Question 3 is an Act to Create the Pine Tree Power Company, a nonprofit customer-owned utility. It would force CMP and Versant to sell their assets to a new public power authority, Pine Tree Power, through eminent domain. CMP and Versant are private companies, not currently for sale,
The estimated cost to ratepayers is $13.5 billion. This would allow Pine Tree Power to purchase and acquire all investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities in Maine. Per the Office of Public Advocate, Pine Tree Power would be exempt from paying the $13 million in federal income taxes and $3.4 million state income taxes now paid by CMP and Versant.
On July 21, 2023, Senator Matthew Harrington, who represents Maine District 33 (Sanford, Waterboro, Alfred, and Lebanon), came out against Question 3 in a Letter to the Editor of The York Weekly. Senator Harrington, who is a member of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, states that he has spent a lot of time studying this issue. He says that this proposal would only increase burdensome costs for folks who can least afford it. He suggests that this is a risky plan that will be litigated for years before any real solution is put in place and that we may need to cut many needed government services to pay the $13.5 billion price tag. The Maine Affordable Energy Coalition echoes this concern, saying that the creation of the utility that would replace investor-owned utilities would be costly. The coalition said: “A scheme to seize Maine’s electric grid by eminent domain would create a government-controlled utility – and we would all be on the hook for the cost. The debt that comes with taking over the utilities – an estimated $13.5 billion – is three times the entire state budget. And it would take Maine citizens decades to pay off that debt through our electric bills.”
GOVERNOR MILLS agrees with this concern. In her September 20th, 2023 radio address, she came out in opposition to this initiative, listing the $13.5B cost as a major concern. According to Mills, the Office of the Public Advocate has said there is no guarantee that the price of electricity would come down in the long run under Question 3. In fact, in the short term, it is likely to go up. Mills also stated, “Because Question 3 is a hostile take-over of our utilities with eminent domain, we are guaranteed to go to court and be tied up in litigation for years, if not decades. That leaves our utilities in a dangerous state of limbo when we can least afford it. It also threatens to set back the progress we are making in modernizing the electric grid to achieve clean energy goals and address climate change.”
Mills further stated, “The stakes are high. And if you have doubts as I do, let’s not gamble with Maine’s future –
PLEASE VOTE NO ON QUESTION 3.”
Long Island Experience
When the new state-authorized Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), finally got through all the legal battles and bureaucracy it took 13 years at a cost of $6.7 billion. That was in 1998. Since then, LIPA has gone billions of dollars into debt. Its customers’ bills keep going up and it’s been the subject of multiple investigations for poorly managing the electric grid.
LIPA is the only example of a large, publicly owned – privately operated utility in the entire US. If only they had known that with LIPA: (1) Monthly residential bills would jump by 50% in the first few years and the price of a kilowatt hour would be nearly double today – contradicting promises of lower rates. (2) 25 years later they would be $9 billion in debt, including $260 million to finally fund employee pensions and benefits – an obligation LIPA denied for the previous 10+ years. (3) 400,000 customers would be left without power for a week during the pandemic. An investigation revealed a total failure of communications and outage management systems.
Now, after more than 25 years of unsatisfactory management, New York State wants to restructure LIPA, again, so it is completely controlled by the Government.
A YES vote supports creating the costly Pine Tree Power Company, governed by an elected board, which must contract with a private company to operate the utility.
A NO vote supports availability of a reliable and affordable electrical power supply in Maine by opposing government takeover of CMP and Versant.