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The need for Pine Tree Power

Maine is a state of bustling potential. With good healthcare, workers’ rights and one of the lowest crime rates in the country, there is good reason for anyone outside the state to consider moving to the Pine Tree State.

However, the electrical infrastructure has proved to be a liability. A chance now exists on Nov. 7, 2023 for Maine voters to make a difference by voting in favor of Question 3. This allows the creation of Pine Tree Power, a not-for-profit electrical utility that will be owned by Mainers and is intended to serve the people.

The creation of Pine Tree Power would allow for a strong movement towards developing an infrastructure capable of providing better service throughout the state. Data produced by the Citizens Utility Board of Illinois presents a concerning picture of Maine’s electrical infrastructure, ranking 39th out of 51st. Having an electrical infrastructure ranking so low means heavy inefficiencies compared to other states, and an inability to make Maine a leader in solving the climate crisis.

The two corporations most responsible for this in Maine are Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant Power. In regards to the climate crisis, the two companies have contributed their own by sending $187 million out of Maine to Qatar, which is one of the largest oil producers and a nation not doing any favors for helping to solve climate change. Norway, despite their green image, still has yet to make a meaningful shift away from oil, and Canada, who utilizes shale fracking that poses hefty environmental impacts in regards to pollution, also have interests in CMP and Versant.

The two companies, who pride themselves on green energy, continue to work against Maine interests on tackling a pressing issue which will only get worse due to inaction. This is best exhibited in the $700,000 settlement made for slow-walking such a transition. If a company prides itself on people’s demands of a green future continues thwarting their interest by moving slowly, then how can the company be trusted? The answer is, it can not, and a need for people to have power over their electrical infrastructure as everyone needs it. The result is people not fulfilling their full potential for economic success, as they can not function as a result of inadequate infrastructure not updated to the 21st century.

Concerns have arisen regarding Pine Tree Power’s elected board, and lessening the potential influence of special interests. This can be offset through the people holding the board accountable when such concerns arise. A mechanism for this can be through a new constitutional amendment which would set the precedent that elected board officials must publicly disclose interest thwarting their judgment fully, and if not, the people have a duty to push through a recall process.

Others can be passed via state legislation. We can push further by mandating those who serve on other boards recuse themselves on votes if it poses a personal benefit or a conflict of interest. Another concern raised by some is the prospect of a public utility itself. It should be noted that, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association, community-focused utilities serve more than 25% of Americans. Results have proved instrumental in achieving, or almost achieving, net zero carbon emissions with Nebraska, a deeply Republican state, serving as a prime example of what the future of Maine’s electrical infrastructure can look like — a future having affordable power with fewer power outages and a net zero carbon goal.

Imagine a future with cheaper electric cost, better economic success, and a greener future. This can all be achieved on Nov. 7th if you vote Yes on Question 3, to achieve a Maine that works for all, not the few. We can be a leader on climate change and not a follower to destruction at the helm of fossil fuels destroying our way of life. It is time we move beyond and focus on the future, to return power — literally and figuratively — back to the people, and control our utilities as we best envision them.

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