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Gov. Mills urges Mainers to vote against Pine Tree Power, declaring formal stance ahead of election

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Gov. Mills urges Mainers to vote against Pine Tree Power, declaring formal stance ahead of election

Sep 20, 2023 | 10:36 am ET
By Emma Davis
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Gov. Mills urges Mainers to vote against Pine Tree Power, declaring formal stance ahead of election
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Gov. Janet Mills gives her inaugural address at the Augusta Civic Center after being sworn in for a second term. (Jim Neuger, Maine Morning Star)

Gov. Janet Mills urged Mainers on Wednesday to vote against a proposal to create a statewide consumer-owned utility, the Pine Tree Power Company, announcing her formal stance on the question that will be one of several on November’s ballot. 

Question 3 asks Mainers whether to initiate a public takeover of the state’s two investor-owned utilities, Central Maine Power and Versant, which together service more than 96% of Maine’s electric demand.

In a radio address, the governor said her top concerns are cost, structure and setbacks. 

Regarding cost, she questioned whether the change would lead to lower electricity costs and said the switch could cost Maine people as much as $13.5 billion in borrowed money, echoing the figure shared by the campaign’s opponents. The cost has been heavily debated by the two sides and will ultimately be decided in court.

Regarding structure, Mills raised concern about the proposed governing board that would be elected to contract with an operator that has “familiarity with the systems to be administered.” Mills views this structure as “adding a layer of bureaucracy.” Regarding setbacks, Mills referenced court battles that would likely ensue if Pine Tree Power takes over service, which she warned could stall progress on modernizing Maine’s electric grid.

Proponents of Pine Tree Power argue that a consumer-owned model would shift power and resources back to energy customers, opposed to the current investor-owned model, which serves shareholders.

While Wednesday’s address marks a more formal position by Mills on Question 3, her opposition is not new. The governor vetoed a legislative proposal to create a consumer-owned utility in 2021.