Legislature overrides omnibus energy bill veto

Posted Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in News

Legislature overrides omnibus energy bill veto

AUGUSTA -- Late on Wednesday night, the Senate voted to override the governor's veto of the omnibus energy bill (LD 1559) after first amending it to give the University of Maine a second chance to bid on an offshore wind contract.

The Senate voted unanimously to override the veto.  The House overrode the veto last week.  The vote came after Gov. Paul LePage said that he would welcome the override with the university amendment as part of the bill.

The vote means that the state can now afford to attract natural gas pipeline expansion projects into New England.  Electricity users could save an estimated $200 million per year if power plants have access to inexpensive natural gas, and if the price of natural gas stays low.

The bill will also increase funding for energy efficiency and provide financial assistance to families trying to switch to affordable heating systems.  Families could save on average $1,500 per year.

Getting the bill passed required some horsetrading in the final hours of the session.  LePage didn't like the terms of the agreement with Statoil, a multinational oil and gas company, that won the bid last winter for offshore wind production.  It would have provided an above-market power rate for the energy giant.  The contract is worth $10 million annually for 20 years.

LePage also wanted Maine's wind power goals to be scaled back, but that wish was not in the final bill.

UMaine has until Sept. 1 to submit a proposal, and the PUC would have until the end of the year to review it.

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