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Maine Office of the Public Advocate issues fact sheet on Pine Tree Power

The MOPA said it was designed to help voters understand what they are voting on come November, and was not meant to take a political position.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Office of the Public Advocate released a seven-page report in September in an attempt to educate voters ahead of the November ballot question that, if approved, would replace Central Maine Power and Versant's ownership of much of Maine's power utility.

Bill Harwood, Maine's Public Advocate, said the purpose of the report was not to take a political position but to provide voters with information that can inform them before voting.

"We think we are neutral because we advocate against all utilities, both consumer and privately owned ... our job is to represent the consumer and ratepayer," Harwood said.

The report outlines the big issues that both Pine Tree Power and campaigns funded by parent companies of CMP and Versant claim to favor their choice for the Nov. 7 election.

The report tells voters that if Pine Tree Power is approved by voters, the nonprofit would take on debt by purchasing the assets that belong to CMP and Versant. It said to offset these costs, the rates would be higher for customers for the first several years but would result in net savings over decades of cheaper rates.

The report also goes into detail that the price Pine Tree Power will pay to acquire CMP and Versant's assets would be determined by a fair market value. CMP and Versant parent companies have advertised it would cost $13.5 billion, but the report said there is no set financial cost, and it could be lower or higher as determined by a court.

Another advertising point that both sides of the issue argue is their choice come November is the more climate-friendly choice.

The MOPA report shows that it's impossible to tell which will be better for the climate in the long term.

Harwood said that while long-term savings are expected for ratepayers if they approve Pine Tree Power, there are still unknowns that won't be determined until the votes are counted.

"It's a philosophical decision, are you more comfortable with an elected board of directors making the decisions, or having those decisions made at a shareholders meeting, and there are pros and cons to both sides," Harwood said.

Representatives from Pine Tree Power and the political groups funded by parent companies of CMP and Versant said they agreed with the research for different reasons.

Willy Ritch with Maine Affordable Energy, which is funded by the parent company of CMP, said the report highlighted the risk with voting through Pine Tree Power, considering the unknowns cited.

"What I took from the report is there is a lot of uncertainty and we don't know if any of the promises [Pine Tree Power] make[s] will come true," Ritch said.

Lucy Hochschartner with Our Power, the political group supporting Pine Tree Power, said the report showed customers will end up saving money with the proposal.

"This is a proposal that is really going to make sure Mainers earn more back on their bills ... savings could be a real boom for Mainers in the Pine Tree Power proposal," Hochschartner said.

Harwood cautioned that voters should continue to read and research more on the proposal outside of the report issued by the MOPA.

"People will look at their own experience and their own common sense and make up their mind, they don't need someone like me to tell them which model is best," Harwood said.

Harwood said that if you are further unsure, you can reach out to the MOPA to ask questions about the proposal.

More information about the MOPA's fact sheet on Pine Tree Power can be found here.

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