The Sierra Club has endorsed a Maine ballot initiative to create the country’s first consumer-owned electric utility, giving the issue national prominence ahead of the November vote.
The initiative, Question 3, would create Pine Tree Power, a cooperative that would replace the two existing utilities in the state, Central Maine Power and Versant Power, which service about 80 percent and 13 percent of Mainers, respectively. The issue will be on the ballot Nov. 7.
“With Pine Tree Power, Mainers can establish a utility responsible to the public, not far-off investors,” Sierra Club President Ben Jealous said in a statement. “A win in Maine would allow for a quicker, more just expansion of the state’s electric grid, all while saving ratepayers billions of dollars and advancing the state’s commendable climate and economic justice goals.”
Advocates of the proposal have repeatedly hit a wall trying to create the new utility through legislation. A measure passed the state House in 2021 but died in the state Senate. Gov. Janet Mills (D) vetoed an amended version of the bill after it passed both chambers, saying “it may well be that the time has come for the people of the State of Maine to retake control over the [utilities’] assets,” but taking issue with the specifics of the bill.
The Sierra Club marks one of the highest-profile national endorsements for the initiative thus far. Another came from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who said in July, “Instead of a private power system that last year sent $187 million in profits out of the country, Mainers can have cheaper, more reliable power — and help fight climate change at the same time.”
No comparable national figures have come out against the measure yet, with major opponents including the state Chamber of Commerce and the Maine AFL-CIO.
But opponents have vastly out-fundraised proponents as of late August, raising $27 million to supporters’ $840,000, according to Ballotpedia.
The Hill has reached out to Maine’s senators, Susan Collins (R) and Angus King (I), for clarifications on whether they back the measure.