Youth activists support creation of consumer owned electrical utility

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 5:51 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) -Youth activists from high schools and colleges around the state gathered outside the State House Thursday in support of the bipartisan bill to create a consumer owned electric utility that would replace CMP and Versant.

”With a consumer owned utility, Maine people like you and I will have the power to control our future” said Louise Chaplin a rising sophmore at the University of Maine.

Members of Maine Youth for Climate Justice (MYCJ) along with other students voiced their support for LD 1708, An Act to Create the Pine Tree Power Company.

“A consumer-owned utility does not mean government control or corporate control.” said Ania Wright, a member of MYCJ. “It means consumer control. It means you and me having power over our grid.”

Representative Nathan Carlow (R - Buxton) is the youngest member of the House, and a co-sponsor of the bill. “Investor owned utilities are no longer meeting the needs of the Maine people, and they haven’t been for quite sometime.”

Supporters of the bill say it will save money, but a major concern for the activists is the ability to prioritize clean, renewable energy.

“The climate crisis is at our doorsteps, when was the last time you had 90 degree weather for a week in June?” asked Wright.

“The investors who own our energy grid have no stake in how the climate crisis will affect Maine’s environment, economy, and future.” said Chaplin. “I have a stake, you have a stake, this will affect us firsthand.”

Opponents of the bill urge caution, arguing the alleged benefits may not come to pass. Willy Ritch, a spokesperson for CMP-backed Maine Affordable Energy, said in a statement...

“If this government power bill passes it will be a disaster for our efforts to fight climate change. In every other place around the country where the government has attempted to seize private utilities, it was tied up in bureaucratic and legal fights for a decade or more. We need to make upgrades to our grid now to make it possible to connect more renewable energy, and if the state is tied up in legal battles for 10 or 15 years, those upgrades just aren’t going to happen. The enemy is climate change, not the utilities, and we can’t afford to waste time tied up in court.”

Opponents also say the takeover would be prohibitively expensive, saddling Mainers with billions in debt, forcing rates to go up instead of down.

Supporters say the takeover is vital to the future of the state.

“Our grid is critical infrastructure.” said Representative Carlow. “It is absolutely necessary that we the Maine people own it and control it.”

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