Chances are you’ve heard about the missing “and.”
This printing error in a major energy bill threatens $38 million in energy efficiency funding, prevents Maine families and businesses from lowering their energy costs and puts at risk jobs in the clean energy sector. Fortunately, there’s a simple, clean fix to this problem.
Good morning. I’m Representative Jennifer DeChant of Bath and I serve on the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. Thank you for tuning in.
This week, dozens of people urged our committee to fix this problem. Energy consumers, contractors and others from the business community were loud and clear. They urged lawmakers to put back the missing “and.” They wanted us to honor the intent of the law, which would have provided up to $60 million in funding for Efficiency Maine.
Elise Brown of Liberty in Waldo County talked to us about how her business made decisions based on the omnibus energy law passed in 2013. She is the co-owner of Evergreen Home Performance, an energy efficiency contracting company that works from Downeast Maine to York County.
Based on the funding level set in the law, Evergreen hired five new employees and invested $50,000 in new equipment and technology. That was before the Public Utilities Commission made a decision in March based on the typo, which left out the word “and” in the part of the law that deals with the funding formula for Efficiency Maine.
Elise Brown told us that there will be serious consequences for her business and more than 700 other Efficiency Maine registered vendors if this typographical error is not corrected swiftly. She pointed out that these jobs can only be stable if the state has predictable long-term energy policies.
Elise Brown urged us to support a bill – LD 1215 – that simply corrects the printing error in the law. The bill is a bipartisan measure sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport and cosponsored by Republican Senator Roger Katz of Augusta, Republican Representative Larry Dunphy of Embden and Democratic Senator Bill Diamond of Windham.
This is a bill that is supported by lawmakers who want a clean fix for the good of Maine families and businesses: mom-and-pop operations and big paper companies that rely on energy efficiency to save on their energy costs and contractors and other business people who work in the clean energy field.
The committee also learned how Efficiency Maine has made the difference between struggling and expanding for the manufacturers represented by the Maine Pellet Fuels Association.
Those manufacturers in Strong, Athens, Corinth and Ashland directly employ 126 people. The industry as a whole employs more than 500 people, mostly loggers but also heating contractors who install boilers.
We also heard from the Industrial Energy Consumer Group, a trade association that represents medium and large energy consumers, the Maine Association of Building Efficiency Professionals, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and many others worried about the fate of Efficiency Maine.
Many of my fellow legislators recognize that the 2013 energy law was negotiated in good faith. It was a complex law with lots of moving parts, one that required a lot of give and take by everyone involved.
We need to honor the hard work and cooperation that created this landmark energy law. We need to do right for all the Maine people and businesses that are counting on us. We can do all that by pursuing the most straightforward and honest solution – one that’s already before us.
All we have to do is put back the missing “and.”
I’m Representative Jennifer DeChant of Bath. Thank you for listening.