A bipartisan group of legislators has called on the Maine Public Utilities Commission to launch an immediate investigation into allegations made in a lawsuit filed last week against Avangrid, the parent company for Central Maine Power, by a former subcontractor.

Security Limits Inc., based in Jessup, Pennsylvania, and its CEO, Paulo Silva, filed a federal lawsuit accusing Avangrid of rigging bids, racketeering and buying unnecessary equipment so it could charge higher electricity rates to customers and increase its profits. The suit against Avangrid subsidiary Avangrid Networks was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Neither CMP nor any of its executives are mentioned in the lawsuit. Silva seeks damages of more than $600 million, including punitive damages.

Avangrid has denied the allegations and described the plaintiff as a disgruntled subcontractor who is bitter because the company chose not to continue awarding him new contracts. Avangrid filed a countersuit against Silva on Dec. 4, claiming defamation and extortion.

State Rep. Nathan Carlow, R-Buxton, a member of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, wrote the letter to the PUC, which was co-signed by two other Republican legislators, Sen. Richard Bennett of Oxford and Rep. Jennifer Poirier of Skowhegan, and two Democrats, Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham and Rep. Nicole Grohoski of Ellsworth.

“Mainers deserve to know the truth behind these allegations, and it is the responsibility of the Commission to determine the extent to which ratepayers may have been impacted by the impropriety alleged by the plaintiff of this case,” Carlow said in a statement Thursday. “The letter is simple, if the law was violated, then penalties must be imposed. This is a foundational principle and that’s why there is cross-party support for this investigation.”

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It’s not clear whether the PUC will investigate. PUC Chairman Philip Bartlett and the PUC’s spokesperson could be not be reached for comment Thursday night.

But on Monday, the PUC issued a statement that called the allegations in the initial lawsuit “serious” and said it will closely follow the case. The PUC regulates Maine power companies, including CMP, and has the final say on rates charged to customers. It can use its rate-setting power to limit a utility’s profits if it believes a utility acted improperly and unfairly drove up rates.

“As we learn more, we will determine what additional review by the commission may be warranted,” the PUC said in a statement.

The legislators in their letter called on the agency to launch an investigation to determine whether Maine ratepayers may have been affected by the improprieties alleged by Silva.

“Each of these claims are profoundly troubling, and the people of Maine deserve to know the truth behind this alleged misconduct. However, considering that Maine ratepayers experience the poorest reliability in the nation, coupled with absurdly high rates, the assertion of reckless frivolity and outright abuse of the monopoly franchise granted to Avangrid’s subsidiary, Central Maine Power, is of particular concern,” the legislators wrote.

The legislators said the merits of the conflicting lawsuits should be left to the courts to decide, adding that if “wrongdoing is determined in this case or if wrongdoing is uncovered by the investigation we are requesting, then we would urge the Commission to move swiftly in imposing penalties to remedy the financial loss to ratepayers.”

Avangrid’s suit against Silva and his company says that Security Limits Inc. provided technology services in 2018-19, and that after the work was completed there were disputes with third-party companies over payment. Unhappy about the outcome of those disputes, Silva’s company began to harass Avangrid, the lawsuit alleges. After unsuccessfully seeking new contracts with Avangrid, he threatened to make negative, public statements against the company, Avangrid’s suit alleges.


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