Maine Affordable Energy Coalition


Court calls Pine Tree Power “governmental in nature”

April 10, 2023
For immediate release
Contact: Willy Ritch 207-841-8400

In an opinion released today, the Maine Supreme Court asked Maine’s Secretary of State to rewrite the language Mainers will see when they vote this November on a proposal to seize the state’s electric grid and create a state power authority run by elected officials. The case revolves around a lawsuit filed by the Pine Tree Power campaign—the second they filed this year against state officials—that attempted to force the use of the term “consumer-owned” to describe their proposal. Although the ballot question issued by the Secretary of State will now have to be rewritten, the Supreme Court Justices clearly rejected the idea that the proposal is “consumer-owned” and lists the many ways Pine Tree Power would be “governmental in nature” and has “substantial governmental attributes.”

The Pine Tree Power campaign has tried to describe their proposal as “consumer-owned” and “non-profit,” but the actual proposal calls for a state power authority run by elected officials who would take over the privately owned electric utilities and hire a for-profit contractor to operate the state’s power grid. In their decision, the court lists at least 16 ways in which the proposal would create a utility that is “governmental in nature.”

“The ruling from the Supreme Court is clear on two points,” said Willy Ritch, executive director of Maine Affordable Energy. “Pine Tree Power would not be consumer owned and it would walk, talk and act like a governmental entity. It appears the court just didn’t like the word ‘quasi’”

The language released by the Secretary of State read:

Do you want to create a new quasi-governmental power company governed by an elected board to acquire and operate existing for-profit electricity transmission and distribution facilities in Maine?

This was the second time this year that Pine Tree Power proponents filed a lawsuit against the State of Maine. A month ago, a judge rejected a lawsuit that attempted to block a separate referendum—No Blank Checks—that would require voter approval for any new government debt of over $1 billion.

“Pine Tree Power has already sued the people of Maine twice, and we haven’t even had a vote on their government power proposal yet,” Ritch said. “First they tried to keep voters from having a say on taking on billions of dollars in debt, and then they sued in an attempt to mislead us about the true nature of their proposal. This seems like a taste of what we can expect if they take over the electric grid—lawsuits and partisan politics.”

A copy of the decision can be found here.