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  • Maine lawmakers enact Riley Amendment, holding utility shareholders – not customers – responsible for investigation costs

    Measure comes in response to record billing complaints from CMP customers in recent months

    The Maine Legislature enacted a bill on June 21, 2018 that allows Maine’s Public Utilities Commission to hold a utility’s shareholders responsible for the costs of investigating problems. The measure, known as “the Riley Amendment,” cleared the House and the Senate unanimously and now awaits the governor’s signature.  

    “If a for-profit electric company like CMP erroneously overcharges its customers, Maine people shouldn’t have to pay for the investigation,” said Rep. Tina Riley, D-Jay, who authored the amendment. “The cost should be on the utility’s shareholders, so that they will pressure management to make sure it never happens again.”

    Under current law, if Maine’s Public Utilities Commission audits a public utility, customers are automatically responsible for the costs – even if the audit concludes the utility is at fault for any problems.

    Riley’s amendment – the product of extensive discussions in the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee – would also allow the PUC to establish random independent audits of an electric utility’s entire billing system, including meters. At present, the utility checks the accuracy of its own meters. This is a sharp contrast to gas pumps, which are independently regulated by the state’s Bureau of Weights and Measures.

    When the committee first considered the Riley Amendment in April, all six Republicans on the committee voted to kill the bill. After that vote, members of the public, including a citizen ratepayer advocacy group, CMP Ratepayers Unite, contacted members of the committee urging them to reconsider.

    Throughout the year, the committee had held extensive public hearings, work sessions and discussions on the electric utilities’ response to the October 2017 windstorm. Members also discussed a recent rash of Central Maine Power customer complaints outlining problems with their electric bills, including major discrepancies between the amount of electricity used and the amount they were billed.

    The legislation is a rewrite of LD 1729, An Act To Restore Confidence In Utility Billing Systems, which originally dealt with other electricity transmission and distribution regulations.

    Riley, a member of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, is serving her first term in the Maine House. She represents Jay, Livermore Falls and part of Livermore.