In his weekly address, Governor Paul R. LePage criticized Governor Deval Patrick on Thursday for backing out of a plan to alleviate high energy costs in New England by developing infrastructure that would increase the supply of natural gas.
“This is not rocket science, folks,” said LePage. “Bad public policy and politics are blocking progress.”
New England energy costs are almost fifty percent higher than the national average, he said — hitting consumers hard during the winter months and substantially raising production costs for businesses. Earlier this month, the Old Town Fuel and Fiber mill shut down, citing high energy costs as one of the primary reasons.
Addressing the energy crisis in Maine, the governor said, “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.”
The use of natural gas in Maine has ballooned in recent years, as municipalities have advanced infrastructure to provide natural gas access to residents, government buildings and local businesses. While natural gas already is seen as a cheaper alternative to oil in many towns, an increased supply could drop the cost of natural gas even further.
Last December, governors from all six New England states announced their commitment to bolster regional infrastructure to bring cheaper energy to the area and share the costs fairly.
The main course of action agreed to by the governors in January was to build much needed infrastructure throughout New England to increase the flow of natural gas into the state. Money for the pipeline would be provided by electricity customers, who would pay for its construction through a tax on electricity consumption. Proponents of the plan believe that the cost to New England residents will be recouped by the savings that will come with a projected 20 percent increase in the supply of natural gas.
In addition to frustrating LePage’s energy plans, Patrick has endorsed Democrat Michael Michaud in this year’s gubernatorial contest.