The following op-ed was submitted to the Maine Wire by the Republican members of the Energy Committee and reflects the opinion of the authors:
In a few short weeks, Maine voters will head to the polls to vote on Question 3. While referendum questions can often be confusing and unclear, Question 3 is straightforward. This proposal asks Mainers one simple question: do you support the forced seizure of two private Maine companies to be replaced by a politician-run electric utility?
As members of the Energy Committee, our answer is NO.
If Question 3 passes, eminent domain will be used to force our private utility companies to sell their assets at fair market value to a newly formed quasi-governmental agency, the Pine Tree Power Company. There are plenty of unrealistic claims being made by the proponents of Pine Tree Power about reducing the cost of electricity, but the numbers just don’t pan out.
This proposal is estimated to cost ratepayers $13.5 billion dollars, and that’s just for the takeover. The whopping $13.5 billion dollar price tag doesn’t include legal fees for the inevitable long legal battle; start-up costs for merging the two companies; and maintenance costs for the polls and wires. Not to mention, once the politician-controlled Pine Tree Power entity is formed, they will still need to hire a private, for-profit contractor to operate the grid.
So, who are these politicians? Question 3 proposes a thirteen-member board, made-up of seven elected officials who appoint the remaining six individuals. Each politician would serve for six years, longer than any other state official. As bad an idea as this is, it keeps getting worse. What are the qualifications to run for this office? You need to be 21 years old; a legal Maine resident; and be a resident of your district for at least three months. That’s right, there are no professional requirements. Question 3 asks us to turn over our private electric utilities to a board, run by politicians who are funded by special interest groups, with no practical experience. Do we really want politicians making decisions about our electricity grid when they are motivated by re-election and whoever helped fund their campaigns?
Let’s be clear, Maine must do better. We have skyrocketing electricity costs that are burdening small businesses and families, especially those on fixed incomes. We hear from our constituents from Aroostook to York County about the anxiety they experience waiting for their electricity bill. We’ve all been hit hard by the increases. The cost of supplying power has gone up, over 120 percent since 2022. However, neither CMP or Versant generate or supply your power. They simply distribute it, and distribution rates did not go up in January. They’ve been made the false villains for this very real pain, but voters need to know Question 3 will only make matters worse.
So, what’s the answer? The Maine Legislature should focus on reforms that will reduce the supply portion of our electricity bills and keep government away from our electricity grid. We do not believe it’s a good idea to allow the government to seize private companies, to create a politician-run utility. On its face, it’s ridiculous to claim that politicians, funded by special interest groups, will run our electricity grid better than the private sector. When has the government ever run something more efficiently or cost-effectively than private business?
If you think this is a bad idea, don’t forget to vote! Polls will open in just a few days to allow citizens to vote in-person. Please, take the time to educate your friends and neighbors about the dangers of Question 3 and politician-controlled power.
Members of the Legislature’s Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology
Senator Matthew Harrington (R- Sanford)
Representative Steven Foster (R- Dexter)
Representative Larry Dunphy (R- Embden)
Representative Reagan Paul (R- Winterport)
Representative Mark Babin (R- Fort Fairfield)