HALLOWELL — Gov. Paul LePage used a meeting of clean-tech business leaders on Thursday to attack Maine’s “green” energy policies that he said bear responsibility for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the state.
On the coldest days of an especially cold winter, he said, Maine lawmakers were discussing rebates for solar energy, while a resident he heard about was huddled at home in an electric blanket.
LePage made his comments in opening remarks Thursday morning at a forum of the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine. The forum on regional electric grid and natural gas pipeline infrastructure issues was being held at the Maple Hill Farm Inn, in a conference center with solar electric panels on the roof and a wind turbine spinning in a field near the complex.
LePage admonished participants at the forum, many who are involved in clean-sector businesses focused on energy efficiency, biomass, solar and wind power, not to expect the public to foot the bill for the cost of research and development. A vocal opponent of Maine’s wind power policies and any additional costs they put on ratepayers, LePage indicated the state now seems to be favoring solar subsidies.
“Don’t ask the ratepayers to pay for it, because they can’t afford it,” LePage said.
LePage, who voiced his often-repeated view that government shouldn’t pick winners and losers in energy policy, went on to stress the need to build more natural gas pipeline capacity in the region, as a way to lower electric and heating costs, and keep manufacturing plants from leaving the state. Environmental groups have been pushing back on the idea of replacing Maine’s dependence on oil with natural gas, without a commitment to make long-range plans for renewable energy sources.
LePage also made a pitch for his effort to steer money from a stepped-up timber harvesting program on public lands to help Mainers convert to less-costly heating systems.
On that topic, LePage leveled a personal attack at Senate President Justin Alfond, who he accused of being behind a tabled bill last month in a legislative committee aimed at using the public land funds.
LePage said he found it “disgusting” that “a little rich boy would do that to the state of Maine.”
LePage’s partisan tone extended into what amounted to a campaign speech at the close of his remarks, as he assailed term limits and predicted the current race for governor would spawn “the hate campaign of all campaigns.”