by Pete Didisheim, NRCM Advocacy Director
Senator Cleveland, Representative Hobbins, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Technology. My name is Pete Didisheim, I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and I appreciate this opportunity to testify on the nomination of Mr. Donald Lewis to the Efficiency Maine Trust.
NRCM rarely testifies against a gubernatorial nominee. Like you, we take this process very seriously. Today, however, we are testifying in opposition to the nomination of Mr. Lewis because of conflict of interest concerns.
Our position on this nomination has nothing to do with the character or expertise of Mr. Lewis. Clearly, he has strong credentials in the energy field. Rather, we feel obligated to take a position against this nomination based on the conflict of interest language aimed at protecting the interests of Maine ratepayers who provide revenue to support Efficiency Maine’s programs.
That language states clearly that Trustees “may not receive any direct personal benefit from activities of the trust.” This is where the nomination of Mr. Lewis runs into serious problems—because as President of Nyle Systems, his company that has a strong vested interest in budget decisions made by the Trust. Nyle Systems sells a heat pump for hot water heaters. He has actively sought help from Efficiency Maine to promote his products, and has attempted to get the U.S. Department of Energy to provide Energy Star certification for his products so that they would qualify for Efficiency Maine support. One of Nyle’s customers also has urged Efficiency Maine to provide a “waiver” of the Trust’s eligibility requirement so that Nyle System’s products would qualify for financial incentives.
Protecting the integrity of the Efficiency Maine program is extremely important. Maine people need to know that decisions about the allocation of funds are being guided by objective criteria of how to achieve the most cost-effective reduction in energy use for homes and businesses. The Legislature made the right decision in enacting conflict of interest language aimed at precluding participants in the energy efficiency market from serving as members of the Efficiency Maine Trust. NRCM has worked with hundreds of businesses across Maine to promote efforts to boost the energy efficiency of businesses and residences. We have very close working relationships with many of these companies, and we would be just as opposed to the nomination of any of those individuals as we are today with the nomination now before you.
Approving this nomination would set a bad precedent. If Mr. Lewis were confirmed, then why not fill the entire Trust Board with members who represent companies that could benefit from decisions by the Trust? Clearly, the integrity of the Efficiency Maine program would suffer if the conflict of interest provision in Maine law were ignored.
We urge you to vote against this nomination. I appreciate this opportunity to testify and would be glad to answer any questions that you may have.