Dion introduces bill to lower energy costs, expand natural gas infrastructure

Posted: March 02, 2017 | Energy, Utilities and Technology, Senator Dion

AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Mark Dion, D-Portland, would extend the Public Utilities Commission’s authority to expand natural gas capacity in Maine, sending a message to the energy market and surrounding states that Maine is eager to lower energy costs by growing the state’s natural gas infrastructure.

Dion, the lead Senate Democrat on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, presented the bill to that panel during a public hearing on Wednesday.

“This bill will allow the other New England states more time to follow Maine’s lead and join us in seeking to lower energy costs,” said Sen. Dion. “An expanded natural gas infrastructure, along with further development of renewable energy, efficiency, and smart grid technologies, can form the basis for a cheaper and cleaner energy future for our state and our region.”

In 2013, the Legislature passed the Omnibus Energy Act, which included the Energy Cost Reduction Act, which provided authority for the Public Utilities Commission to enter into a contract for new interstate pipeline capacity, should they determine it is in the best interest of Maine ratepayers and gas users to do so. That authority is set to expire on December 31, 2018. Dion’s bill — LD 344, “An Act To Provide Opportunity for Energy Cost Reduction for Maine Businesses and Citizens” — extends that authority to December 31, 2020.

Lisa Smith, of the Governor’s Energy Office, Tim Schneider, the Public Advocate, and Tony Buxton of the Industrial Energy Consumer Group, a trade association representing some of Maine’s largest industrial energy consumers, also spoke in favor of the bill.

“Extension of this authority will send a clear message to the many Maine consumers harmed by unnecessarily high energy costs that Maine remains serious about finding ways to reduce these costs,” said Buxton. “This is an extremely important message for this Legislature to send.”

LD 344 faces further action in the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, and votes in the House and Senate.