Tom Saviello

This November, Maine voters will decide whether or not to force the government seizure of Central Maine Power and Versant Power and transition to what proponents are claiming is a consumer-owned utility called Pine Tree Power.  

As someone who led the opposition to a recently proposed major transmission line in Maine, it may surprise many to learn that I also oppose Pine Tree Power and urge a “no” vote on Question 3 this fall.  

Over the course of my career in public service, I’ve supported Democrats, Republicans and independents. I look at issues only through the lens of what was best for the people that I represented, and not what option was most politically expedient or vogue at the time.  

I cannot — will not — disregard the real implications that Pine Tree Power would have on everyday Mainers, no matter who is critical of my position. It is important to me to point out the very real concerns I have with this proposal.  

First, Pine Tree Power is expensive, and Maine people would pick up the tab. The Pine Tree Power referendum requires the new “quasi-governmental power company” to seize the assets of Central Maine Power and Versant Power through eminent domain. The U.S. Constitution requires just compensation for assets seized by eminent domain.  

Because of this, Pine Tree Power would start out with extraordinary debt for the total cost of CMP and Versant — a cost some energy experts estimate to be $13.5 billion. Further, that $13.5 billion doesn’t include the millions of dollars that the state would incur as a result of a projected decade of litigation which would be highly likely to occur. This cost would be over two times Maine’s entire state budget, and a cost that Maine’s electric customers will be forced to shoulder.  


Second, the proponents behind Pine Tree Power have no plan to achieve their stated objectives. By just reading the plain text of the proposal, you can easily see that this new quasi-governmental entity called Pine Tree Power is not required to have an operations plan in place until 18 months after it has seized the two companies, which won’t be until many years from now.  

Maine voters should be wary of any proposal that puts the cart before the horse. We deserve to see an operations and business plan before making such a substantial decision that will inevitably impact our daily lives.  

And lastly, Pine Tree Power inserts partisan politics into the operations of Maine’s electric grid, which should be managed by people with the appropriate technical expertise and experience instead. The new board overseeing Pine Tree Power would consist of 13 members: a majority of them elected.  

Only two of these 13 members would be required to have experience running a transmission and distribution utility.

I suspect that if any of us were paying 13 carpenters to build a house, but only two of them knew anything about construction, we might not get our money’s worth, or even the house we wanted.

Given the tremendous importance of our energy and climate future, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that these 13 board seats would become an epicenter of partisan political agendas and campaign contributions from special interests.


Our electric grid is a lifeline for our schools, hospitals, businesses, homes and emergency responders. I understand the need for continuous improvement and accountability, but when weighed against the lack of planning and the enormous risk, Pine Tree Power just doesn’t stand up to the challenges we have ahead of us.

Trust me when I say that I understand the frustration that some of us can feel at times about our utility company. But the Pine Tree Power proposal is too short on details and too long on political promises.

Maine people deserve better than that when it comes to our energy future. 

Tom Saviello is a former legislator from Franklin County. He is a consultant for Maine Energy Progress, which opposes Question 3.  

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.