Governor LePage Testifies Before House Subcommittee on Energy and Power

May 13, 2015

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Governor Paul R. LePage testified this morning before the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power in support of a bill to speed the federal permitting process and lower energy costs across our nation.

The draft legislation aims to improve the permitting of interstate natural gas pipelines, along with a draft bill to reduce the regulatory burdens on hydropower production. Governor LePage spoke about how the process must be modernized and the hydropower licensing process improved to make it more efficient and transparent, while continuing to uphold environmental protections.

“Natural gas and hydropower are ready to power our idle mills. I appreciate the work that this Committee is doing to bring rationality to the federal permitting process,” said Governor LePage. “I encourage the Committee to adopt these modest bills and to continue the work to accelerate the energy infrastructure projects that can bring additional prosperity to Maine and the rest of the country.” The Governor’s complete written and oral testimony is available by clicking the highlighted links.

During today’s hearing, it was acknowledged that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) takes years to approve permits – on average more than two-and-a-half years, a timeframe confirmed by Ann Miles, director of the Office of Energy Projects at FERC.

“While the speed of energy technology innovation has increased, our federal permitting process has languished,” Governor LePage told the Subcommittee. “Activists who are not looking to improve projects or raise substantive environmental considerations often hijack the process. Rather, their objective is simply to block critical energy infrastructure across the country – to keep projects stuck in bureaucracy and to hold our economies back.”

In addition, the Governor has introduced three bills to lower the cost of energy for Maine’s businesses. These include the following:

• “An Act to Reduce Electric Rates for Maine Businesses.” The legislation would refund a portion of the pollution auction collected under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) back to ratepayers. Specifically, starting in July 2015, 55 percent of funds collected under RGGI (approximately $5.7 million in FY 2014) would be returned directly to business ratepayers, thus lowering their electricity rates. The legislation (LD 1398) is sponsored by Senator Garrett Mason.

• “An Act to Improve Natural Gas Price Competitiveness for Maine’s Manufacturers.” The bill authorizes the Public Utilities Commission to aid large natural gas users in obtaining adequate natural gas supplies at a reasonable cost. Utilizing the PUC’s existing authority to contract for natural gas capacity, this bill would permit large natural gas users to contract for their own supplies, using the state’s transmission and distribution utilities as the creditworthy ‘backstop’ for the supply contract. The bill (L.D. 1399) is sponsored by Senator David Burns.

• “An Act to Focus Energy Laws on Energy Cost.” The bill takes several actions to reduce energy costs for Mainers. The legislation authorizes the Public Utilities Commission to encourage aggregation of distributed generation (i.e., energy produced near where it is used), thus capturing the benefits of such generation for ratepayers. The bill also makes several changes to the state’s complex renewable energy policies, to encourage procuring clean energy sources at a lower cost. The bill changes the state’s long term contracting authority to focus on lower cost projects, and it eliminates both the net energy billing program and the state’s renewable portfolio standard. These subsidy programs are paid for by all ratepayers, but at current pricing is doing little to encourage development of cost-effective renewable energy. The bill (L.D. 1400) is sponsored by Senator Woodsome.

The bills are likely to be referred to the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee for public hearing.