Extremism by a few means extreme policies will remain in place
NRCM news release
Today, by two votes the Maine House of Representatives failed to override Governor LePage’s veto of this year’s modest but critical solar bill, despite the fact that the Maine Senate and House passed the bill by more than a two-thirds super majority. Six legislators changed their position from their prior support and today voted to sustain LePage’s veto of the measure. The vote was 98-51, following a Senate vote on Monday to override (26-7). After the vote, the bill was tabled in the House pending one final reconsideration.
“Today, too many lawmakers turned their back on jobs of the future for Maine and bowed to pressure from the Governor’s Office and Central Maine Power,” says Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “They failed to support the small businesses that are struggling to create and sustain jobs from Kittery to Fort Kent, and they ignored the need and desire to move to cleaner, renewable energy sources.”
With a big push by Governor LePage, lawmakers today voted to raise electric bills, deny Mainers good jobs, generate more pollution, slow Maine’s move to clean homegrown energy, and thwart Maine people and businesses who choose to generate their own solar power. As in past years, the governor and his allies used aggressive tactics on members of his own party to bully and cajole them into switching their votes. In the days leading up to the vote, the governor met with the entire caucus and summoned swing legislators to his office for individual meetings.
This vote allows the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to begin its nationally unprecedented new tax on power generated and consumed in Maine homes and businesses. That is especially significant for a state whose forest products industry has long depended on the right to consume the power they produce without penalty, and bad news for a state trying to catch up on a revolutionary technology that allows every home and business to affordably produce their own power, too.
Today a minority of legislators in one chamber voted to tax Mainers on the power they produce and consume, and to raise electric bills for all Mainers to pay millions of dollars for unnecessary new meters.
“Yet again, a small group of extreme legislators ignored the will of Maine people and strong bipartisan majorities in the Legislature,” said Voorhees. “Maine is in last place in the region for solar investment and solar power jobs and the rejection of this modest bill will drag Maine further behind, sacrificing, clean energy, jobs, and energy independence.”
Solar power offers Mainers tremendous value, and the technology continues to expand despite the best efforts of Governor LePage and President Trump to block it. Without new leadership and new policies, Maine will continue to miss out on lots of opportunities.
This vote is a clear loss for all Maine businesses except for two: the for-profit monopoly utilities, Emera and Central Maine Power, who will see their own guaranteed earnings increase as they spend additional ratepayer money on unnecessary new metering equipment and billing system changes. The PUC rule makes it harder for customers to choose solar, keeping all Mainers dependent on buying power from the monopolies and their increasingly expensive transmission system. And, most disturbingly, the utilities will begin charging a “delivery fee” on power that solar customers produce and consume on-site, power that never touches the electricity grid.
Rejection of the bill also means an arbitrary nine-person limit on community solar farms will remain in place, denying municipalities, business groups, and individuals in Maine the opportunity to invest in more cost-effective solar projects.
NRCM and allies including the Conservation Law Foundation, ReVision Energy, and the Industrial Energy Consumers Group had previously filed a lawsuit in the Maine Supreme Court challenging the PUC’s rule. That case, which should be decided in the coming weeks or months, provides a final opportunity rein in the PUC’s flawed, harmful rule—at least until a new Legislature and governor are elected.
The following legislators voted FOR LD 1444 when it passed, but voted AGAINST it after the governor vetoed the bill:
Rep. Guerin, Rep. Harrington, Rep. Parry, Rep. Jeff Pierce, Rep. Pouliot, Rep. Simmons
“We remain committed as ever to advancing progressive solar policy in Maine.” Eliza Donoghue, Senior Policy & Advocacy Specialist, Maine Audubon
“The governor and his cronies care more about protecting the profits of CMP than ratepayers who will see their electric bill increase with the PUC rule going into effect. It is beyond time for new leadership in the Blaine House, where renewable energy is embraced, not demonized.” Beth Ahearn, Maine Conservation Alliance
“It is disappointing to see ideology once again overtake common sense in Augusta. Ratepayers will now be on the hook for millions of dollars in unnecessary costs for which they will receive little benefit, while we continue to respond to the increasing demand for solar in Maine. We have a great deal of work to do to implement responsible solar energy policy, and I’m optimistic that the next governor will better leverage the expertise and passion of Maine people to collaboratively solve problems rather than pit us against one another.” Vaughan Woodruff, President, Insource Renewables