BREWER, Maine — Emera Maine overpaid its taxes in four municipalities by nearly $316,000 in 2012 because of an employee error and the electric utility is now asking those towns to refund the money.

Emera Maine, which serves about 154,000 customers in eastern and northern Maine, is seeking tax abatements from Brewer, Bradley, Holden and Eddington.

As Emera was preparing for the 2012 tax season, it took stock of and reported its assets, including a 345-kilovolt transmission line that runs through those four towns. There are two main lines that run through the communities, Line 390 and Line 396. Emera reported the mileage of both those lines for its tax commitment for that year.

The problem: Emera doesn’t own Line 396. It’s owned and paid for by Maine Electric Power Co., a separate corporate entity of which Emera is a shareholder. Because of the error, both Emera and MEPCo paid taxes on Line 396 that year.

The mistake cost Emera $316,000. The utility discovered its error while preparing to file its 2013 taxes, which were correct.

Emera waited until 2015 to file its abatement request because it believed it had that amount of time, under statute, to do so. Emera put off the requests until close to the deadline because the company had other priorities and focuses, spokeswoman Susan Faloon said Tuesday.

In a property tax abatement request submitted to the towns in June, Portland-based attorney David Silk of Curtis Thaxter said that an “illegality, error or irregularity occurred when [Emera] was assessed a property tax on Line 396.”

“As the municipal officers, you have the authority to correct the error and refund to [Emera] the tax erroneously paid,” Silk wrote, adding that an Emera employee’s “good faith mistake” led to the overpayment. An affidavit from that employee was included in the request.

“It is unfortunate that the assessing error was triggered by the unintentional mistake,” Silk said. “… But it is clear the taxpayer [Emera] was acting in good faith and simply made an accidental and honest mistake.”

Emera said it plans to file an appeal if any towns deny its request.

Brewer city councilors rejected Emera’s $73,500 abatement application in a vote during an Aug. 11 meeting.

That rejection stemmed, in part, from a difference in interpretation of law, which may need to be hashed out in court. Subsection 841 of the state’s tax laws lays out the process of abatement requests.

Silk and Emera cite a paragraph which states that if an “illegality, error or irregularity” occurs when a property tax is assessed, the taxpayer may request of municipal officers an abatement between one and three years after the erroneous tax payment.

Brewer’s tax assessor saw it differently. Steven Weed said Tuesday that he believes Emera waited too long to file its abatement requests.

Another paragraph in that same section states that abatements requested of assessors must be filed within 185 days of the tax payment to correct any “illegality, error or irregularity” in the assessment.

“It’s a gray area,” Weed said. “I have my opinion and Emera has theirs.”

The City Council denied the request in a 3-0 vote. Two councilors, Kevin O’Connell and Joe Ferris, recused themselves from the vote because of conflicts of interest.

“We felt Brewer made no mistake. It was an unfortunate error on Emera’s part but they didn’t make the request within the appropriate time,” City Councilor Jerry Goss said Tuesday. “That’s money that would have to come out of our budget somewhere that we didn’t anticipate.”

Holden, on the other hand, agreed to refund Emera nearly $50,500, and since has cut the check. In a July letter to town Treasurer Sherry Murray, attorney Thomas Russell expressed his opinion that Emera was entitled to the abatement because he felt the request met all statutory rules and there “appears to be no question that the assessment was in error.”

The decision to pay also saves the town from having to expend legal fees if Emera were to contest a failed abatement request.

Bradley has a hearing scheduled for Aug. 25 to discuss a $111,900 abatement request, according to Town Manager Melissa Doane. That town’s total annual budget is just $963,000.

Eddington selectmen on Tuesday night rejected a $80,000 abatement request in a 5-0 vote, and will see what happens on appeal.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.