PORTLAND, Maine — The corporate subsidy watchdog agency Good Jobs First found Central Maine Power Co. parent company Iberdrola topped the list of all recipients of federal grants and tax credits, primarily in tax credits for its renewable energy developments.

Energy companies generally topped the list of grants, as the review by Good Jobs First included tax credits wind power companies can receive for each unit of electricity they produce.

SunEdison, which purchased wind developer First Wind earlier this year, was second on the list for the same reason. Both companies are major owners of wind projects.

John Carroll, spokesman for Iberdrola U.S.A., said that the $2.2 billion in federal grants and tax credits came to the company primarily through the massive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“You have to ask what was the world like in 2007 and 2008 and what was the government doing,” Carroll said. “They said, ‘We have to do something to save our economy.’ Iberdrola was and is committed long-term to make investments in renewable energy resources, and that was one of the goals of the ARRA.”

Subsidies that came to Maine included about $93 million that helped pay for CMP’s installation of smart meters for its customers, which Carroll said has provided the company faster information about service needs and power use patterns that benefit customers.

The breakdown of federal subsidies comes from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Good Jobs First, which released its database of corporate subsidies early Tuesday. The federal subsidies cover 137 programs in 11 federal Cabinet agencies from 2000 to the most recent records.

Greg LeRoy, the organization’s executive director, said in a news release that the data aimed to give transparency to which companies specifically are receiving federal assistance.

“For more than 20 years, so-called corporate welfare has been debated widely with little awareness of which companies were receiving most of the federal assistance,” LeRoy said.

In its report on the data, the group said it found the same pattern of spending: that big businesses and their subsidiaries received the bulk of $68 billion in federal grants or tax credits and about $17 trillion in loans and bailout assistance, excluding repayments, since 2000.

For bailout assistance, totals of payments were in the trillions, topped by Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Barclays. The report notes that the total includes a number of short-term loans, making the actual amount outstanding at one point in time hard to identify and most of those loans were repaid.

The organization also keeps state-level subsidy data, to which it added about 160,000 records of federal subsidies, including loans of $10,000 or more and grants of $1,000 or more.

At the state level, the group’s figures show last year that Verso Paper was the largest recipient of subsidies, getting tax abatements totalling $3.2 million. Tax abatements were the major source of tax breaks at the state level, with Bath Iron Works also getting about $3.2 million in abatements, Sappi Paper about $2 million, GNP West in Millinocket about $1.9 million and National Semiconductor about $1.5 million.

The group said the study does not aim to evaluate federal subsidy practices.

“We do believe, however, that the public has a right to detailed, company-specific information on the support federal agencies are providing to the private sector, and that disclosure is fundamental to reform,” the report states.

The release of the newly gathered federal data coincides with Sunshine Week, sponsored and started by media outlets seeking to explore the openness and availability of government records.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.