Coalition seeking clean energy ballot initiative cancels Monday presser

AUGUSTA, Maine — A coalition that has been gathering signatures in hopes of putting a question on the November ballot that would ask Maine to produce more clean and renewable energy abruptly canceled a press conference that was scheduled for Monday.

Maine Citizens for Clean Energy was to meet at the State House early Monday afternoon, presumably to announce that it had gathered more than the 57,000 signatures for a citizen’s initiative.

The initiative would increase by 20 percent the amount of Maine’s electricity that comes from new, renewable energy sources — such as wind and solar — and would require utilities to invest in energy efficiency whenever it would reduce energy costs for ratepayers.

“Over the weekend, we discovered that we had fewer signatures than we anticipated,” Maine Citizens for Clean Energy Spokesman David Farmer said. “We are working to account for the signatures coming back from town clerks and will make a decision today about whether to proceed this year, or to continue our signature gathering efforts with the goal of being on the ballot in 2013.”

The deadline to submit signatures for a November 2012 initiative is Monday.

In the last few weeks, opposition to the initiative has mounted. Gov. Paul LePage on several occasions — including during his State of the State address — rejected the citizen’s initiative and said it serves only to pad the pockets of special interest groups.

Over the weekend, a political action committee called Stop Taking Our Paychecks formed to oppose the measure if it went to ballot. The group’s spokesman, Chris O’Neil, said the proposal is misguided, driven by ideology and would increase costs for Maine’s ratepayers.

“This is going to be a campaign about pocketbook issues, in a bad economy, and it’s my sense that Maine taxpayers are in no mood to shell out even more money because of yet another state mandate. Enough’s enough,” O’Neil said.