I care deeply about my neighbors who struggle to stay warm through cold winters like this one. NRCM has worked for more than a decade to strengthen programs to help Mainers button up their homes and increase their use of energy-efficient appliances. This saves people money and protects our environment from the air and water pollution generated by burning fossil fuels. It’s why we are outraged that Governor LePage’s recent appointees at the Public Utilities Commission last week blocked millions of dollars that would have helped people stay warm in their homes.
I also care about looking after the health of Maine’s North Woods, which is why we are leading the fight to protect Maine’s public lands from the governor’s proposal to overharvest them. For years, these lands have been well-managed for forest health, wildlife habitat, and recreation. Creating a tree-cutting spree treats our public forests like an ATM machine and jeopardizes all three goals.
The governor continually pits the environment against Maine people’s needs, treating both like bargaining chips. Last week’s disturbing events in Augusta show once again just how far he will go. The Portland Press Herald on March 22 laid out in detail LePage’s push to cut more of our public forests and divert the proceeds to fund heat pumps for Maine residents. At the same time, his appointees to the Public Utilities Commission voted to block nearly $40 million for such energy improvements formerly approved by the Legislature. Meanwhile, LePage’s spokesperson, Peter Steele, claimed that conservation organizations are “opposed to providing Mainers money to keep their homes warm…”
Quite the contrary, Governor. NRCM is leading the fight to reduce heating costs for Mainers. NRCM staff members worked tirelessly to make sure that money-saving energy-efficiency funds were included in the 2013 energy omnibus bill. These efficiency improvements also support growing weatherization businesses in Maine—jobs that stay right here and help put money back into our economy. With the help of allied legislators from both sides of the aisle as well as our members and coalition partners, we ensured that the Legislature supported them. The omnibus energy bill directly addressed the need that the governor is now targeted: ensuring Maine people and businesses benefit from cost-effective weatherization and efficient heating systems. Ironically, Governor LePage vetoed that bill, but Maine’s Legislature overrode his veto in a clear show of support for the increased energy-efficiency funding.
Unfortunately, even the level of funding approved in 2013 won’t meet the pressing need of the thousands of drafty homes across our state quickly enough. That is why NRCM is now working to help pass a weatherization bond. This bond would add $30 million to the pool that Efficiency Maine administers so that they can make faster progress. Through Efficiency Maine’s grants and loans, 6,400 homes were weatherized last year. The increased funds from the 2013 omnibus bill and the $30,000 weatherization bond we are promoting this year will make it more affordable to live in Maine homes, saving Maine people hundreds of millions of dollars on energy bills, creating hundreds of direct building jobs over five years for young Mainers and established workers alike, and adding more than $500 million to Maine’s Gross State Product.
We have put a plan in motion—a way forward to keep people warm in their homes, save money, and take care of our forests, land, air, and water, too. There is no need for the governor’s bad deal.