It’s hard to know where to begin in refuting the misstatements in Michael Buhelt’s Aug. 9 forum piece, “Pine Tree Power? Are we losing our minds?” I’ll give Buhelt the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is ignorant and not deliberately lying.

Here are some of Buhelt’s key untruths and corrections.

Pine Tree Power will be a consumer-owned utility with an elected board, not a “government-operated organization” run by “political hacks.” CMP’s highly skilled, unionized workers will continue to serve us, but the current management – repeatedly rated the worst in the United States – will be replaced by a team of specialists and experts, like those who currently manage consumer-owned utilities for more than a quarter of all American households.

Buhelt’s $11-13 billion “cost for the state to purchase [CMP and Versant’s assets]” paid for “through increased taxes” is doubly wrong.

First, the utilities’ announced $13 billion figure is a pure scare tactic. The actual amount will be determined by an independent audit. And based on the guaranteed profit built into the Public Utilities Commission’s rate setting – last year, $187 million – the acquisition cost will likely be much lower.

Second, the purchase will not be financed through taxes. Pine Tree Power will sell long-term bonds to acquire the assets. In 2022, consumers paid CMP and Versant’s foreign owners monopoly profits of $187 million. Eliminating those profits will generate sufficient revenue to pay down the debt, strengthen Maine’s electrical grid and reduce electricity rates. That’s right: According to Maine’s foremost utility economist, rates will decline when monopoly utilities are replaced by consumer ownership.

Along with these benefits, we – Maine’s rate payers – will own and control Pine Tree Power, not foreign-owners in Canada, Spain and Qatar. I urge my fellow Mainers to vote for consumer-owned Pine Tree Power in November.

David Vail

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