Maine House fails to overturn LePage veto of solar policy fix

Two votes.

That’s how close Maine’s house came to overturning a veto by Governor LePage (R) of legislation to amend certain portions of a policy by state regulators to gut net metering. LePage’s veto of LD 1444 was overturned by the Maine Senate in a 26-7 vote on Monday, but after six legislators switched their vote, the House narrowly failed to uphold the measure, 

The 98-51 vote fell two votes short, as a two-thirds majority in both houses is needed to overturn a veto by the governor. This margin has been repeatedly tested in Maine, particularly around energy policy, given the limited support for LePage in the Maine Legislature and the idiosyncratic governor’s fondness for vetoing bills.

“Yet again, a small group of extreme legislators ignored the will of Maine people and strong bipartisan majorities in the Legislature,” said Natural Resources Council of Maine Climate and Clean Energy Director Dylan Voorhees.

Under moves by the state’s public utilties commission, Maine will begin to lower the level of compensation for electricity generated by customer-sited solar, with the compensation for the output of new systems declining 10% each year. In a bizarre policy move, this will apply not only to the net surplus of PV system output, but to all electricity produced on-site.

The Maine legislature had moved to amend this by applying the 10% annual reduction only to surplus generation, not all electricity under LD 1444, which passed the Maine House and Senate in March. The bill had also removed an arbitrary nine-customer limit on community solar.

However, at least one member of the House appears to have second thoughts, and the bill has been moved for reconsideration on Monday. A gain of two votes by that time is not out of the question, as six legislators who voted for LD 1444 voted against an overturn of the veto, after heavy pressure by Governor Lepage.