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Local legislators support creation of public power company

By Stephen Betts | Jun 02, 2021

Augusta — Local legislators are in support of a bill that would have the state take control of the state's power companies.

The Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee voted June 1 to recommend the full Legislature approve LD 1708 which would create the Pine Tree Power Company that would replace privately-owned Central Maine Power Co. and Versant Power.

A vote of the full Legislature has not been scheduled.

The company would be a non-profit, consumer owned utility controlled by an elected board which would provide electrical transmission and distribution services. The bill states the change would help the state meet its climate, energy and connectivity goals in the most rapid and affordable manner possible.

Before the takeover could occur, a statewide referendum would be held in November for voters to decide whether to proceed with the public power plan. The consumer-owned utility would then negotiate a purchase or take it and pay fair market value.

A public hearing was held May 20 with 167 pieces of testimony offered for and against the measure.

State Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, said he strongly supports the customer owned utility model. He said the bill was brought to the Energy Committee last session when he was a member of the panel.

"The for-profit companies that have been running our utilities have proven that they care less about Mainers and more about profits. They have allowed the reliability of our grid to deteriorate.

"More people are in the dark longer after a storm than ever before. They have failed to keep up with changing technology that would allow clean and renewable energy sources to be put online to serve Maine people. They have brought customer service to new lows and fight against efforts to make them accountable," Miramant said.

"The customer owned utility model is the kind of management of a resource that the utility laws were designed to accommodate: to manage a resource in the best interest of the people that it serves. We have plenty of examples here in Maine as well as in other parts of the country, where this model has hired the best people, increased grid reliability, improve customer service, and become a model for efficiency," he said.

Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, said she plans to vote for the bill.

"LD 1708 presents a choice for Maine to save money while investing in better service, fewer outages and a faster, fairer shift to clean energy. Nationwide, consumer-owned utilities now serve one in three households, and here in Maine our existing COUs serve 97 towns already.

"At present, our investor-owned utilities charge residential customers 58% more than COUs do and these funds could be used to improve our power delivery system and make energy more affordable. I've read the reports of energy economists and there is a path forward to create the Pine Tree Power Company and pay our investor-owned utilities a fair price with no tax money or state bonds. LD 1708 is a real solution to our energy problems," Doudera said.

Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, said, he would support the legislation.

"CMP now ranks last in the nation in reliability. This new model is not new actually, it borrows from President Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Administration efforts and the TVA, when scores of public power projects were brought online across the country.

"The idea that a company in Spain, which owns CMP,  would prioritize the interests of Maine people hasn't worked out so well. It's time for a change," Evangelos said.

Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, said she supports the bill.

Rep. Valli Geiger, D-Rockland, said she was undecided.

"While I do not know how I will vote on this huge piece of legislation, I am unswayed by CMP's millions of dollars spent to fear monger to their customers. I will either vote for a public utility or for significant reform of this behemoth, who is siphoning off billions of dollars of Maine people's money and providing poor service to boot," Geiger said.

"The utilities in Maine are a legislated monopoly with guaranteed profits and in return, must provided a level of service to justify that. An international corporation with no roots here seems not to understand the agreements in place that provide them this kind of profit," Geiger said.

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Comments (14)
Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Jun 05, 2021 23:09

"Hi Ho Silver, away .... Ke-mo sah-bee!"



Posted by: Dorinda Jacobs | Jun 05, 2021 14:55

Sooner or later your high horse will break a leg.



Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Jun 05, 2021 09:49

Stephen, I think I have made clear what I believe ... and no amount of word play about 'executive orders' (that, in my opinion, were abused to the benefit of one man ... not used for the people for 4 years) changes what I think. I voted to help change that. If you find this form of government is so repulsive ... why stay? Canada is just over the border. Better check though. Canada likely has an executive order system. I don't think Kim Jong or Pootie has one. I've heard that they have a different 'order' system.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jun 05, 2021 08:48

Crawford, by "authoritarian government" do you mean those where its leaders rule by decree or "executive order" rather than allowing its chosen representatives to pass laws favored by the people ?  Government "of the people, by the people and for the people".  Is that what you believe we have ?



Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Jun 04, 2021 11:22

Not an oversight Stephen. I served this government in the military and stand by it as one of the best and most democratic republics on Earth when under honest leadership. Anyone who doesn't believe in it might be better off moving to Russia or North Korea and living under an authoritarian government. It would be interesting to see how quickly one would disappear for posting anti-government comments like we can freely do here.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jun 04, 2021 08:13

Sorry Crawford was that an oversight or did you intend to put the words "honest" and "government" in the same sentence ?



Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Jun 03, 2021 08:59

Convert to customer ownership? YUP!!!! I'm for it!!!! The sooner the better. Especially now that we have a more honest government in power to alleviate the fear of a Trump Organization takeover of our utilities.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jun 03, 2021 08:03

Pleased to see so many comments opposing the Government takeover of a privately run utility.  On what planet does the Government do a better job running anything ?  This is just more socialism coming from Washington & Augusta from all the Democrats looking to "save the world".  Just look at the fine job the government did keeping us safe and our economy whole durring the pandemic.  We were energy independent, our borders were safe and protected and our economy was thriving.  Now we again depend on foreign oil, millions of illegals are flooding our borders and the only two going businesses are Amazon & Walmart.  Good job Dems... anything else you can help us with ?



Posted by: TOWN OF OWLS HEAD | Jun 03, 2021 06:25

If a willing buyer and  willing seller, fine. If the government is going to " take" a private business and their property not a good scenario.



Posted by: Jonathan J Beitler | Jun 02, 2021 22:01

Yes, Valerie, I live in Camden.

 

There are many countries that have confiscated(nationalized) foreign companies so that the government could run the enterprises. This has been particularly common in the Energy sector. Have you looked into Venezuela’s results after they nationalized oil?  Russia cannot get foreign companies to invest in oil exploration because Russia nationalized them. Mexico, Iran and Iraq are on the list of countries that nationalized oil. Do you believe that companies are more apt to invest in wind or solar power if the state government has a record of taking them over, perhaps for price of that government’s choosing?  If you or anyone believes they can run electricity distribution more efficiently, please make that case to the financial markets and fund a new company. Interests rates are still low.

 

I am in support of private competition, but do NOT support communism, where all property is publicly owned.



Posted by: Wyatt Anderson | Jun 02, 2021 18:01

I live in Rockland, and I agree with Jonathon. The government has yet to meet a good program that it couldn't screw up. As Ronald Reagan said "The nine scariest words in the english language are . I am from the government and I am here to help."



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jun 02, 2021 13:15

I think this is a very good idea.  I do not know a lot about consumer owed companies and how they work. The big wigs at CMP do not care about us folks trying to pay their outrages electric bill.  If someone knows about consumer owned businesses and how they work, I would be thankful if they could post it on here.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jun 02, 2021 13:10

Do you live in Maine Jonathan?

 



Posted by: Jonathan J Beitler | Jun 02, 2021 12:41

What the bill says is that government can run a company better than a private company. Is that really the message Maine wants to send?



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