Don’t make promises you can’t keep

Dear Editor:

In a recent column, state Rep. Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth) makes claims about a proposed government takeover of the state’s electric grid that are misleading and wrong.

The biggest claim that proponents of government-run power make — and Grohoski repeats — is that a utility run by the government would save consumers money. The facts simply do not back that up. A report ordered by the Legislature found that costs would go up for at least 10 years, and it took some extremely creative massaging of that report for government-controlled power supporters to come up with their claim of savings. But you don’t have to wade through data or a complex report to get to the truth. Today, the “consumer-owned” utilities of Eastern Maine Electric Co-op, NH Co-Op and VT Co-Op charge more than Maine’s private utilities — up to 40 percent more for the delivery of electricity.

Grohoski and other supporters of a government takeover try to spin their proposal as the result of several years of “research and refinement.” That’s one way to look at. Another is “several failed attempts.” When it was clear there wasn’t enough support for a proposal in 2018, supporters punted and called for a study instead of a takeover. That study — ordered by the Legislature — found two things: 1) rates would go up and 2) there are many significant unanswered questions. Then last year, the bill’s sponsor tried again. This time, according to news reports, he pulled back “at the last minute” to avoid a defeat. Again, the proposal to take over the grid became a proposal to create a study commission. “I think it’s important to make sure we have done our homework,” he said. The trouble is, the COVID lockdown struck, the study commission was never created and we still don’t have answers to key questions.

Now Grohoski and supporters want to skip the homework and send this issue directly to the ballot in November, without getting the 60,000 signatures from voters typically needed for a referendum.

The proposed government-controlled power company would be run by seven elected politicians. If they take as many shortcuts as the politicians behind this bill, we should learn to expect a lot less from our electric service in the years to come.

Willy Ritch 

Executive director of Maine Affordable Energy

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