Bangor Daily News | June 30, 2021 | bangordailynews.com ~~
MADAWASKA, Maine – Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill to give Aroostook’s renewable energy industry a boost Tuesday afternoon.
LD 1710, which passed through the Legislature with bipartisan support, looks to connect the Northern Maine energy grid to the one powering the rest of New England. The hope is to facilitate renewable energy exports, which are costly right now as northern Maine’s power has to be wheeled through New Brunswick before it can be distributed in the U.S.
The next step is for the Public Utilities Commission call for bids to build the transmission line. The Legislature has asked the PUC to have a contract in place by November 2022. The law also includes a request for bids on new renewable energy plants in the parts of Aroostook and Washington counties currently unconnected to the ISO-New England grid.
The legislators responsible for the bill, including its sponsor Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook, hope that this will be transformative for northern Maine’s economy.
But supporters would have to pick up additional votes to override a likely veto from Gov. Janet Mills, who has expressed concerns about the buyout of CMP and Versant Power's assets.
AUGUSTA — The Legislature passed a controversial bill Wednesday to create a consumer-owned utility through a forced buyout of Maine’s two largest electricity providers, setting up a potential veto from Gov. Janet Mills.
Roughly two weeks after the bill failed by a single vote, supporters were able to flip several senators after adding a requirement that the new, consumer-owned utility would still have to pay property taxes to cities and towns. But neither the 18-14 vote in the Senate or an earlier 77-68 vote in the House would be enough to override a veto from Mills, who has expressed numerous reservations about the bill.
Wednesday’s Senate reversal was nonetheless a major victory for supporters, who have accused the parent companies of Central Maine Power and Versant Power of prioritizing investors at the expense of Maine consumers.
“With this historic action, we are calling for the chance to let Maine people decide our own energy future – the chance for more affordable, more reliable, cleaner and Maine-operated power and greater connectivity throughout Maine,” Rep. Seth Berry, a Bowdoinham Democrat who has led the years-long push, said in a statement. “The Pine Tree Power Company will finally let us reinvest the money from our electricity bills back into the grid instead of sending it to investors overseas who have never set foot in Maine. The most recent spate of outages and CMP’s request for a double-digit rate increase makes this referendum all the more urgent.”
Opponents, including CMP and Versant, have decried the bill as a “government takeover” of private businesses.
Mills has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without her signature. If the bill, L.D. 1708, became law, voters would have the final say during a statewide referendum this November about whether to create a consumer-owned utility.
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...............The state’s largest electric utility, Central Maine Power Co., is also seeking a rate increase. The company is asking the PUC to approve a $72 million hike in transmission and delivery charges, starting in August, according to published reports. That increase could cost a typical residential customer an additional $8.65 a month.
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