A bill to address rising delivery costs in Mainers’ electric bills earned the green light from the Legislative Council on Thursday.

The 7-3 vote came on the heels of a devastating wind storm that resulted in the highest number of power outages in Maine history.

“Today’s bipartisan vote shows the Legislature is ready to talk about the elephant in our electricity bill: Rising, runaway delivery costs paid to powerful, out-of-state interests,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham. “The first step in solving a problem is admitting we have one. Today we took that crucial first step.”

According to a press release issued by the House Democratic Office on Thursday, ratepayers will be on the hook for the majority of the repair costs following October’s wind storm, a full estimate of which will be available in early- to mid- December.

Central Maine Power Co. and Emera Maine electrical bills are expected to increase due to pending or expected rate increase requests by the utilities, cost recovery for recent storm restoration efforts and the possible socialization of costs for new transmission lines being proposed to meet demand for power in Massachusetts.

“An Act to Protect Maine Residents and Businesses from Rising Electricity Costs” would establish a task force to examine factors driving up electric bills for both residents and businesses and make recommendations to the next governor and Legislature.

The task force may include consumers, producers and utilities, as well as other stakeholders like the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the Office of the Public Advocate, the Governor’s Energy Office and the Legislature.

Berry argues that Maine has some of the highest electricity costs in the nation and less than half of these costs cover the actual generation of power.

“The rest — more than half the bill — is the delivery of that power to our homes and businesses,” the release states. “This is the portion of our payments that for most Mainers goes to CMP or to Emera Maine. This delivery portion of our power bill has increased by over 80 percent in the last 10 years.”

Supporters of the bill include the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, the Maine Renewable Energy Association, the Industrial Energy Consumer Group and ReEnergy.

The full Legislature will consider LR 2786 during the second session of the 128th Legislature, which begins Jan. 3, 2018.

The bill will receive a public hearing before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee that Berry chairs in early 2018.

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