AUGUSTA – Lawmakers are looking to conduct a study after a state representative brought forward the idea for the state to take over ownership of Central Maine Power (CMP) and Emera Maine.
The bill was brought forward by Rep. Seth Berry, D – Bowdoinham.
He said Mainers no longer trust their power companies, due to what he said are some of the highest rates in the nation and low reliability.
“We need a consumer owned utility that we control,” said Rep. Berry, “that serves the people and not foreign shareholders in other countries.”
Not surprisingly, CMP and Emera representatives said they are against the bill.
Emera Maine officials, among other things, pointed to litigation costs for taxpayers in their testimony. And CMP reps said delivering energy is a complex industry.
“What this bill does is it suggests eliminating 500 jobs in Maine – in other words all the expertise it takes to engineer a system, plan a system, design and maintain a system,” said Catherine Hartnett, the manager of corporate communications at Avangrid and a spokesperson for CMP.
According to Rep. Berry, the proposed system would use revenue bonds like those used by the Maine Turnpike Authority to pay for the acquisition, and that eventually, Mainers would see lower rates.
“If we can lower our interest rates and pay three percent instead of thirteen percent, which is what we pay Central Maine Power right now in our rates, then we’re going to be a lot better off,” said Rep. Berry.
But some in the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee said they’re opposed to the bill right now, and that it’s something to be left to the private sector.
“The state is going to have to try to buy something that isn’t for sale,” said Rep. Jeff Hanley, R – Pittston. “We have oversight of utilities by law. We can control them, so there’s no need for us to have ownership of them.”
Rep. Berry said the next step is to form a task force to meet later this year made up of lawmakers and stakeholders from impacted communities to work out details.
With the task force still to be worked out, lawmakers said they intend to move work on the public utility bill itself to the next legislative session, which means a vote wouldn’t happen until at least next year.