By A.J. Higgins
MPBN news story
Efforts by Assistant House Democratic Leader Sara Gideon and Gov. Paul LePage to reach a compromise over a bill that would establish a comprehensive solar policy for the state have failed and the governor has vetoed the measure.
In his veto message, LePage said he vetoed the bill because it would increase overall energy costs for Maine ratepayers and because Democrats would not negotiate in good faith on counterproposals.
Not surprisingly, Democrats says that’s simply not true.
Gideon’s midafternoon announcement that she had been unable to reach any middle ground with the governor on the solar bill was not unexpected. What was more of a surprise was the way those involved in the negotiations described the key stumbling blocks.
In his veto message, Gov. Paul LePage said he and Democrats could not reach agreement on a provision to include other renewable energy sources into the solar plan, return renewable energy credits to ratepayers and place a cap on long-term contracts. The governor said the stance proved that Democrats were not serious about reducing energy prices, but Gideon said she and the governor had actually reached agreement on the first two demands.
“The third thing that he asked for was a price cap that would move very quickly down to the standard offer on anything that people sold, and that was the piece that we knew that would just literally tank this market immediately,” Gideon said. “We did want to consider it and if there was a way that we could manipulate that into something different, but it didn’t seem like there was.”
Dylan Voorhees, the clean energy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said he and other solar energy supporters invested considerable effort to work with lawmakers to hammer out provisions in the bill that will boost solar installations and reduce energy costs for all ratepayers.
“We’re at the end and now I think there’s so much at stake, I mean Friday’s the last day,” Voorhees said. “This is the time when the Legislature needs to act and if they don’t act, a lot of us are worried that we will go from last place where we are now to even further backwards.”
Solar proponents say they will be lobbying House Republicans intensively to vote for an override of the vetoed bill when lawmakers return to the State House Friday.