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Amendment Allows University of Maine to Compete for Offshore Wind Project
June 27, 2013
For Immediate Release: Thursday, June 27
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary (207) 287-2531
AUGUSTA – In a letter to Members of the 126th Legislature, Governor Paul R. LePage applauded an amended bill that allows the University of Maine to compete in offshore wind development. With this issue resolved he requested that legislators support an energy bill he previously vetoed.
During consideration of LD 1559, “An Act to Reduce Energy Costs, Increase Energy Efficiency, Promote Electric System Reliability and Protect the Environment,” the Governor pushed for the amendment to requiring the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to conduct a second round of competitive bidding for offshore wind projects. The amendment would allow the University of Maine to bid for an offshore wind project in our state’s own waters.
The amendment failed, but the Senate resurrected it Thursday in LD 1472, “An Act to Provide for Economic Development with Offshore Wind Power,” and was supported in a 22-13 vote.
In a letter sent to legislators Wednesday, the Governor explained why he vetoed LD 1559, also referred to as the Omnibus Energy Bill. “I had a discussion with chairs regarding this provision, and we came to an agreement that I would allow the bill to become law without my signature if this provision was included,” he said.
The Governor stated that since the amendment passed and allows for an “equal playing field” to compete in offshore wind development, he encouraged the Legislature to enact the energy bill. The energy bill was enacted by the Legislature Thursday.
Senate President Justin Alfond decried the amendment, rejecting the notion that Maine’s flagship university should compete in offshore wind development.
Alfond claimed that opening up the bidding process will jeopardize an investment by a Norwegian multi-national oil and gas company, Statoil, to build wind turbines off Boothbay Harbor. Recently, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a term sheet for Statoil, subject to contract negotiations with the PUC.
Governor LePage has pushed for weeks to include the University of Maine during the bidding process. The State of Maine sends more than $175 million of taxpayers’ money to the University of Maine system each year and the congressional delegation has worked to provide nearly $30 million in federal funding to support offshore wind research at the University. “The hard-working citizens who fund the University every year would be pleased to see that their ratepayer dollars are going to a project that will benefit Mainers, rather than subsidizing a foreign oil company,” the Governor said. “Our own university has made significant progress in offshore wind technology recently and we have already invested millions into this research. Let’s allow the University to compete on a level-playing field and allow the PUC to determine which one makes the most sense for Maine’s economy.”
Alfond said he will personally reach out to Statoil to reassure the Norwegians that they have his support instead of Maine’s own university.
“Senator Alfond and other Democrats are fighting to give preference to a multi-international corporation, which has not guaranteed it will provide long-term jobs for Mainers,” Governor LePage said. “Prior to moving forward with a $200 million contract I would prefer to consider the economic opportunity to our own university system, right here in Maine. I commend Republicans and the few Democrats who voted to support our flagship university as we move forward with this research and development.”