By Ramona du Houx

Sun setting behind a row of electricity pylons.

More than 50 Maine lawmakers called on regulators to reject a proposal by Central Maine Power (CMP) that could allow it to charge ratepayers for unexpected costs caused by the pandemic, thereby leaving the company’s shareholders off the hook.

“Maine people have made many sacrifices through this pandemic. We’ve had over one death per day. Mom-and-pop businesses have had to really tighten their belts. Some have even gone out of business to save lives. And yes, CMP has seen higher costs and lower revenues, but CMP alone has said their captive customers should pay for all of it, and their investors should pay for none of it,” said State Rep. Seth Berry, a Democrat from Bowdoinham, who is the chair of the Legislature’s Utilities Committee.

Rep. Berry wrote the letter to the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC). He estimates CMP’s COVID-19-related costs such as masks, gloves and sanitizers, as well as rental vehicles, could rise into the millions of dollars and that ratepayers should not pay for the expense.

“Avangrid’s request also comes as many Mainers still wait, with two and a half years having passed, for resolution of their billing issues. At least some of these customers also received disconnection notices this winter — some of these in violation of commission orders — for not paying what the PUC had said they did not need to pay. If CMP had ever taken the time to show the set-aside amount on the bill, they would have known that many of these customers did not even owe them money at that time,” states the letter.

All this comes at a time when CMP has been pushing to construct a corridor through the Northern Maine woods to Quebec for Hydro Power that would be sent to Massachusetts not benefiting the people of Maine with any electricity. This New England Clean Energy Connect Plans to destroy pristine land where people have eco related businesses.

CMP is currently being sued for bypassing laws to push their Clean Energy Connect through regulatory processes.

The letter further states, “The request also comes at a time when Avangrid has spent over $5 million in the first quarter of 2020 to promote its so-called New England Clean Energy Connect. This money could go a long way towards resolution of billing issues and toward incremental, pandemic-related costs.”

The state’s Public Advocate agrees with the lawmakers that CMP’s request to declare those costs a “regulatory asset” is the same as saying consumers should pay, plus interest.

At the same time CMP opposes changes in an existing rule that would allow the company some compensation for sales lost during the pandemic.