Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, reacts to a vote at the State House in Augusta on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett

One of Maine’s most prominent Central Maine Power Co. critics is resigning from his seat and dropping his bid for another term to focus more on a consumer-owned utility referendum.

Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, the co-chair of the Legislature’s energy panel, announced Thursday that he was stepping down from what little remains of this term to pay more attention to the initiative led by the group Our Power, which Mainers could vote on in late 2023.

The ballot question would ask Mainers if they would like to create the Pine Tree Power Company, which would use bonds to buy out CMP and Versant Power, the state’s two biggest electric utilities. CMP and its allies have started their own counter-referendum campaign to try to require voters to approve big bonding projects by government-controlled entities.

Berry is most well known for activism against the major utilities, arguing that their foreign ownership models disincentivize them from providing quality service to Mainers. It was a major argument in the referendum effort to block CMP’s hydropower project in November, bolstered by a state audit finding CMP’s multinational ownership structure contributed to service problems

“We stand at an existential, unprecedented fork in the road,” Berry said in a statement. “Our Power’s ballot question is a path to clean energy savings and self-determination not only for Maine, but by our example, for others too.”

Berry said he will be taking a senior advisor role with Our Power, which will include addressing policy questions and working on educational efforts. The 14-year lawmaker and former House majority leader said he would still try to help former constituents who reached out to him with issues through the November elections.

His resignation was effective Wednesday and will allow local Democrats to pick a new candidate in July to run for Berry’s seat representing a district including Richmond, Bowdoinham and north Bowdoin. Berry said he would continue to serve in his private-sector job as a vice president at Kennebec River Biosciences.