NRCM news release
On Tuesday, Governor LePage’s top energy staffer, Patrick Woodcock, led an effort to cut $7.5 million for home weatherization and heating efficiency from the Efficiency Maine’s proposed three-year budget at the same time the governor is refusing to release voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) funds because he claims to be concerned about funding for home weatherization and home heating. The Efficiency Maine funds were intended to reduce heating costs for nearly 10,000 Maine homes—including homes of low income and elderly Mainers—through energy-efficiency improvements, and would result in savings of more than $35 million on heating bills over time.
“This week the LePage Administration rejected an opportunity to support funding home efficiency improvements that lower heating costs for Maine people, including seniors and others struggling with heating bills,” said NRCM Clean Energy Director Dylan Voorhees. “Instead, the governor’s representative led the effort to strike funds, which were part of Efficiency Maine’s proposed budget.”
Efficiency Maine, the independent agency that manages energy-efficiency programs for homes and businesses, is in the process of developing its next three-year plan. The plan must be approved by Efficiency Maine’s Board of Trustees. The nine-person board has two vacancies, for which the governor has not nominated replacements, giving disproportionate voice to the two members of the Administration, Mr. Woodcock and the head of Maine State Housing Authority, who sit on the board. Both voted for the home efficiency cuts proposed by Mr. Woodcock. Others voting for the cuts included LePage’s previous top energy staffer, Ken Fletcher, now a member of the board. The Board Chair, Al Hodsdon of Waterville, opposed the cut.
Over the past year, Mr. Woodcock has repeatedly told the Legislature’s energy committee and other audiences that Maine’s most pressing energy challenge is heating costs (and not electric rates). “The governor has refused to release $11.5 million in voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future funding, holding this bond hostage unless the Legislature approves more timber cutting on Maine’s Public Reserved Lands and diverts $5 million in timber revenue toward heating efficiency. Yet this week the governor’s top energy staffer led the charge for Efficiency Maine to take $7.5 million in critical funding for home heating efficiency off the table. This makes no sense.”
The $7.5 million at issue would help homeowners lower heating costs by reducing air leakage, increasing insulation, and installing heat pumps, wood pellet heating, or other efficiency equipment. The proposed Efficiency Maine budget would have used revenues generated by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to fund these improvements.
“The inconsistency here is enough to make one’s head spin,” said Voorhees. “At the same time Governor LePage is pushing to overcut Maine’s public forests because he says we need the money to help Mainers reduce their energy bills, his Administration is cutting proposed funding to help Mainers reduce their energy bills.”
On literally the same day that LePage’s energy staffer was urging Efficiency Maine to cut home energy savings for Mainers, his spokesperson, Adrienne Bennett said, regarding the timber funds, “If someone wants to stand on principle rather than help Mainers who are struggling to stay warm during the winter, let them challenge this in court.”
“Mainers have every reason to be concerned. Does the governor want to help struggling Mainers reduce heating costs, or is his real goal to damage Maine’s highly successful Land for Maine’s Future program and overcut Maine’s public forests?” said Voorhees. “Energy efficiency is widely agreed upon as one of the most effective things Maine can do to lower energy costs. Energy efficiency has broad bi-partisan support, which is why the governor’s veto of the ‘and’ bill last session was overridden unanimously. This week, the governor’s team fought to slash proposed funding that would have saved Mainers $35 million on energy bills.”
The Board has an opportunity to reverse its decision before it votes on the final three-year plan and sends it to the Public Utilities Commission for approval. If they do not reverse their decision, it will be up to the Legislature to intervene if they want RGGI funding to continue to be used for energy efficiency, as it has in Maine since RGGI’s inception. The governor has a bill pending before the Legislature to take away additional RGGI funding from Efficiency Maine; this funding is now used to help businesses and industrial facilities lower energy costs.