Governor Urges Legislature to Further Consider Consumer Owned Utility

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Governor Janet T. Mills the First Woman Governor of Maine.

Governor Janet T. Mills, the first woman Governor of Maine, today vetoed LD 1708, An Act to Create the Pine Tree Company.  In her veto message, the Governor called the recent performance of Maine’s utilities “abysmal” and that “it may well be that time has come for the people of the State of Maine to retake control over the utility assets,” but she raised several outstanding concerns about the substance of the bill, noting that those concerns combined with a rushed legislation process could create more problems than the bill solves.

Given the far-reaching implications of the proposal on every Maine citizen, the Governor urged the Legislature to slow down, further consider the imports of such a measure, and address outstanding concerns through a robust public process.

In her veto, message, the Governor raised substantive concerns about the bill, including its governance structure, financing mechanisms, wording of the ballot measure, potential for protracted litigation, the manner in which the new authority would be regulated and likely delays in the attainment of the State’s climate goals.  She noted the rushed nature of the legislature process, including last-minute amendments that did not undergo a thorough vetting through the Legislature that allowed for robust pubic input and feedback.

The Governor also noted that businesses, various organizations and community leaders across Maine have expressed concerns about the proposal.  Bath Iron Works, one of the state’s largest employers, opposed the bill, along with IBEW local 567, an electrical union.  Mayors from several Maine communities – Auburn, Lewiston, Augusta, Saco, Biddeford, Westbrook and Gardiner – all also oppose the bill.

“It may well be that the time has come for the people of the State of Maine to retake control over the assets on which they depend for the lifeblood of our communities, that is, our electric transmission and distribution services.  And there may be a way to create a utility with a professional governing board that is clearly eligible to issue low-interest, tax exempt bonds that would save ratepayers money, achieve better connectivity with solar and other renewables and further the goals of this Administration,” wrote Governor Mills.  But L. D. 1708, hastily drafted and hastily amended in recent weeks without robust public participation is a patchwork of political promises, rather than a methodical reformation of Maine’s complicated electrical transmission and distribution system.”

(mhn.com is wondering if Mayor Kate of Portland has an opinion on the subject as do mayors of other cities in Maine referred to above)

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