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Maine PUC will investigate Avangrid management of CMP

The Public Utilities Commission wants answers from CMP's parent company, Avangrid.

PORTLAND, Maine — Central Maine Power has been under scrutiny by Maine's utility regulators for close to four years.

Now, the Public Utilities Commission wants answers from CMP's parent company, Avangrid.

On Thursday, the PUC commissioners agreed to a new investigation of CMP's management, specifically how Avangrid decisions affected the Maine utility.

"The bottom line," Commission Chair Phl Bartlett said, "Is it appears from our experience that a lot of decision making at the Avangrid level, CMP's parent company, is being driven by earnings expectations."

The suggestion that profit may have motivated decisions that led to the 2018 crisis over CMP's new customer billing system or that profit concerns affected the utility's handling of significant power outages is the question Bartlett said they want answered.

"Our concern is that could be the root cause of problems we've seen in the CMP performance in the recent past," he said.

Central Maine Power responded with a written statement, saying it would cooperate but also defending the company.

"CMP is a different company than we were four years ago, and these changes are evident," the statement read, in part. 

"While we have the same name, CMP has demonstrated consistent improvement in customer service, an earnest commitment to safe and efficient storm response, and has consolidated operations under Maine-based leaders," the statement continued.

In a January interview with NEWS CENTER Maine, CMP's new president, Joe Purington, also said the company now is run by Maine people who make the decisions locally.

Bartlett confirmed that CMP has significantly improved its customer service in the past two years, to the point the agency on Thursday agreed to remove a restriction on company earnings it imposed two years ago as a penalty for performance problems.

But he said they want to investigate decision-making at Avangrid to safeguard those improvements.

"Yes, these are private companies and have every right to make a profit, but they also have to provide reasonable service to customers. And it's our job to make sure that's happening," Bartlett said. 

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