Gov. LePage turns up heat on lawmakers for opposing his energy bill

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage is criticizing lawmakers — including a couple in his own party — for watering down one of his energy-related bills in committee.

LD 1863, An Act to Lower the Price of Electricity for Maine Consumers, was drafted to lift the 100-megawatt cap for qualifying renewable power generation — particularly hydropower.

The governor has continually said one of his main goals is to reduce the cost of electricity and he believes this bill will do that by allowing more low-cost hydro energy into the state.

LD 1863 was debated at length by the Legislature’s energy committee, which eventually voted out a majority report that alter’s LePage’s initial bill by letting the Maine Public Utilities Commission make case-by-case determinations on when to lift the cap.

LePage said special interest groups like the Industrial Energy Consumer Group (IECG) and the Maine Renewable Energy Association (MREA) opposed this measure because they benefit of higher electricity prices.

“As I stated in my State of the State address, I do not support Augusta being in the business of increasing costs on Maine ratepayers to pad the pockets of special interest groups. I believe it is morally and ethically wrong to take more money from those who can least afford it to line the pockets of those that are politically connected here in Augusta,” he said in a statement late Friday.

Sen. Chris Rector, R-Thomaston, Rep. Stacey Fitts, R-Pittsfield and all six Democrats on the Energy Committee voted for the majority report. The remaining five Republicans offered a minority report that is closer to the bill’s original language.

LePage targeted his comments at the eight lawmakers who voted against his initial bill.

“I encourage constituents to call legislators who voted against this bill and ask them if they are concerned about the rising cost of energy hurting working families and small businesses. If they are, ask them to change their vote,” he said.

LD 1863 is now before the Senate and could be taken up this week.