Tea Party Governor LePage Is Killing Maine’s Clean Energy Economy

Our guest blogger is Kiley Kroh, Associate Director for Ocean Communications at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Thanks to Gov. Paul LePage’s (R-ME) recent assault on jobs and innovation, investors at this week’s EnergyOcean International Conference in Portland, Maine are wondering if their money would be better spent elsewhere.  Portland was chosen for the conference location because of Maine’s reputation as a leading state to invest in alternative energy and Maine’s entire Congressional Delegation will be awarded the "Political Pioneer Award" for their political leadership in promoting alternative energy.

The state’s Tea Party governor, however, seems bound and determined to undo any progress made under the previous administration.  Last month, the LePage administration unveiled LD 1570, which would repeal the 2007 Act to Stimulate Demand for Renewable Energy requiring power to companies increase the amount of electricity derived from renewable sources by 1 percent a year through 2017.  The law aimed to diversify Maine’s energy portfolio and reduce dependence on fossil fuels – simultaneously, it worked to create jobs and increase investment in the state, including “more than $1 billion by wind energy developers alone.”

LePage defended LD 1570 by claiming that it would help lower what are the 12th highest energy rates in the nation – costs that he contends are “exploding.”  As the Lewiston Sun Journal notes, the governor’s assertion that energy costs are skyrocketing is completely false

A Press Herald analysis, reviewed by the Maine PUC for accuracy, found the 2007 renewable energy requirement adds only $4.80 a year to the average residential electric bill.

The governor also alleged that creating jobs through "corporate welfare" is not sustainable, as "the majority of these ‘green jobs’ are temporary.”

Those actually working in the sector, however, paint a very different picture.  Jackson Parker, president and CEO of Reed & Reed, a major player nationally in the construction of commercial wind farms, predicted LD 1570 would drive away business investment by creating regulatory uncertainty while yielding only modest energy savings.

It is anti-wind, it is anti-business and it is anti-jobs.

Testifying against the bill, Paul Williamson, director of the Maine Wind Industry Initiative, pointed out that manufacturing of wind power components was the fastest-growing manufacturing sector in the U.S. during the past two years. 

Ray Dackerman, the U.S. director for London-based Condor Wind Energy told the Portland Press Herald that Maine has an attractive wind resource and a skilled manufacturing sector, “but we cannot ignore that the new administration isn’t embracing the offshore wind industry … We need to go to the path of least resistance.”

Killing jobs and deterring investors certainly seems to contradict the giant “Open for Business” sign LePage unveiled earlier this year.

Just as innovators and businesspeople are touting their accomplishments and the potential for both tidal energy and offshore wind development in Maine, the state’s governor looks increasingly out of touch with reality. Here are a few statistics he may want to note: a recent UMaine survey of 6,000 Mainers that shows 95 percent of them in support of deepwater offshore wind.  Another recent poll also found that only three in ten Mainers approve of the job LePage is doing.

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