climate change | decarbonization | energy economics | renewable energy

Statement by Senator Rick Bennett (R-Oxford)

Maine is largely a rural state. The people of rural Maine — those I represent — depend on electricity more than ever. In western Maine, our future depends on jobs and small businesses that rely on the poles and lines that bring us power and internet services too.

Electricity is essential to Maine homes and businesses, and it is becoming more important every day. In addition to running lights and appliances in homes, and machinery in factories, we are increasingly dependent on electricity for communicating, working, learning, and recreating online, as well as heating with heat pumps, charging vehicles, and more. 

The reality is that we are driving toward a carbon-neutral, electricity-powered economy.  And those owning and operating our electric utility monopolies in Maine have been happy collecting ratepayer checks while ignoring the future.

Right now, foreign governments and foreign corporations own Maine’s major electric utility monopolies – CMP and Versant. This ownership model has been a disaster, draining money from Maine while leaving us with the most outages, the longest outages, the worst customer service, and among the highest rates in the country.

I believe Maine people deserve the right to self-determination and the Pine Tree Power company will provide just that, by serving Maine people instead of distant company shareholders in foreign lands.

Right now, foreign corporations and stockholders rake in billions of dollars from Maine, while we are left in the dark ages, with inadequate infrastructure to serve us today, never mind tomorrow.

Pine Tree Power will be a consumer-owned non-profit, operated in the private sector, managed on behalf of Mainers, and accountable only to us.

To make needed investments, Pine Tree Power will be able to float its own bonds at extremely low interest rates, and no need for profit. It will not use state bonds or state tax dollars.

Long ago, CMP was a company that served Maine, but not any more. Spanish energy giant Iberdrola bought CMP’s parent company in 2008, and then reorganized its U.S. holdings under an investor-owned, publicly-traded company headquartered in Connecticut. All CMP profits go to those investors. Versant is wholly owned by the City of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, sending all of its profits there.

Maine deserves a utility that puts Maine people and local, small businesses first, not profits for big trans-national corporations. We need a utility that serves the people, not itself. We deserve infrastructure to serve us well now, and in the coming decades, that will allow rural Maine to prosper. That’s why I support working together to create the Pine Tree Power Company, our best shot to achieve lower cost, reliable power, under local control – managed on behalf of Mainers and accountable only to us.

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