Business owners push to restore Efficiency Maine funding

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Business owners and energy experts gathered in Augusta Monday in the hopes of getting lawmakers to fix the omission of one little word that could reduce state funding to Efficiency Maine by $38 million.

The bill, passed in 2013, was intended to provide money to Efficiency Maine from three sources, the sales of electricity and transmission and distribution.By mistake, an "and" was left out of the final bill, causing the money to only come from two sources.

Some business owners fear less funding to Efficiency Maine could have a negative effect on their companies.

Efficiency Maine provides rebates on the purchase of high-efficiency lights and equipment with a goal of lowering the cost and environmental impacts of energy in Maine. The programs supporters said the apparent clerical error in the revisor's office will cost Mainers a lot of money.

"Energy consumers in the state of Maine would spend $250 million more on net on their energy bills," said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Voorhees is calling on the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which oversees Efficiency Maine, to fix the mistake.

The PUC can take a second look at this issue and has the power to resolve it if a request is made for reconsideration. Voorhees said the Natural Resources Council of Maine plans to make that request.

"The parties in the case may have found some things that we didn't uncover during the rule making process, and they can certainly bring those things forward," Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission Mark Vannoy said.

Another option is for the legislature to pass a new bill that corrects the 2013 bill. Back then, the House and Senate were both controlled by the Democrats. Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the bill, but the Legislature overrode it. Now, however, Republicans have the majority in the Senate, and many people in the legislature are new.

"The reality in this business is that one legislature cannot bind another," said House Minority Leader Ken Fredette.

Rep. Fredette is helping to draft a new bill in an effort to fix the error. Although he wouldn't provide more details about the bill, it's clear it won't simply add the word "and" to the 2013 bill. A Democrat-sponsored bill that would have done that was voted down last week.

"It isn't as simple as just grabbing a bottle of white out and inserting the word," Senate President Mike Thibodeau said. "We want to make sure that everybody that was involved has an opportunity to before we make a decision as to how to proceed."

The future of Efficiency Maine is uncertain as Fredette continues to meet with the governor and democratic leaders in an effort to solve the problem.


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