Powering Strong Communities

Maine lawmakers pass amended bill that would create state consumer-owned utility

The Maine Legislature on June 30 voted in favor of a bill that would create a consumer-owned utility in the state called Pine Tree Power, casting a bipartisan 77-68 vote in the House to attach an amendment to the bill that they supported two weeks ago. The Maine Senate voted 18-15 to support the new package.

An amendment introduced June 30 revised the bill to require the Pine Tree Power Company to pay property taxes directly to Maine municipalities, while maintaining its nonprofit status. This replaced previous bill language requiring payments in lieu of taxes.

Maine Rep. Seth Berry, sponsor of L.D. 1708, said the amendment spoke directly to the top two concerns of Maine Gov. Janet Mills, and concerns voiced by some municipal leaders. “We are pleased that the revised language won back the support needed to send this to Governor Mills, and hope to win her support for our effort as well,” he said in a statement.

The bill now heads to Mills’ desk. If she signs the bill or allows 10 days to pass without either her signature or a veto, the bill will become law. This would put the question of consumer ownership of Maine’s grid on the ballot in November 2021.

If Mills chooses to veto the bill, “we will continue our campaign through a citizens’ initiative,” said Stephanie Clifford, campaign manager for Our Power, a group that supports the creation of a consumer-owned utility in the state.

“Petition gathering on such a citizen-initiated referendum would begin this summer and would likely put the question on the ballot in November 2022, the same day that Mills and all legislators are up for re-election,” she said.

The consumer-owned entity that would be created under the bill would take over the electric service now provided by Central Maine Power and Versant Power. Central Maine Power Company and Versant Power (formerly known as Emera Maine), are majority owned by Iberdrola of Spain and Emera of Canada, respectively.