June 20, 2013

LePage vetoes sweeping Maine energy bill, but House overrides him

The bipartisan bill, which would help lower energy costs for Mainers, must pass a veto override in the Senate before becoming law.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

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In this file photo, a scale model of UMaine's VolturnUS wind turbine, which was christened in May. As promised, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a sweeping energy bill with bipartisan support in the Legislature late Wednesday, June 19, 2013 because of his support for the VolturnUS project..

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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LePage’s submitted the veto message after a frenetic night of negotiations over the bill.

In the State House hallways late Wednesday, Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, the chair of the Legislature’s Energy Committee and a champion of the bill, was seen going over papers with Woodcock and LePage’s chief counsel, Michael Cianchette.

At one point, Hobbins, Woodcock and Sen. John Cleveland, D-Auburn, the Senate chair of the Energy Committee, were seen leaving the Senate Republican office just outside the Senate chamber.

Just after 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which has had input on the bill, said LePage’s veto decision was “up in the air,” and the parties were “passing language around” to seek a compromise.

Many of LePage’s ideas were incorporated into the bill, but legislators also rejected some of his proposed changes.

When it passed the bill earlier this month, the Senate rejected amendments submitted by Sen. Edward Youngblood, R-Brewer, that would have alleviated some of LePage’s concerns.

The concerns included a provision that would allow the PUC, instead of the Legislature, to set the charge added to all Maine electric bills to fund certain efficiency and conservation programs.

Still, lawmakers hailed the bill’s passage in the Legislature as a bipartisan compromise amid months of conflict two parties. On the Senate floor earlier this month, Cleveland called it a “true compromise.”

Energy interests have also cheered the bill. Tony Buxton, a lobbyist for large energy consumers such as paper companies, has called the bill “historic.” 

After the override vote, he said the support of the bill shows legislators understand — and want to improve — Maine’s energy standing. 

“It’s easy to be angry, especially in a toxic political environment,” Buxton said. “We’ve gotten this far relying on the better angels of our nature and we’re going to try to keep them present and active moving forward.”

State House Bureau Writer Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or at mshepherd@mainetoday.com.

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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