80,000 signatures in favor of replacing CMP, Versant submitted to Secretary of State

Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Boxes filled with more than 80,000 signatures were submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office Monday morning.

“That is 80,000 Maine people who are tired of being abused by our state’s two for profit monopoly utilities, CMP and Versant,” said Andrew Blunt, executive Director of Our Power.

The Our Power coalition gathered at the State House in Augusta to celebrate the end of their signature campaign to get a measure on the ballot asking Mainers if they want to replace CMP and Versant with a consumer owned utility called Pine Tree Power.

Waterville resident Linda Woods collected signatures in Waterville and at the Skowhegan State Fair.

“Collecting signatures was easy, but listening to people’s horror stories was heartbreaking,” Woods said.

Horror stories they said include high electricity bills Mainers can’t afford leaving them without power for several days. Woods said what’s worse is that the two major electricity companies are foreign owned.

“Reminder, CMP is owned by the government of Spain, Norway, and Qatar, and Versant is completely owned by Canada. it is time for Maine residents to control our electricity company,” she said.

But, while Dick Rogers, who worked for Central Maine Powers for 40 years, shares in concerns with Mainers about the rising cost of electricity, he said it is more of a supply issue.

“Lets look at where the cost has risen most, the supply side. CMP only services, we just fix the lines, put the wires up. That’s what Central Maine Power and Versant do. The supply side, which was taken away from utilities back in the late 90s by the legislature, is off on its own. They can charge what they want,” Rogers said.

He also said the Our Power coalition is going about it the wrong way which will result in Mainers paying even more due to the estimated $13.5 billion cost for buying the two utilities.

“All that money could have been spent on infrastructure with capital improvements to reduce the number of outages and the duration between the outages rather then waste it on this effort,” he said.

The Our Powers coalition said that amount is exaggerated by more than double. they say it is still doable.

“We have tens of billions of dollars that we have to put in our grid to handle the move we are making towards distributed generations such as solar and wind,” Former CEO of Insource Renewables, Vaughan Woodruff said.

Still, Woodruff says it would be an investment in Maine.

“What the consumer owned model would do is allow us to do is instead of figuring out how to police the utilities, it gives us the ability to forward plan so that we can make those strategic investments that benefits the customers and not the shareholders of the companies,” he said.

Opponents countered by announcing they had signatures for their own referendum targeting what they called a seizure of utilities that could increase, not reduce, electric rates.

That proposal would require public approval of debts over $1 billion — effectively requiring an extra vote to take on debt to buy the utilities.