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Citizen referendum could eliminate CMP and Versant

The Our Power organization says it's 95 percent finished with collecting signatures to get this citizen referendum on the November 2023 ballot.

MAINE, USA — Last year, the Maine legislature passed a bill to create the non-profit Pine Tree Power Company to deliver lower rates, and increase reliability and local control to promote energy independence in Maine.

But, Governor Janet Mills vetoed the bill, and the legislature didn't have enough votes to override that veto. 

Now those in favor are hoping to get it on the ballot for a people's vote next November.

"We always knew we were going directly to the people with this, because that's usually how big things happen in Maine," Seth Berry of Our Power said. 

Berry is a former state representative who sponsored LD 1708 and is now working with Our Power, a nonprofit that wants Mainers to keep energy consumer-owned.

He says there are 97 municipalities in Maine that already get their electricity this way, including Kennebunk, Calais, Madison, and Houlton.

"These folks are paying almost half as much for their electricity as the customers of Central Maine Power and Versant," Berry added.

There are a number of groups that oppose this initiative, including the AFL-CIO, the largest labor union in the state.

Cynthia Phinney with the AFL-CIO says the passage and implementation of this initiative could mean the employees of CMP and Versant would no longer be a part of a union.

"Which takes away their right to strike and also their ability to negotiate a contract that includes everyone to contribute to the union," she said.

Willy Ritch of Maine Affordable Energy Coalition added that going in the direction of consumer-owned energy means a big initial investment, which could increase costs for customers.

Our Power says it has collected about 95 percent of the necessary signatures and plans to hand it into the secretary of state's office this fall.

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