I have deep roots in Maine. I grew up in Maine. I serve my hometown in the Maine Legislature. No matter where you stand on Pine Tree Power, it’s not often a controversial statement to say that Central Maine Power and Versant Power aren’t doing a good job for the people of Maine. Question 3 simply asks whether Mainers want to continue with CMP and Versant, or whether we want a nonprofit, publicly owned utility. 

I ran for office to fight climate change, and I support Question 3 because I believe consumer ownership is essential to securing an affordable and reliable grid in our clean energy transition. The Natural Resources Council of Maine endorsed Pine Tree Power, as did the Sierra Club, Maine Youth for Climate Justice, 350 Maine and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

As NRCM said in its endorsement of Question 3, our clean energy transition “… will require leadership, collaboration, and creativity at a level our IOUs (investor-owned utilities) have failed to bring time and time again.”

These Maine-based environmental and climate advocacy groups support Question 3 because they recognize that transitioning to a consumer-owned utility can help Maine meet its climate objectives. This transition can save money that can then be reinvested in building a modern, clean energy grid, while fostering public trust by transferring control from international companies to local, publicly accountable leadership.

The two most common comments I hear in my community and as a member of Maine’s Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Technology concern high rates and poor reliability. CMP and Versant have had more than enough time, money and resources to make meaningful improvements. Instead, they’ve profited at the expense of hardworking Mainers. As a legislator and as a Maine resident, I have seen the same pattern of behavior, mismanagement and poor priorities.

The nonprofit model of consumer-owned utilities mean they qualify for different financing opportunities, different models of regulation, from lower-cost to tax-exempt debt, even publicly supported storm repairs. These utilities don’t pay profits to anybody, so their rates are lower than those of their investor-owned neighbors and their investment choices are not dependent on what will create the greatest profits on their investment. 

And it certainly seems CMP and Versant have made quite a significant profit off Mainers with the way they’re using money this election cycle; the campaign opposing Question 3 has spent more than 40 times as much as the Pine Tree Power campaign this year.

Certainly those profits aren’t going toward making our rates more affordable or ensuring more reliable energy. Mainers pay some of the highest energy costs in the country. At the same time, CMP and Versant consistently rank among the least reliable utilities in the nation while Maine residents bear some of the highest utility costs in the country.

The reason nonprofits are a reasonable and common structure for utility ownership are their greater likelihood to produce lower costs and greater reliability across the country when compared to their for-profit counterparts. There are 10 right here in the state of Maine and they are just a few proof-positive examples right here among our own communities that Question 3 is a real solution to very real problems.

For Maine people, for our ratepayers, and to meet our ambitious climate goals, I ask for you to vote “yes” on Question 3, for a brighter Maine future.

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