Maine ratepayers need a consumer-owned utility

Last week while I was working in my yard, I was approached by a gentleman coming up the driveway asking if I had heard about the “power grab.” He handed me an ominous-looking flyer printed with a stop sign and several troubling claims about LD 1708. The bill, if enacted, would give voters the opportunity to choose to replace CMP and Versant, two of the worst rated utilities for customer satisfaction in the country, with a non-profit consumer-owned utility in a referendum. Unfortunately for CMP and Versant, their claims against the bill are misleading at best, designed to frighten voters and protect the profits of foreign investor-owned utilities. The truth is, a consumer-owned utility would be good for everyone in Maine who pays an electric bill to one of these companies.

Since the corporate-backed lobbying effort is trying to characterize the bill as a “power grab,” it’s worth looking at what is supposedly being grabbed, and who is doing the grabbing. These companies are owned by foreign investors in countries like Spain, and as for-profit corporations, their purpose is to deliver profits to those investors. Generating energy for Maine rate-payers is just a means to this end. When lobbyists say that politicians want to take control of our electric grid, they mean CMP and Versant’s electric grid, because that’s who it belongs to right now, not the people of Maine. When lobbyists call it a power grab, they mean that a coalition of elected leaders and volunteer organizers is working towards making Maine’s public utilities work for Maine rather than for a hedge fund.

The Maine legislature has an opportunity to chart a course for bold climate action and more affordable electricity for rate-payers by sending LD 1708 to Gov. Mills’ desk. Maine rate-payers have had enough of paying soaring electric bills for unreliable service and frequent outages. We all deserve an electric grid that belongs to us, and an electric company that puts us first.

Bobby McHugh-Westfall,
Woolwich

Support carbon dividends

David Emery had one of the most important and clearest opinion pieces about climate change in the June 5 Portland Press Herald that I have read in years (“Maine taxpayers are already covering too many climate costs“). He explains that although the fossil fuel companies have been aware of the risks of carbon emissions for more than a half century, they have avidly sold their products and made billions. They have received huge taxpayer subsidies and continue to do so. In last year’s COVID-19 relief programs he explains they got more than $1 billion dollars. The tax cut of 2017 resulted in the top 20 US oil and gas producers saving $15.5 billion in taxes. If you missed his article, consider going back in the PPH archives and reading it.

I appreciate the light he has shed on our situation but want to urge him and my fellow citizens to go one step further. After asking our legislators to stop supporting fossil fuel companies with tax breaks, we need to ask them to pass a price on carbon. In Congress there is now a bill, HR 2307 which is a carbon cashback bill. It places a fee on fossil fuels as they come out of the ground, collects the money and returns it all to American citizens so that they can afford the gradually increasing cost of fossil based fuels. As they transition to renewable sources of energy ,68% percent of Americans and 96% of low income Americans will be more than able to cover the gradually increasing cost of fuels with the monthly check they will receive.

Please consider emailing Sens. King and Collins and Reps. Pingree and Golden and ask them to avidly support HR 2307, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Please also ask them to stop giving tax breaks and government support to companies that produce carbon based fuels.

Nancy Hasenfus,
Brunswick

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