A Closer Look: Questions 1 & 3
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -
The question most in the spotlight this year is without a doubt Question 3 regarding the creation of a new state run electric utility. Question 1 is also directly related to this issue. Newssoure8′s Brian Bouchard spoke with both supporters and the opposition of both questions and has more.
Question 3 on this year’s ballot aims to create a new state run electric utility to replace Versant and CMP called Pine Tree Power. The questions reads:
Do you want to create a new power company governed by an elected board to acquire and operate existing for-profit electricity transmission and distribution facilities in Maine?
“There definitely are a lot of reasons that folks support pine tree power that we’re really excited about. Mainer’s can save an average of 367 dollars per year, when we’re not sending millions in profit to foreign shareholders that money stays here at home in our hands. We’re also really excited about the opportunities we have to bring back local control, so making sure that our communities are able to make the decisions around our energy future that we know are right for us, that they’re not being shoved down our throats by people who do not care about the people in our communities. There’s no incentive for these large corporations headquartered all over the world to know the difference between Presque Isle and Portland and that we might have different electricity needs there.”
Willy Ritch, Executive Director of Maine Affordable Energy says turning the power grid over to the state has the potential to introduce partisan politics and debt into our electrical grid.
“The referendum would cost the state 13 and a half billion dollars of debt. That could lead to higher taxes, it creates a power company that would be controlled by elected politicians which means campaign contributions probably from oil and gas industries and other special interests and introducing politics into our electric system.”
Dana Connors, who is representing the Maine State Chamber of Commerce says the creation of Pine Tree Power may cause foreign investors to steer clear.
“If we want investors, which we need desperately to continue to invest in our state you can’t put the critical infrastructure that’s at test here at risk, you simply cant afford it. We’d be sending a message to the world, not encouraging investment, that we have a system in place that is without question in some form or another be very very expensive to operate and one that wont serve the way our current system does.”
Sen. Rick Bennett of Oxford says having investor owned utilities owned by foreign entities puts Maine’s electrical grid, and safety at risk.
“It is first and foremost a national security issue and a security issue for Maine people about who actually runs and owns and benefits from the electric grid and all of the outrageous amount of cost that Mainer’s are increasingly paying for electricity. This is only going to more severe in the years ahead as demand on the grid increases. We need to have grid ownership that is accountable directly to Maine people, that is in service to Maine People, and that is not exporting our rates that we pay in to foreign investors but reinvesting them in the grid and our electrification which is critical as we move forward.”
Question 1 on this year’s ballot goes hand in hand with Question 3 and aims limit the debt that can be incurred by certain organizations within the state. The questions reads:
Do you want to bar some quasi-governmental entities and all consumer-owned electric utilities from taking on more than $1 billion in debt unless they get statewide voter approval?
Ritch, who is opposed to question three, represents No Blank Checks in support of Question 1. Ritch says Question 1 was designed to address the potential issue of state incurred debt, and provide Mainer’s with an opportunity to prevent incurring debt if Question 3 were to pass. It is estimated that a takeover could cost north of 13 and a half billion dollars.
“Early on in the campaign the Pine Tree Power supporters were very vague about what their plan was going to cost. They didn’t want to talk about it, they didn’t want to talk about what the multi billion dollar price tag would be. So we said “Fine, the people of Maine deserve the right to know how much debt they’re going to go into before they assume that debt”. And so if the Pine Tree Power proposal were to pass it would force the Pine Tree Power supporters to come back to us as Mainers and say “Okay here’s what it’s going to cost” and let Mainer’s have the opportunity to vote up or down on it”
OurPower, who are in Support of Question 3 and Opposition of Question 1 say this question is just a tactic designed to scare voters, and isn’t a significant obstacle to the Pine Tree Power Initiative.
“We’re unconcerned about that question’s affect on our question. Our question was written to be working for the people of Maine and has some protections in it. The idea that this would fall on tax payers is really confusing to me and really disingenuous because our bill explicitly states that no taxpayer funds will be used. You can finance with something called a revenue bond which is basically borrowing against the future earnings of this non-profit.”
For more information regarding Question 3 and Question 1 please visit:
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