Prominent conservation groups opposed Question 3 on the November ballot, highlighting the rift within Maine’s environmental community over the Pine Tree Power proposal.
The Conservation Law Foundation said the statewide consumer-owned electric utility proposal would create too much uncertainty at a time when Maine must move aggressively to address the climate crisis. . Specifically, CLF said protracted legal battles and high transition costs will delay investments in the grid needed to realize a “clean energy future.”
CLF, which is based in Boston and has offices in Maine, also said Pine Tree Power Company’s elected board of directors could be influenced by partisanship or paralyzed by politics. expressed concern.
Phelps Turner, senior attorney for the Maine group, said there are “serious and legitimate concerns” about the performance and reliability of Maine’s two largest power companies, Central Maine Power and Versant Power. But Phelps said it would be better to address these issues by strengthening and enforcing existing laws rather than forcing companies to sell to consumer-owned power companies, as proposed.
“We are not talking here about the status quo or business as usual,” Phelps said, adding, “We are talking about enforcing the laws that are on the books regarding public utility accountability. Because there are some deficiencies in it, but on the other hand it also includes expanding the scope of those laws and the implementation of those new laws. ”
If approved by voters, Question 3 would require CMP and Versant to sell all assets to a new nonprofit utility company that would then hire outside contractors to run the grid’s day-to-day operations. It will be. Supporters of Pine Tree Power say the new utility’s elected board members will be more responsive to customers than the current for-profit grid operator and will ultimately lower rates. It claims to save ratepayers up to $9 billion over 30 years. Benefits of tax exemptions and low-interest loans for infrastructure projects.
CMP and Versant are working hard to defeat this bill, spending more than 40 times as much as Pine Tree Power and its main campaign arm, Our Power. Both utilities say the deal could take up to 10 years to complete, cost up to $13.5 billion with no guarantees of higher rates or improved reliability.
In its analysis of the Pine Tree Power proposal, CLF said Maine would strengthen the Utility Accountability Act passed last year to meet benchmarks for affordability, transparency, and compliance with Maine’s climate change goals. He said it needs to be made mandatory. The group also said states should increase penalties for CMP and Versant if they fail to meet these metrics, and called for the creation of a permanent consumer advisory committee to increase transparency.
“Maine is at a critical juncture,” the report says. “The decisions we make today will determine how well we respond to the climate crisis in the coming years. Mainers are right to be frustrated with CMP and Versant. response will be unfairly hampered by uncertain outcomes and years of litigation that almost everyone agrees to if Question 3 passes.”
CLF issued its opposition to Question 3 two weeks after the Maine Natural Resources Council, the state’s largest environmental group, endorsed Pine Tree Power.
Unlike the Conservation Law Foundation, NRCM says the transition to consumer-owned utilities will help meet the state’s climate change goals in part by saving money that can be invested in “building the grid of the future.” He said it would be. The group said the move would restore local accountability from corporate boardrooms and improve public trust.
“Achieving bold climate change and clean energy goals will be difficult, but we believe they can and must be achieved in ways that maintain affordability,” NRCM said in its opinion on Question 3. ” he said. “It will take leadership, collaboration and a level of creativity that our IOUs (Investor-Owned Utilities) have repeatedly failed to bring to the table. There are no easy or simple solutions.”
The Sierra Club, 350 Maine, and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association are also asking for a “yes” vote on Question 3. But other groups have so far remained neutral on the issue.