The Maine Public Utilities Commission lifted a $10 million penalty for poor performance on Central Maine Power. Credit: Lori Valigra / BDN

Maine regulators voted Thursday to remove a penalty for poor performance on Central Maine Power Co. in line with staff recommendations last month, but it could be reimposed if performance slips again.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission levied the penalty in February 2020 after customers complained of high billing errors and poor customer service related to the utility’s new billing system and a historically strong October 2017 wind storm.

The penalty cost CMP shareholders an estimated $10 million in reduced earnings for at least 18 months starting March 1, 2020, in the highest penalty ever imposed by the commission.

Two of three commissioners approved removing the penalty as of the decision today, with commissioner Patrick Scully dissenting, saying it should be stopped as of Sept. 1, 2021, the end of the 18 months and the time at which CMP met its performance requirements. The extra time from September until now would add $2.5 million to the reduced earnings.

“I don’t see a valid reason to do that,” Scully said, although the majority vote held and a final ruling will be issued today.

The commission said it remains concerned about CMP being able to sustain its improved performance and will require the company to continue to provide quarterly performance reports. If performance slips, the commission’s conditional decision means it could reimpose a penalty.

Separately, the commission agreed to investigate CMP’s management and ownership issues that an independent report said are related to its poor performance and that affected Maine electricity customers.

CMP said it will cooperate with the commission’s inquiry and that it has demonstrated consistent improvement in customer service, an earnest commitment to safe and efficient storm response and has consolidated operations under Maine-based leaders.

The utility said it will continue to look for ways to improve service and hold itself accountable.

“While we have the same name, CMP is a different company than we were four years ago, and these changes are evident,” spokesperson Catharine Hartnett said in a statement.

Lori Valigra, investigative reporter for the environment, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...