Solar Bill Fails to Override Veto in Close Vote

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Maine State House of Representatives ChamberOn August 2. 2017, the Maine House of Representatives voted to sustain Governor LePage’s veto of the solar bill, despite the fact that the bill passed the House and Senate initially by more than a two-thirds super majority. Seven Republican legislators changed their position from their prior support and today voted to sustain LePage’s veto of the measure. The Senate voted 28-6 to override and the House voted 88-48, falling three votes short of two-thirds.

“Today, too many lawmakers turned their back on jobs of the future for Maine and bowed to pressure from the Governor's office, Central Maine Power (CMP), Emera, and other utility and fossil fuel industry groups from across the nation,” says Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “They failed to support the small businesses that are struggling to create and sustain jobs from Kittery to Fort Kent, and they ignored the need and desire to transition to cleaner, renewable energy sources.

Voorhees went on to say, “At the strong urging of the governor, lawmakers today voted to raise electric bills, deny Mainers good jobs, generate more pollution, stall Maine’s transition to clean energy, and make it harder for Maine people and businesses to generate their own solar power.

“This vote allows the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to begin its extreme, nationally unprecedented new tax on self-consumption of power. That’s a bitter pill for a state whose forest products industry has long depended on the right to consume the power they produce without penalty, and bad news for a state trying to catch up on a revolutionary technology that allows every home and business to affordably produce their own power, too.

“The solar bill was a significant compromise, crafted almost exclusively by Republican lawmakers, and falling far short of the comprehensive solar bill considered in 2016, but the outcome was the same: the governor’s baseless ideology, aided by false claims from utilities, prevented Maine from moving forward with clean solar energy.

“This failure leaves Maine with an arbitrary 10-person limit on community solar farms and allows the regressive PUC rule on net metering to take effect. This rule will cost all Mainers who pay an electricity bill millions of dollars in the coming years, regardless of whether or not they have solar. Those voting to sustain today now must take responsibility for the increased costs on all ratepayers to implement this broken rule.

“After several years of reasonable compromise efforts to move forward with a modern solar policy, it is clear that Maine must free itself of the thoughtless ideology of its governor before progress can be made. (Either that or our policy must be decided in the courts or through direct referendum.) Until then it is likely that Maine will remain in last place regionally in one of the most significant clean energy technologies available today.”

NRCM and its allies including the Conservation Law Foundation, ReVision Energy, the Industrial Energy Consumers Group, and Insource Renewables, had previously filed a lawsuit in the Maine Supreme Court challenging the PUC’s rule. That case should be decided by the end of the year.

FMI from the source of this article, contact: Judy Berk, (207) 462-2192 or Dylan Voorhees (207) 462-3221 at Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Image credit: State of Maine