Maine voters on Tuesday rejected a takeover of the state’s investor-owned utilities that could have cost up to $13.5 billion.
Question 3 had proposed the state form a non-profit, consumer-owned utility called Pine Tree Power to purchase the assets of Central Maine Power and Versant Power. Voters rejected the idea by a roughly 2-to-1 margin.
Despite the loss, Pine Tree Power’s campaign manager Al Cleveland said the vote "is a message to utility shareholders everywhere: people are more important than your profits.”
The grassroots campaign connected with thousands of Maine voters and “it is clear that CMP and Versant are hurting people. With worst in the nation customer service, astronomical rates, and the most frequent outages in the country, Maine voters made clear that we deserve better,” Cleveland said.
Local utility control was also a major point of the campaign by Our Power, the group supporting Pine Tree Power’s creation. Central Maine Power is owned by Avangrid, which is owned by Spain’s Iberdrola. Versant is owned by Canada’s ENMAX.
Both utilities funded political action committees to fight the ballot initiative.
Avangrid backed the group Maine Affordable Energy with about $18 million. Maine Energy Progress, the PAC supported by Versant, received about $8 million from the utility’s parent.
“With this referendum behind us, we are turning the page,” Central Maine Power said in a statement. “As we look forward, we must continue to modernize our grid to support Maine’s climate change goals, connect new renewable resources, and electrify our communities.”
“We’re glad that most Mainers agree it’s better to work together to achieve our energy goals rather than risk massive amounts of time and money on such a risky proposal,” Versant Power President John Flynn said in a statement. The utility “is fully committed to helping Maine accomplish our ambitious energy goals and strives to be a trusted partner in those efforts.”
BJ McCollister, campaign manager for Maine Energy Progress, called Question 3 an “expensive and risky scheme.”
Approval “would have put Maine people on the hook for $13.5 billion, with no guarantee of lower rates or faster progress on the transition away from fossil fuels,” McCollister said. “Question 3 presented itself as a simple solution to very complex issues, and voters weren’t willing to take a chance on something as important as our state’s electrical grid.”