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Plan to replace Maine’s private utilities moves forward

June 1, 2021 GMT

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A Maine legislative committee voted Tuesday in favor of a proposal to replace a pair of power companies with a consumer-owned electric utility.

The proposal by Democratic Rep. Seth Berry would create an independent nonprofit organization called Pine Tree Power Company to replace utilities Central Maine Power and Versant. The Maine Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee voted 9-2 in favor of the proposal.

Supporters of the proposal, including Berry, have said Maine suffers the worst and longest outages in the country and also has the 10th highest rates in the U.S. Berry said the creation of Pine Tree Power would “allow us to control our own money and our own energy destiny.”

Pine Tree Power would have an elected board and private sector operations, Berry said. The proposal would allow Maine residents to vote to create the nonprofit.

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The utilities have pushed back at the proposal. Versant president John Flynn testified the move would disrupt the company’s work to fight climate change.

“The idea that the government may force the divestiture of Maine’s two privately owned transmission and distribution utilities is perhaps the single largest variable in terms of disruption to that progress,” he wrote.

The proposal would need votes before the full Legislature.