For several years I was afforded quite the opportunity to peer inside Central Maine Power Co., its parent company Avangrid, and Hydro Quebec, as they together sought to create the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) corridor. Perhaps because of this, a number of friends have asked how I plan to vote on Question 3, Pine Tree Power. After much thought, I plan to vote “no” on Question 3.

Some economist friends have argued in this space that a public power authority’s cost of borrowing in the bond market will be a substantial cost saver for it and its customers, and so they support Question 3. This may well prove true, but only if — and this is a big if — Pine Tree Power proves itself competent, effective and trustworthy. Otherwise, I think of no good and compelling reason to vote in favor of this long and complex ballot proposal.

1. Large organizations are not at their best in uncertain and prolonged environments. If the five-year battle over NECEC is an indicator, we may fully expect the legal battles surrounding Question 3 to create at least a decade of frustration and debilitating uncertainty.

2. Meanwhile, CMP and Avangrid appear to have learned some lessons from the past five years’ experience with NECEC, and are today delivering the kind of service one would hope for from them. Their response to recent storms has been immediate and effective; the current leadership ought not be punished for the sins of those responsible for the disastrous electronic billing snafu of the past.

3. Climate change cannot and will not be addressed effectively without the benefit of massive private investment. Surely, Avangrid with its global holdings will be better able to supply this capital than Pine Tree Power, at a cost to the ratepayers.

4. Unless carefully regulated, monopolies do not well serve the public interest. Pine Tree Power would substitute a single monopoly for most all of Maine, where now there are two, with a single, publicly elected board of directors. If we would have a board of directors with demonstrated and longstanding commitment to the public good, why not just have the utilities produce evidence of such commitment to the PUC, at the time of appointment to the boards.

5. If established, the public power board will need to hire some third-party organization to perform its power distribution functions. What is to assure us that this organization will be highly responsible and effective, any more than CMP now appears to be becoming?

6. The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) does quite a good job of holding our public utilities to account, and only gained public credibility from its performance throughout the NECEC proceedings. At the direction of the Legislature, the PUC has recently established new performance measures for CMP (and Versant). Eight measures of system reliability, customer service, and billing that meet industry standards will be reported to the PUC annually. Every violation of these metrics will occasion a fine of up to $1 million, at the PUC’s discretion.

7. In all, while Pine Tree Power may sound appealing in theory, it is a shot in the dark, pie-the-sky, a crap-shoot, an act of faith as well as of continuing retribution against CMP for its past sins.

8. Finally, there is the matter of using the initiated referendum process to make Maine law. This should be done only rarely, in the most compelling of cases, as it puts passion, money and TV commercials in charge of our lawmaking. Its frequent use in Maine today would, I’m sure, profoundly offend the Founders. It effectively denies their belief in reason and principled compromise as the only proper basis for good and lasting law in a representative democracy.

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