By Sen. Matt Harrington
AUGUSTA – The campaign season was an unusual one for me. One elderly woman whom I met while knocking on doors recognized me and before I could go any further, tears welled up in her eyes. At over 70 years old, she told me she had to ask for heating assistance.
She said for the first time in her life, she could not provide for herself. It was obvious that it not only shattered her as someone who prided herself as an independent woman, but the stress of just paying for basic necessities was enough to bring her to tears.
I wish I could tell you this is the only story like that from a constituent in my district. Sadly, it isn’t.
Hello, this is Senator Matt Harrington of York County, and I’m joining you for this week’s Republican Radio Address to talk about the important topic affecting all of us – energy.
And before I begin, this is my first address as a Maine Senator. I want to take a moment to thank the great people of District 33 in Alfred, Lebanon, Sanford and Waterboro for entrusting me to be their voice in Augusta. It is an honor to serve you, the people of Maine.
I know my colleagues in the Legislature can share stories similar to the woman in York County, which shows just how skyrocketing energy costs are crushing Maine families and small businesses – not just in my district but also across Maine.
For far too long, the party in power has catered to special interest groups and pursued an energy policy that has proven to be an abject failure. And despite their rhetoric, the war in the Ukraine is not solely responsible for the skyrocketing energy costs facing Maine families.
Irresponsible energy policy from the White House to the Blaine House has contributed to these skyrocketing costs.
My appointment to the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee is a first for me and I have a lot to learn; but one thing I know for certain is that Maine’s people deserve better. And I will approach every energy bill with the same question: Does it lower the cost of electricity for Maine families?
Just last week, I sat in the Energy Committee and listened to the Governor’s Energy Office presentation. I was disappointed to see such a complete lack of emphasis put on the importance of reducing the cost of electricity for Maine families and small businesses.
I agree and believe that we need to focus on incorporating renewable energy into our portfolio – but only when it makes sense. As lawmakers, we must strike a balance between investing in renewable energy and lowering costs for Maine people.
And right now, lowering costs must be the priority. Too many Maine families are struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and put gas in their vehicles.
Maine Senate Republicans are focused on three priorities that will bring relief to Maine families and job creators.
First, we must prioritize ratepayers. We want to look at any and all reforms of the Public Utilities Commission that will bring transparency to the contracts and the rates they set for Mainers.
Second, we must reform or repeal net-energy billing. I agree with the words of our Public Advocate who told the Bangor Daily News last week that “the program disproportionately hurts low-income people who aren’t participating in community solar.”
What he’s saying is people who are struggling to make ends meet should not be subsidizing solar panels on million-dollar mansions along Maine’s coastline. Net-energy billing is driving up costs and that will accelerate. Instead, we must take a serious look at reforming this program to lower costs or eliminate it.
And third, we must stop picking winners and losers when it comes to energy policy. Every technology needs to be on the table, so we must remove the 100-megawatt cap on hydropower. We must encourage technologies like geothermal when it makes sense. And let’s harness the robust forest products industry that we have in our state and incorporate those technologies.
We cannot continue to push technologies that drive up costs. Maine people cannot afford it. Maine businesses cannot afford it.
In closing, Senate Republicans stand ready to come to the table and work to deliver real reform for the people of Maine. High energy costs burden Maine people, Maine businesses and are a drag on Maine’s economy. You deserve more than a $450 check – you deserve structural reforms that will lower your energy and heating costs for the long-term.
Again, this is Senator Matt Harrington of York County, and I hope you have a great weekend.