Three organizations are formally requesting that the Maine Public Utilities Commission reconsider a March decision that could reduce funding for an energy-efficiency program by up to $38 million a year.

The petition – filed Wednesday by the Conservation Law Foundation, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Maine Association of Building Efficiency Professionals – seeks to reverse the PUC’s controversial interpretation of a 2013 energy law.

The law set up a process whereby a surcharge averaging about $3 per month would be added to electric customers’ bills to pay for an Efficiency Maine program aimed at helping homeowners and businesses reduce their electricity usage.

But a one-word clerical error in the final version of the bill – the omission of a single “and” in language that sets a cap on the program funding – went unnoticed and in March the PUC voted 2-1 to adopt a strict, literal interpretation of the language. As a result, the funding cap for the Efficiency Maine program dropped from roughly $60 million, as the Legislature had intended, to $22 million.

The three organizations are asking the PUC to revisit the issue, accusing the commission of ignoring the intent of the Legislature “despite clearly established law and the overwhelming weight of evidence.” The petition filed Wednesday could be the first step in a process potentially leading to a legal challenge unless the Legislature addresses the issue.

“The PUC’s original decision is an affront to the 126th Legislature and slights the clear intent of the original bill causing our members to doubt whether the state can be counted on as a reliable long-term partner for Maine’s energy-efficiency businesses,” Bill Childs, president of the Maine Association of Building Efficiency Professionals, said in a statement. “Our members were on a trajectory of growth and increased employment as a result of what they thought was a more predictable commitment to energy savings programs: that the Omnibus Energy Bill and the stewardship of Efficiency Maine were insulated from political ebbs and tides.”

Supporters of the Efficiency Maine program are working on multiple fronts to correct the clerical error.

On Tuesday, members of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee voted 10-1 in support of a bill that would simply re-insert the missing “and” in the 2013 law, thereby lifting the funding cap to roughly $60 million. The measure now heads to the full Legislature for consideration.

But Gov. Paul LePage, who has consistently opposed funding the Efficiency Maine program through a surcharge on ratepayers, has made clear that he will veto the “clean fix” bill sponsored by Rep. Sara Gideon of Freeport, the assistant Democratic leader in the House.

Instead, the LePage administration is supporting a bill by Republican Minority Leader Rep. Kenneth Fredette of Newport that would re-insert the missing “and” but also elevate the director of the Governor’s Energy Office to a Cabinet-level position. Fredette’s bill would also have the governor nominate the director of Efficiency Maine.

The committee did not vote on Fredette’s bill.

The electricity program at the center of the debate is one of several Efficiency Maine programs focused on weatherization and energy conservation. Last year, the program subsidized the purchase of roughly 2.5 million energy-efficient lightbulbs and helped more than 3,000 businesses convert to energy-saving equipment.

Efficiency Maine is funded through a variety of sources, including surcharges on individual electric bills; a settlement connected to the now-defunct Maine Yankee nuclear power plant in Wiscasset; federal grants; and the cap-and-trade carbon emissions program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.