Adam Cote: LePage's energy policy will crush thousands of Maine jobs, hurt Maine people

Photo courtesy of Adam Cote

LePage has done us a disservice by blocking wind and solar power opportunities.

Editorial by Adam Cote of Springvale - a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Right now, Maine has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lead the way in energy innovation, build a strong statewide economy that works for all of us, create thousands of good jobs, increase our energy independence while reducing people’s energy costs and protect our quality of life.

I respectfully ask our current governor, in his last months in office, to stop actions aimed at crippling widely supported efforts by local political, business and nonprofit leaders to grow Maine’s wind and solar energy businesses. This is not a partisan issue – it is about doing what is right for Maine’s future.

Reneging on commitments to investors in the University of Maine’s world-class offshore wind innovation project; creating a secret task force to halt investment in Maine’s region-leading onshore wind industry; and killing bipartisan legislation to foster a solar industry in Maine – these actions by the governor crush thousands of good Maine jobs and hurt a lot of Maine people.

I was born and raised in rural Maine. My leadership experience comes from 20 years in the Maine Army National Guard 133rd Engineer Battalion, where I led exceptional Mainers during combat tours in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. It also comes from 16 years as an energy entrepreneur and attorney working on energy projects in Maine.

I am running to serve as governor because after seven-plus years, the record shows Maine is lagging New England and the country when it comes to job growth, income growth and overall economic growth. If we had kept pace with New England job growth between 2011 and 2017, we would have more than 5,000 additional jobs in Maine. If we had kept pace with the country, we would have 28,000 more jobs. I believe Augusta needs change and new leadership to turn that around.

I am also running because energy innovation presents one of the best opportunities for job growth and prosperity in Maine, and I have the background to bring people together and make it happen.

My energy plan will do four things:

1) reduce Mainers’ energy costs;

2) give Mainers more control over their own energy decisions;

3) provide Maine with more dependable, local energy sources; and

4) create thousands of good Maine jobs.

The governor’s recent actions threaten to hurt a lot of good people across our state and cost us thousands of good-paying jobs we really need:

• Offshore wind: Maine is a global leader in research and development of floating offshore wind turbines that could make Maine “the Saudi Arabia of wind power” at very competitive rates. The U.S. Department of Energy has vetted and invested in the program and stands ready to invest another $40 million, and a study put out last Nov. 2 concluded that offshore wind will create 36,000 jobs in the Northeast by 2030. Bottom line: The governor’s actions through his Public Utilities Commission could kill one of our state’s best research and economic opportunities and prevent us from bringing as many of those 36,000 jobs as possible to Maine.

• Solar: Maine has more solar energy potential than Germany, a global leader in installations – and Maine can develop solar for less. Just a few miles south, Massachusetts has passed legislation similar to what our governor has opposed for years – and today it has more than 14,500 plumbers, electricians, contractors, architects and engineers and 500 businesses installing solar systems. Here in Maine, because of the governor’s veto and arm twisting, we have only 570 jobs.

• Onshore wind: Maine is the top producer of onshore wind energy in New England. The industry supports more than 1,560 jobs per year, mostly in rural Maine, according to a 2014 report. The governor’s action this week imposing a moratorium on development is, again, a nearly unilaterally scuttling of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment across Maine.

I share the current governor’s belief that energy policy must benefit and reduce costs for Maine people. I come from a rural Maine family, where the price of home heating oil had a lot to do with how much money there was going to be for anything else during the winter. The irony is, by these actions, the governor will be leaving Maine people with higher prices, less control over their costs and vulnerable and dependent on foreign countries and faraway states for their energy supply.

My vision is for Maine to become a national and global energy innovation leader, producing more than enough clean energy to meet our own needs and export energy to our region while creating thousands of good jobs and lowering energy bills. We have everything we need to make that positive vision of Maine’s future a reality. All we need is the right leadership.