A group opposing a citizen initiative to create a publicly-owned power company has submitted signatures calling for a competing ballot measure, likely setting the stage for dueling referendum questions in November 2023.

No Blank Checks, a group backed by Central Maine Power Co.’s parent company, submitted a petition to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office on Tuesday calling for a ballot measure that would require any consumer-owned utility to receive voter approval before taking on more than $1 billion of debt.

That proposal is in response to an initiative spearheaded by Our Power to create a new consumer-owned nonprofit utility called Pine Tree Power Co. Our Power’s plan to create a new utility would force Central Maine Power and Versant to sell their assets to Pine Tree Power.

Our Power submitted its petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office in October and the office certified the signatures in November.

The Secretary of State’s Office has 30 days from the date of submission – until Jan. 26 – to confirm that No Blank Checks’ petition has enough valid signatures – at least 67,682. No Blank Checks submitted around 93,000 signatures.

If both initiatives are approved by voters in November, No Blank Check’s initiative could complicate Our Power’s plan to create a consumer-owned utility by requiring voters to also approve borrowing the specific amount of money required to take over the utilities.

Our Power’s proposed utility would be controlled by a 13-member board with daily operations contracted out to a private company.

The effort to create a customer-owned utility follows years of frustration with Central Maine Power and Versant over power outages and increasing rates. Our Power says switching to a consumer-owned utility would make electricity more affordable for Mainers. No Blank Checks says a public takeover of Central Maine Power and Versant would be time consuming and costly.

Avangrid Inc., CMP’s parent company, has spent over $10 million campaigning against the creation of a consumer-owned utility. Our Power has received more than $500,000 in contributions.

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