FILE - ME Hydropower Transmission Project 5-28-2019

Power lines are seen May 28, 2019, in Pownal, Maine.

(The Center Square) – A coalition of more than 60 Maine lawmakers has written to the state’s public utility regulators, calling for denial of a Central Maine Power (CMP) proposal that could charge customers for costs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The costs should also be borne by the company and its shareholders, the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC).

“Unfortunately, Avangrid (the holding company that owns both Central Maine Power and Maine Natural Gas) does not think its multinational investors (Iberdrola ​et al.​) should share in the burden of this pandemic. We consider this perspective to be unconscionable, and hope you do also,” the letter states.

State Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, who chairs the Legislature's Utilities Committee, estimates that CMP’s pandemic-related costs – to cover masks, gloves, sanitizers, and rental vehicles – could be in the millions, Maine Public Radio (MPR) reported.

“The supposed value of an investor-owned utility is that it bears, in theory, some of the risk that would otherwise fall to customers. Apparently, Avangrid does not believe this is how it should work. In their view, their investors should have the upside benefit of double-digit equity returns, but customers should be the backstop if things go badly,” the letter 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 toward resolution of billing issues and toward incremental, pandemic-related costs.

"Whether from Maine or Spain, Qatar or Canada, the investors whose companies hold the privilege of an anticompetitive monopoly in Maine must share in the sacrifices we are all making at this time,” the letter states.

Catharine Hartnett, a spokesperson for CMP, said the company intends to supply MPUC with a thorough accounting of costs incurred due to the coronavirus, MPR reported.

"We're simply asking that we are allowed to track them for recovery later,” Hartnett said. “As to how they are recovered, from whom, and what kind of timetable that looks like, that's an MPUC decision."