Augusta Watch
MEMA opposes 2 late filed governor bills. Members flood the Utilities and Energy committee to oppose.


Thanks to all of you that called and emailed. Your voice was heard, and made a difference.
Last week, 2 Governor sponsored bills were given to the legislature. The last day of session is to be next Friday so these were seriously late. LD 1895, is a bill that would allow the natural gas conservation funds that are not used by Efficiency Maine within 2-years go back to the utilities so the utilities could use the money for marketing and conversions. This bill, due to strong efforts by MEMA members was never allowed out of the Senate and was tabled, effectively killing it thanks directly to the efforts of Mike Estes and his relationship with Senate President Thibodeau.

LD 1896 was a radical change to the way electric rates are designed. While rate design may need some modernization, this bill had massive ramifications for everyone that uses electric. Needless to say, given the Public Hearing was last Wednesday and the bill was to be finalized by Friday, there was not a great appetite to pass something as comprehensive without major deliberations.

MEMA President Jamie Py was at the Public Hearing watching as we had concerns that this would turn into a Heat Pump lovefest. In fact, the hearing did become that as the Governorís office testified the primary reason for raising the fixed electricity monthly charge and lowering the T&D rate was to encourage use of heat pumps (and to discourage solar, and make camp owners pay their fair share). Mr. Py testified in opposition recommending a full hearing on the efficacy of heat pumps should public policy of rate making be focused on promoting them. We also supplied the committee with testimony and a Bob Hedden Direct testimony to the Vermont PUC that outlines the issues. See MEMA Testimony here and Bob Hedden Testimony here.

By last Friday it was clear the bill was in trouble. The bill also removed language in statute that required the PUC to encourage electric conservation. Again, a wide sweeping major policy change. However, the Governorís office put forth an amendment requiring a study of the promoting heat pumps and giving them to low income people using conservation funds from the Efficiency Maine Trust; it took the natural gas language from LD 1895 and placed it into the amendment as a study; and still had the rate making changes language in it.

This amendment got tabled late Friday, and was subsequently worked on by various parties over the weekend. By Monday, the bill had changed yet again due to work by the EMT and Public advocate. This 3rd rendition was still very problematic for us.

Finally late Monday afternoon, the committee voted the bill. A partisan divided report. Democrats voted Ought Not To Pass. Republicans voted the original amended version from Friday, generally to support the Governor. For us, this amendment only has the task force to study heat pumps and whether they would be good for low income people. It still has the major rate design changes. We were assured the bill would die in the Senate if not the House. The bill is not dead yet and shenanigans can occur up until the last legislative day.