Maine utility oversight bill advances after differences resolved

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Legislature voted in favor of a bill to increase oversight of the state's two major electric utilities on Wednesday, a day after a disagreement in the House put the proposal into limbo.

The bill would establish new performance measures and add financial penalties for failure to meet the benchmarks. In extreme circumstances, the utilities could face a forced sale for repeated violations.

House Democrats resolved their differences Wednesday to vote for a modified bill. The Senate also approved it. Further votes are necessary.

The proposal comes amid widespread discontent with the state's privately owned electric utilities. Critics tried unsuccessfully to put a proposal on the ballot this year to replace them with a consumer-owned electric utility.

“It’s clear Maine people are at a breaking point, and that many of our constituents have lost faith in their utilities,” said Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, who serves on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. She said the state's residents "are demanding more accountability from their electric utilities, and they’re demanding it now.”

The bill was put forward by the governor as a compromise, and was sponsored by Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, who said Wednesday that Mainers deserve reliable electricity.

“This bill will ensure our utility companies put the needs of their customers first, that we’re planning a power grid that is reliable and ready for Maine’s independent energy future, and will help protect ratepayers,” Brenner said.


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