Pine Tree Power is a risk Mainers can't afford

Governor Janet Mills is as worried as we are about Pine Tree Power. She said,Electing people only injects a level of politics and partisanship into the delivery of our electricity.”

About its $13.5 billion price tag, she said “The cost alone leaves me very concerned that we are proposing to mortgage the future of our children who are going to have to foot this bill years down the road.”

Her conclusion: “Let’s not gamble with Maine’s future please vote no on Question 3.”

The Maine Affordable Energy Coalition joins Governor Mills in opposing Question 3. The Coalition includes labor groups such as as the Maine AFL-CIO and the IBEW, business groups like the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Water Utilities Association, the Maine Water Environment Association, 140 individual businesses, 81 former legislators form both sides of the aisle, and over 12,000 individual Mainers.


Electric Bills, Taxes Or Services 

A government takeover of this size has never been attempted before. But one thing we know: Mainers will be on the hook for Pine Tree Power’s huge $13.5 billion debt if Question 3 passes.

One way or another we’ll have to pay back these billions plus interest along with all of the other costs. It could be through higher electric bills, taxes or even cuts to critical services and programs so many rely on.

In fact, a Maine Public Utilities Commission report indicated we should expect our electric rates to increase over the first ten years. It also concluded that the proposal could increase taxes and/or result in a reduction in government services due to lower state tax revenues collected from CMP and Versant.

Keep in mind that right now, Central Maine Power and Versant Power pay $90 million in annual property taxes that help fund schools, healthcare, and public safety. Those communities could risk losing this revenue because in Augusta nothing is ever set in stone.

If electric rates are too high and cuts have to be made, Pine Tree Power’s rules can always be changed by an act of the Maine Legislature. That’s the reason several Maine mayors opposed legislation similar to Question 3 in 2021.

Under Pine Tree Power, the only thing guaranteed is uncertainty.


No Plan for Grid Reliability or Climate Change

Question 3 does not include a plan to improve reliability or service, and it certainly does not offer a plan to strengthen the grid for electrification. In fact, Pine Tree Power offers no plan at all.

Drawn out legal battles, political agendas and lack of investments could cause significant harm to the future of our electric grid. We could see significant delays in implementing Maine’s aggressive climate plan, a halt to upgrades and new investments, and the loss of billions in funds for modernization.

The time to act on climate change is now, and Maine is acting. We already get over 70% of our electricity from renewable sources, and we have more solar projects in the works than the rest of the country combined. The hostile takeover of CMP and Versant proposed in Question 3 would bog us down in bureaucratic processes for years.

When Boulder abandoned an expensive takeover attempt after ten years, its citizens found their ambitious climate goals set back a decade. The former Boulder mayor and current executive director of the Colorado Energy Office now calls those takeover efforts, which he supported at the time, a mistake:

“…I’ve become convinced that pursuing the muni [i.e., municipal takeover of a utility] does not help to move our clean energy goals forward…We need to be acting on climate change now. Our existential crisis is climate change, not utility business models.”


Pine Tree Power will not own electric generation; however, as we build more sources of electricity, we need a modernized and resilient grid to move electricity to where it needs to go. CMP alone has invested $3 billion over the past decade to improve Maine’s power grid and meet renewable energy goals.

It’s also important to remember: any future investments would be paid for by Maine’s ratepayers and managed by politicians under Pine Tree Power.


An Unknown For-Profit Company

Question 3 requires Pine Tree Power hire a private, for-profit company to run the day-to-day operations of the government-controlled grid (Sec. 12. 35-A MRSA c. 40, §4003 (3)). The estimated cost? $82 million per year. Most likely, it will be an out-of-state company unfamiliar with Maine, its geography and our weather.

Long Island and Puerto Rico are the only utilities in the nation to use this model and their results have been abysmal. One of New York State’s investigations found “structural dysfunction and blatant disrespect for ratepayers.”

A recently enacted New York law describes Long Island’s experience with its government utility and private operator, Long Island Power Authority: 

“This model has repeatedly failed its customers. There has been a lack of transparency, oversight, and accountability. This failure has been most dramatically evidenced in the unacceptable storm response by LIPA and its third-party contractors during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Tropical Storm Isaias in 2020.”


And here’s what Puerto Rico’s think tank, the Center for a New Economy, has to say about its public-private partnership:

“Rate increases, widespread outages, and generally unreliable service have combined to generate street protests as well as calls by politicians, artists, and other stakeholders for the government of Puerto Rico to cancel or terminate the public-private partnership agreement with LUMA Energy for the operation of the island’s electric grid.”

History makes it clear. A government takeover of private utilities is a long, drawn-out process:

It took 13 years – and $6.7 billion of debt – to finalize the state-authorized takeover of Long Island’s electric utility company, which willingly sold its assets. That debt now stands at $9 billion including $260 million to finally fund employee pensions and benefits.

Legal battles cost the city of Boulder, CO $29 million over ten years before voters finally gave up on their attempt to seize the local utility there. During that period, neighboring communities made far greater advances toward clean energy by partnering with the existing privately-owned utility.