Phil Bartlett, Maine State Senate District Six  

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Senate Moves Bill Forward Giving Maine Option to Break Away from Regional Energy Grid

April 2, 2008

The Maine Senate today gave its initial approval to a bill that would empower Maine to better control its energy future and end its relationship with the ISO New England regional energy transmission organization. The senate voted twice—under the hammer—to OK the bill, which puts Maine in command of its energy future.

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for additional votes before it can come back to the Senate for enactment.

ISO New England, which stands for the Independent System Operator-New England, is a regional partnership that in recent years has passed along higher energy costs to Maine ratepayers even though our state consumes less energy than other partner members do.

Senator Phil Bartlett, D-Cumberland County and sponsor of the legislation said, “This bill sends a clear message that this Legislature is serious about reforming ISO New England to protect Maine ratepayers or it will simply get out of the arrangement.”

Senator Bartlett added, “As with any regional organization, when you are a small player, there is a temptation for larger states to walk all over you. We feel that has happened repeatedly in our relationship with ISO New England.”

During his floor speech, Senator Bartlett explained some of the options available to Maine if this bill becomes law. “This resolve is an important item for us to move forward to make sure that we are providing the needed leverage on ISO New England to either reform the existing structure to make sure that Maine is heard or else we will continue to pursue other options either on our own, with Canada, or some sort of hybrid of the two.”

The legislation states that if the Maine Public Utilities Commission determines that if ending Maine’s membership in ISO New England is in our state’s best interest, then it shall order Maine's three investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities to file a plan to form an alternative structure. The new structure would encourage the development of indigenous renewable power resources to directly interconnect and expand transmission systems.

So far, the legislation continues to receive broad bipartisan approval. Prior to the bill’s arrival in the Senate, the Utilities and Energy Committee voted 10 to two in favor of the bill.

Over the past few years, the PUC and concerned consumers have reported to the Legislature that ISO New England's rules, policies, practices and methods of allocating costs among the New England states have been prejudicial to the interests of Maine consumers.

More information about the bill, LD 2254, Resolve, Regarding ISO New England, is available online.