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Explainer: What is the Pine Tree Power referendum?

In November, Mainers will be voting on whether or not to eliminate Central Maine Power and Versant and create "Our Power."

AUGUSTA, Maine — When Mainers head to the ballot box in November, there will be a few referendum questions to vote on. One of them will ask you, "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?"

If you vote yes, you are voting for Our Power to take over the state's power grid. The folks behind Our Power said this will save Mainers on their electric bills.

"The cost will be immediately lower than our costs are now and as we know Mainers across the state are struggling with electricity costs, and this is an opportunity to take advantage," Vaughan Woodruff of Our Power said.

The referendum's biggest opponent is the Maine Affordable Energy Coalition, funded by CMP's parent company Avangrid.

"At its essence, it's a scheme to seize the private utilities in the state and run up a debt of about $13.5 billion dollars and put the state's utilities in the hands of partisan politicians," Willy Ritch from the coalition said.

That money comes from an assessment of the poles, wires, bucket trucks, and other equipment that Our Power would need to purchase from the utility companies. 

"Then that's multiplied by some factor because it's a business," Ritch said.

Ritch added that this actually won't save people money because the new company would have to pay for the cost of buying the current utility companies somehow.

"If you're starting on day one with a $13.5 billion dollar debt then it's going to be really hard to lower rates and save people money," he said.

If passed, there will be a board of trustees that will be elected by Maine voters to run the utility company. It would not be run by the Legislature as some ads have indicated. Proponents of this referendum told NEWS CENTER Maine that the new model would keep all control in Maine.

"It puts the decision-making in the hands of Mainers. It keeps money in the state of Maine where it can benefit our communities and really stabilizes our current energy cost where we can't really under the current model," Woodroof said.

Woodroof added that maintenance on the current grid is lacking, and the new utility created by Pine Tree Power would do a better job.

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