Attacks on the Governor and PUC are Inappropriate and Wrong

The PUC got it right. Legislators got it wrong and legislators need to find the solution

Augusta – This afternoon, House Republican Leader, Rep. Ken Fredette of Newport addressed concerns that have arisen in the wake of the PUC’s vote regarding funding for Efficiency Maine, an organization that administers energy efficiency programs throughout the state.

The funding cap the PUC voted on earlier this week was part of the rulemaking process concerning LD 1559, known as the Omnibus Energy Bill, that passed during the 126th Legislature. The bill was a vehicle to significantly reduce energy costs for Maine ratepayers and laid the groundwork to get more natural gas to Maine. During the process of crafting the final draft of the legislation, the bill was retyped by a member of the Revisor’s Office. During this process the word “and” was left out of a key sentence. The intent of the legislation as expressed by members of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee was to grant the PUC the authority to set electricity rates to raise funds for energy efficiency programs, but the total amount could not exceed 4 percent of “total retail electricity transmission and distribution sales” in Maine. The final draft of the bill omitted the second “and” which proved to be a costly error. That omission changed the cap on the funding for Efficiency Maine from roughly $60 million to just over $20 million.

“Let me be clear. The PUC got this right,” said Rep. Fredette. “Their job is not to interpret legislative intent. Their job is to interpret statutes the way they are written and in this case, the statute they were given contained a clerical error. At the end of the day, the lesson to be learned here is that, in the business of lawmaking, words matter.”

This was a long, complex bill with many moving parts and many amendments, especially in the final two days. In the end, the committee, the interested parties, lawyers, the PUC, the public advocate – all had a chance to see the final draft of this bill and they all signed off on it as is. Many sets of eyes simply missed the error.

Now, many of the same people who bear a piece of the responsibility for not catching the mistake before the bill landed on the desk of the PUC, are the same ones lobbing baseless attacks against PUC Commissioners and Governor LePage. These attacks on the PUC and Governor LePage are not only wrong but inappropriate. This was a legislative mistake that requires a legislative solution. The PUC does not have the authority to change statute and to ask them to start determining legislative intent is a bad precedent to set.

“I would suggest everyone take a deep breath, slow down a bit, and let’s look at the possible solutions to this issue. This bill was crafted in a true bipartisan fashion and my hope is the solution will follow the same path,” Rep. Fredette said.

PUC Presser

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