Today, I wrote a letter to Gov. Janet Mills urging her to sign into law LD 1708, An Act to Create the Pine Tree Power Company, which sends this important issue to the voters via direct ballot.

I have been a participant in PUC regulatory cases for 23 years, representing all Maine consumers, as an attorney with the office of the Public Advocate. As a result, I am aware of many shortcomings in current utility regulation, which has brought us to the point of having two of the lowest-rated electric utilities in the country. I believe that LD 1708 (now passed by the full Legislature) will go a long way to remedy our current problems, and allow for progress toward more affordable rates, better reliability and achievement of your renewable energy and broadband goals.

Current Maine utility law requires the PUC to “balance the interests of shareholders and ratepayers,” which means that current state policy is to look after the foreign government and international owners of our utilities equally to the extent that we look after the interests of Maine people. By converting ownership from these largely foreign investors to our own local consumers, the PUC and utility management will immediately become aligned with the interests of Maine people. I see this as a bold, but brilliant step toward positive change in the delivery and cost of one of our most essential services. It will also unleash a new mission for our large electric utilities – promoting environmental sustainability and access to broadband.

I asked the governor to let the people have a voice in this crucial decision – the majority of our political representatives have already spoken with bipartisan support. The Energy and Utilities Committee, which heard the testimony and examined the evidence, supported this legislation with a 10-3 vote. Our Democratic governor should be fully on board with this rather conservative step – by sending the issue to the voters rather than depriving us from voting with a veto that she may be contemplating.

Wayne R. Jortner,

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