On Friday, Maine’s Energy, Utilities, and Technology committee voted 8-1 to amend a bill that would allow for the state takeover of Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant Power.
The bill, LD 1646, originally aimed to create a consumer-owned public utility––the Maine Power Delivery Authority––by acquiring the assets and operations of Maine’s two private power companies.
The amended version of the bill, which was sent to the full Legislature, calls for the creation of a Consumer Ownership Evaluation Task Force to study the possibility of the state takeover of CMP and Versant Power.
The 13-person task force, made up of nine voting members from the energy, finance, engineering and labor relations fields and four non-voting members from the Legislature, would also be responsible for creating a transition plan and business plan for the new public utility, if it decides it is beneficial to move forward. Recommendations would be sent to the Legislature in November 2021.
Rep. Seth Berry D-Bowdoinham, who sponsored LD 1646, also pushed for its amendment.
“I propose that we do not commit to going forward, just yet, with a consumer-owned utility,” Berry said.
CMP responded to the committee’s proposal, expressing disappointment in the lack of public hearings on the amendment.
“CMP is committed to open and transparent communications with public policymakers, but is disappointed that the committee provided no opportunity to be heard on their brand new bill before voting on a proposal which is meant to be the first step in a takeover of the electric system at an enormous cost,” CMP Executive Chairman David Flanagan.
Proponents of the original bill say it will bring benefits to the consumer and Maine’s economy; however, the cost to seize assets from CMP and Versant Power is estimated at upwards of $4 billion. Electricity ratepayers would be responsible for paying the bonds used to buy the companies’ assets as well as the interest it accrues.
Moreover, ratepayers would assume all operational and financial risk under the public utility, whereas ratepayers and investors share the risk with investor-owned utilities.