Energy costs



To the Editor:

During the bitter cold winter season, New England governors spoke with a sense of urgency about lowering energy costs. Now, just two months away from an election, that urgency is gone.

My administration has made many achievements in the past three years. We paid nearly a billion dollars in welfare debt to Maine hospitals, lowered taxes and helped to attract businesses that are providing good-paying careers for Mainers.

Businesses come to Maine for various reasons. Our hard-working people are a tremendous asset, and our surroundings are beautiful. But that is often not enough for companies to come to Maine. Business owners must think about the bottom line, too.

Taxes and government regulations are major factors. My administration has worked to ensure permitting rules are clear and consistent. We have removed bureaucratic red tape, and our Governor’s Account Executives help businesses navigate government quickly and efficiently.

We’ve passed tax cuts to assist companies expand and hire more Mainers. Companies like C and L Aerospace of Bangor and Auburn’s Pioneer Plastics have done just that.

For 40 years, I helped businesses. Incentives are important. But just as important are a state’s infrastructure and the cost of making products. Energy is one of the largest expenditures in making a product, yet New England and Maine have failed to realize that our energy costs are simply not competitive. In 2001, our energy costs were 48 percent higher than the national average, yet we have not made any progress as a region. Last year, New England’s retail electricity prices were nearly 15 cents while the average cost in the United States was just over 10 cents. That is not the progress we need to attract investment.

Last year, my administration led an effort to move New England forward, and the region’s governors agreed that something must be done to lower prices.

The plan was simple – expand infrastructure to bring competitively priced natural gas and hydroelectricity into the region. It would bring both clean energy and stable natural gas supplies into the region.

Every New England governor was on board until recently. Governor Deval Patrick has backed out and has indicated that Massachusetts needs to study the issue further to see if we actually need to add natural gas capacity to New England.

Studying the issue now is the equivalent of dithering over what type of shovel to buy right before a massive Nor’easter. At some point, the time for checking the weather is over – it is past time that New England get to the store and add natural gas pipeline capacity.

My point is simple. New England’s electricity costs are not competitive, and that has huge costs for our region. High energy prices drain family budgets. They are a significant barrier to attracting business investment, especially in energy-intensive industries such as manufacturing, and they are costing our region jobs

Maine and New England are now geographically positioned to take advantage of competitively priced natural gas and hydropower resources. But we must invest with other states in key infrastructure to get that low-cost energy here. No one state can do it alone; we must work together.

This infrastructure initiative can bring world-class resources to power New England industry and start saving money for all New England families.

The region’s power generation is becoming increasingly reliant on natural gas. We need infrastructure investments that will ensure the supply of competitively priced gas and clean energy from diverse sources, while lowering the cost of electricity for residents and businesses.

This is not rocket science, folks. Bad public policy and politics are blocking progress. I will continue to work with every partner willing to bring down the cost of energy. Just last month I signed an agreement with New Brunswick to address our regional energy challenges, but I will not accept inaction when our region continues to lose out to the rest of the country. The status quo of high energy costs has plagued our region for far too long. It is time for it to end. It is time to make living and opening up a business in New England affordable.

Gov. Paul LePage

Augusta