One of the best-selling books on negotiating is the 1981 title by Roger Fisher and William Ury called “Getting to Yes.”
In it, the authors call for putting aside personalities and entrenched positions, and using creativity to find mutually beneficial solutions that are better than what either party could have come up with on its own.
Last year, a stakeholder group came up with a new model to expand the use of solar power in Maine in a way that would benefit all electricity ratepayers, not just the owners and installers of solar collectors. The compromise had the support of representatives of disparate interests that seldom agree, including Central Maine Power and the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Somehow, these groups found a way to get to “yes.”
But then the plan was presented in Augusta, where it is running into partisan gridlock. It squeaked through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a party-line vote, all the Democrats in favor and all the Republicans against. That will doom a bill that would need strong bipartisan support to pass over an expected veto.
And that is a shame because this program was developed in a way in which most Mainers would like to see policy made. Thoughtful participants from different sides worked together to try to find a better way to accomplish shared goals.
Now the deal is in danger of coming unraveled. Republicans claim it’s unacceptable because it could add 20 cents to an average monthly electric bill. That ignores the costs that would be avoided for ratepayers if there were more solar energy in the regional power mix, and the economic benefits of millions of dollars worth of private investment that would create jobs for 800 solar installers around the state.
Some of the same people who oppose the solar compromise support a plan to buy more biomass power to support jobs threatened by the decline of the paper industry. And lawmakers from both parties backed a plan to use electric rates to support a $1.5 billion subsidy for a pipeline that would bring more natural gas into New England.
Like the gas pipeline expansion, the much more modest solar proposal would be a cost-saver for ratepayers in the long term.
Lawmakers should drop the reflexive partisanship and take a close look at this proposal. It’s a good deal that was developed in a good way. They should find a way to get to “yes.”