Maine Affordable Energy Coalition


Even government power advocates give up on use of misleading term

May 3, 2023
For immediate release
Contact: Willy Ritch 207-841-8400|[email protected]

In issuing new language today that will appear on the November ballot to describe the Pine Tree Power referendum, Maine’s Secretary of State once again declined to use the term “consumer-owned” to describe the proposal. The language she released today reads:

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

This marks the second time the Secretary of State has left the phrase out of the ballot question, in addition to a pair of court rulings in which the language was also rejected. Even Pine Tree Power proponents, who had lobbied for inclusion of the term on the ballot and sued when it wasn’t included, gave up on the term in their most recent court filings.

In issuing the new ballot language today, the Secretary of State made it clear she was rejecting the use of the term once again. In a letter accompanying her decision, she wrote “For all the reasons set forth in my original decision, along with added skepticism supplied by the Law Court…I decline to use the phrase ‘consumer-owned.’”

Here’s a quick rundown of the failed attempts to get “consumer-owned” adopted:

Last winter during the official public comment period, Pine Tree Power supporters organized a campaign to try and convince the Secretary of State to use “consumer-owned” in writing the ballot question describing Pine Tree Power’s takeover of Maine’s electric grid. The term was rejected at the time and instead the official language read, in part:

Do you want to create a new quasi-governmental power company…?

Pine Tree Power proponents then sued the Secretary of State and asked that the question be changed to describe the company as “consumer-owned.” Although a Superior Court judge ruled that the “quasi” in “quasi-governmental” was confusing and it should be rewritten, she turned down the request to call it “consumer-owned.”

Last month the Maine Supreme Court confirmed the lower court ruling—that “quasi-governmental” was confusing and it should be rewritten. Importantly, the state’s highest court also made it clear that “consumer-owned” does not accurately describe the Pine Tree Power proposal.

The State Supreme Court, in their decision, wrote that “the [Superior] court declined [Pine Tree Power’s] request that it modify the question to use the term “consumer-owned.” And after losing on the question at the Superior Court level, Pine Tree Power “does not maintain on appeal (the) argument that the ballot question should incorporate the term ‘consumer-owned’ instead of the term ‘quasi-governmental,’ and we deem that argument withdrawn.”

In other words, despite their success in convincing the courts to force a rewrite of the ballot question language Pine Tree Power lost their bid (and finally gave up their legal efforts) to get the misleading term included in the official language describing the referendum.