More than 50 state lawmakers are calling 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 while leaving the company's shareholders off the hook.
State Rep. Seth Berry, a Democrat from Bowdoinham and the chair of the Legislature's Utilities Committee, wrote the letter to the Maine Public Utilities Commission. He says CMP's COVID-19-related costs such as masks, gloves and sanitizers, as well as rental vehicles, could rise into the millions of dollars.
"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."
CMP spokesperson Catharine Hartnett says the company wants to provide to the Commission a good accounting of all COVID-related costs.
"We're simply asking that we are allowed to track them for recovery later,” Hartnett says. “As to how they are recovered, from whom, and what kind of timetable that looks like, that's an MPUC decision."
But the state's Public Advocate agrees with the group of lawmakers that CMP's request to declare those costs a "regulatory asset" amounts to saying that consumers should pay for it all, plus interest.
In a related matter, CMP is also opposing changes in an existing rule that would allow the company some compensation for sales lost during the pandemic.