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Governor’s Veto Message Clear, Maine Must Support University In Offshore Wind Development
June 20, 2013
For Immediate Release: Thursday, June 20
Contact: Patrick Woodcock, Energy Director (207) 624-7405
AUGUSTA – Wednesday evening, Governor Paul R. LePage vetoed LD 1559, "An Act To Reduce Energy Costs, Increase Energy Efficiency, Promote Electric System Reliability and Protect the Environment.” However, in his veto message, the Governor made it clear why he rejected the measure – the bill failed to include a fair opportunity for the University of Maine to equally compete for an offshore wind demonstration project.
The Governor noted he offered Democratic leadership a compromise to avoid a veto, providing an opportunity for the University of Maine to compete equally. “I gave my word that, if that one additional provision was included, I would let this bill go into law without my signature,” the Governor said. “There are many things we can disagree on, but we should all agree that our flagship university deserves the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. For the State, it is simply the right thing to do.”
Additionally, the Governor recognized the bill had some positive aspects, but that he had significant concerns with other parts of it. “There are also fee increases on Maine people and significant risk with new authority provided to the Public Utilities Commission. I believe we can do more to encourage lower cost electricity, including hydroelectric, and should focus our limited resources on directly lowering heating costs,” he wrote.
Patrick Woodcock, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office, stated, “We should be focusing on what could unite the State of Maine and allow our University to compete for an offshore wind project. The current version of this bill chooses the Norwegian oil company Statoil over our University.”
Earlier this month an historic launching of VolturnUS, the first concrete floating wind turbine in the world, occurred, which should compel Maine to ensure it makes the right choice for developing an offshore wind industry in Maine, Woodcock noted.
“While it is the PUC’s decision to specifically award contracts, the Governor supports evaluating whether we can utilize the subsidy that will maximize the economic benefits to the State of Maine. The University of Maine should be given that option and if they are chosen by the PUC as being the best option for our economy, the Governor supports this research and development,” Woodcock said.
Governor LePage met with Energy Committee chairs Senator John Cleveland (D-Androscoggin) and Representative Barry Hobbins (D-Saco) and the Ranking Republicans Senator Edward Youngblood (R-Penobscot) and Representative Larry Dunphy (R-Embden) in May to discuss the legislative package agreeing that reducing Maine’s energy and electricity prices are a priority. The Governor has committed to working with the committee over the next year to find ways to address the fundamental challenges Maine faces with energy costs.
Among the goals of the bill is to help Mainers lower their heating costs with more affordable options such as natural gas, wood pellets, or heat pumps and lower the cost of electricity for businesses – a proposal submitted by the Governor earlier this session.
“Maine’s energy costs are too high – and it’s killing economic opportunity,” said Governor LePage. “Maine families pay more than 24 percent above the national average for electricity. Our businesses pay 14 percent more. Alternatives can help us move to lower the $3,000 or more that Mainers spend on average annually to heat their homes.”
The veto now awaits action in the Senate.