses of the Legislature passed and, as of now, $93 million of Maine Yankee property the state had found was tax-exempt as a pollution control facility for nuclear waste, no longer is tax exempt. 

On a question from Wiscasset Newspaper, Simmons anticipated the town’s court case – challenging a Maine Board of Environmental Protection decision that upheld the exemption – will be dismissed as moot due to the new law. He did not yet know a final number that will stick on what Maine Yankee will pay, however. There will likely be a negotiated settlement for that, he said.

“There’s a long road ahead of us yet, there’s a lot of work yet to do ...”

Town attorney Peter Murray wrote in a statement to the selectboard, LD 2027, “An Act to Clarify the Property Tax Exemption for Air Pollution Control Facilities,” which Mills signed, “strengthens the Town’s hand immeasurably in assessing Maine Yankee’s Wiscasset real estate and personal property fairly and equitably along with the rest of the property in town. It should open (the) door to meaningful and fruitful negotiations with Maine Yankee in hopes of reaching a satisfactory assessment value.  If negotiations do not work out, the removal of the pollution control exemption will materially increase the level of assessed value that can be sustained on appeal. This is a very good development for the Town.”

Simmons’ announcement came during his manager’s reporter to the board, an hour into the meeting. Recapping the quarter century since the nuclear plant closed, he said a 20-year tax deal with the town ran out last year, no deal was reached and Maine Yankee sought and got the exemption the town has since been  fighting at Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and more recently in court and the legislature. 

Sen. Cameron Reny (D) – Lincoln County, Rep. Ed Polewarczyk (R) – Wiscasset and Rep. Alison Hepler (D) – Woolwich sponsored the bill, which the House passed March 28, 109-8, and the Senate, 24-9 on April 1, Simmons said. Then he said, “Today, April 2, 2024, I am pleased to ... announce that L.D. 2027 amended to read an Act Regarding the Property Tax, Business Equipment Tax Exemption and Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement for Facilities Storing Spent Nuclear Fuel and Radioactive Waste was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills.

“As of today, $93 million of taxable property is back on Wiscasset’s tax rolls.”

Selectmen applauded. “Good work,” Selectman Pamela Dunning said. “Well done,” Selectman Terry Heller said.

Murray praised Simmons, legislators in and outside the region, and others. Simmons “has stood strong for the Town from the beginning of the controversy with Maine Yankee and will be in large part responsible for any good results obtained,” Murray wrote to the board. “He was supported by a strong legislative team headed by Tim Walton and his associates, who shepherded LD 2027 ... and successfully faced down Maine Yankee’s lobbying ... My colleague, Sarah McDaniel, has been a tower of strength on all aspects of this pollution control equipment controversy ...”

“It is too early to crow,” Murray added. “The proof of the pudding will be a big boost in Maine Yankee’s tax payments to Wiscasset. But it is worth celebrating this step along the way.”

According to Murray, the law is retroactive to 2023 so selectmen can consider doing a supplemental assessment for that once exempt portion of Maine Yankee’s property.

Asked for any comment on the new law or next steps, Maine Yankee spokesman Kathleen Capstick told Wiscasset Newspaper April 3, “Maine Yankee remains open to negotiating a new tax agreement with the Town of Wiscasset and continues to be willing to engage in mediation to help facilitate a fair and reasonable resolution for all stakeholders, including ratepayers throughout Maine and all of New England.”