It has come to this: Central Maine Power Co. has made a criminal of me. On Monday, I was arrested for the first time in my life, for seeking to shine sunlight on CMP’s lobbying against solar power (“Four pro-solar power protesters arrested at CMP Augusta headquarters,” Jan. 29.)

I did not take action lightly. As an attorney and as an engaged citizen, I consider respect for the rule of law among the highest of our shared values as an American people. And yet here I found myself so appalled by CMP’s actions that I was willing to break the law.

In the tradition of creative nonviolent direct action, about 30 of us, all CMP ratepayers, sought to undertake a Solar Counterlobby in CMP’s very own lobby, to point out CMP’s galling hypocrisy in claiming to support solar power while working behind the scenes to lobby against every solar bill that has been proposed in recent memory.

CMP’s lobby is normally open during regular business hours to ratepayers, who are free to walk in and state their business. Curiously, and no doubt related to the fact that we were transparent about our intended actions and did not seek to show up by surprise, we were informed by a security guard upon our arrival that the lobby just happened to be closed that day, although we were welcome to stand out in the gusty 22-degree temperatures in CMP’s parking lot. Instead of inviting us in to speak with one of their administrative team, or sending one of their representatives out to speak with us, CMP chose to shut its doors and eventually called the police when we approached the building. Four of us chose to stand our ground and were promptly arrested by a very courteous and professional Augusta Police Department.

I am not naïve. I know that money goes a long way in politics, and that CMP has been one of the most powerful institutions in our state for over 100 years. And just like any other for-profit corporation, CMP is looking to maximize its profits.

But CMP, don’t you dare claim to speak for me as one of your ratepayers when your lobbyists stand there during legislative hearings, or in $1,000-a-ticket private fundraising events, and oppose solar power. And don’t you dare distort the facts while you’re doing so, as state Sen. Tom Saviello, the Republican co-sponsor of the bill that sought to maintain solar power incentives, pointed out in a commentary in this newspaper last summer. To top it off, don’t you dare claim to support solar power, as your new president recently did in his third week on the job, while undermining broadly supported solar legislation repeatedly, year after year.


Ultimately, CMP is on the losing side of popular opinion and economics in opposing solar power. Next year, we will have a new governor, and most likely one who is not reflexively against bipartisan solutions to environmental and public health problems. CMP will no longer be able to hide behind the governor’s veto pen, and a far-reaching solar bill will pass.

Moreover, as the price of solar power continues to fall, CMP’s business model will require adaptation. CMP faces a strategic choice: It can continue to stand in the way of progress and fight for every last dollar of a shrinking pie, losing its credibility and respectability in the process. Or it can embrace solar power, as have other for-profit utilities such as Vermont’s Green Mountain Power. Flip the switch, CMP: Say yes to solar.

Monday’s charge against me and my fellow civil disobedients was criminal trespassing. This is an entirely fitting offense, as it mirrors the moral trespass that CMP has committed against the people of Maine, and it bespeaks the level of frustration and anger I feel.

And yet, I am motivated by much more than anger. I am a Quaker, and we believe in a concept called “holding in the Light,” which is similar to praying for someone or some concern, bringing divine energy to bear upon a deep problem. The challenge of climate change is one that we all must face, and increasingly so in the coming years.

On Monday, I sat in prayer in the back of the police car with my wrists handcuffed behind me, a newly born criminal. It was a strange moment of peace amidst the hubbub of the day, and tears came to my eyes as I held in the Light all of us (Mainers, the whole world, and yes, even CMP) as we seek a way forward in making a better world.

Rob Levin, of Portland, is one of the four people arrested Monday during a protest at Central Maine Power Co.’s Augusta headquarters.

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