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  • Gov. LePage's influence over Maine's Public Utilities Commission causes crisis of confidence

     Editorial by Assistant Democratic Leader Dawn Hill of York

    For most, Augusta is synonymous with politics. But, believe it or not, there are some people in Augusta whose jobs absolutely require that they make decisions void of politics and ideology. Maine’s Public Utilities Commission is one such agency. In fact, for these folks, weighing into politics isn’t an option; their duty, is to remain impartial.

    The PUC is intended to operate as an independent regulatory agency but recent decisions by the PUC Commissioners have caused many lawmakers and citizens to question the impartiality of the Commissioners.

    In the past few months, two of the PUC’s decisions have upended law, and rejected data and common sense.

    First, was the PUC’s decision to slash energy efficiency funding, even though the law clearly directed the PUC to do the opposite. In their split decision, two of the three commissioners pounced on a typographical error--the missing word “and”--to dismantle more than a decade of bipartisan energy policy.

    Next, Maine lost a long term energy contract as a result of another PUC decision. In that decision, they reopened the bidding process two months after they had approved the project.

    Decisions like these are shrouded in politics and portend a troubling new era. Along with Governor LePage’s two commissioner appointments, it seems a loss of objectivity and integrity has followed the PUC.

    Never before has there been a crisis of confidence in the PUC like we are seeing today.

    The fact is, the PUC’s job is simply too impactful to Maine’s future energy and economic landscape. Therefore, we simply can’t  look the other way when they are ignoring facts and being political with Maine people and our wallets.

    Some have questioned whether or not there has been inappropriate coordination and collaboration between the Executive Branch and the PUC, leading to influence over their decisionmaking. Because of this, I have, in accordance with Maine’s Right to Know Law, requested public records including emails and calendars between the PUC and the Governor’s office for the past five months.

    As a member of Senate leadership and the state’s Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee charged with reviewing energy issues facing our state, it is my obligation to ensure that the PUC and its Commissioners are acting in accordance with law.

    My hope is that with this transparency, we will be one step closer to restoring confidence in the PUC.