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Utility regulators launch preliminary probe into CMP management structure

In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019 photo, power lines converge on a Central Maine Power substation in Pownal, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019 photo, power lines converge on a Central Maine Power substation in Pownal, Maine.

State regulators launched an investigation Tuesday into Central Maine Power's management structure. Members of the Maine Public Utilities Commission say they still lack confidence that the company will build on some recent service improvements.

Commission members note that a consultant's analysis found that CMP has improved its customer service since 2018, when a botched billing system and other issues tarnished the company's reputation.

But they remain skeptical that the CMP and its majority investor, Spain-based energy giant Iberdrola, will continue to dedicate sufficient resources to meet the needs of Maine consumers. PUC Commissioner Patrick Scully says backsliding is a real concern.

"For this ownership structure to be sustainable, there must be a commitment to adequate resources, people and Maine-based leadership. Without that the recent improvements in customer service may not be maintained, or we will see degradation in other aspects of CMP's service," Scully says.

The three-member panel voted to open a preliminary investigation, and to require submission of "performance plan" detailing how it will correct deficiencies identified by the consultant. In a statement the director of the Governor's Energy Office says the administration supports the actions.

In a separate proceeding, CMP says it's meeting service benchmarks the Commission is requiring before it will consider removal of an ongoing penalty it levied on the company's allowed profits. In a press statement a CMP spokeswoman says the company remains committed to strong, local leadership.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.